YOSHIKI feat. HYDE
Red Swan (single)
Review by Michelle Minikhiem
When it was first announced that REVO of Linked Horizon would not be performing or composing the opening for the 3rd season of the immensely popular Attack on Titan, people had things to say. The previous openings had a sense of urgency and movement to them that complemented the visuals of the opening sequences. With the singer-songwriter’s blending of speed metal, operatic choir, and intense lyrics deeply entrenched with the identity of the show, many fans of the animation were concerned that somebody totally different could do the opening song and be able to instill the same level of gravitas that such an epic story demanded.
Things got off to a rocky start when the “TV Edit” of “Red Swan” was released. The swelling percussion, passionately romantic lyrics, and murmured philosophical questioning about life juxtaposed against the blood-stained title screen was… different, to say the least. While some – including myself – could argue that dissonance between graphic imagery and melodious accompaniment can be extremely effective in conveying the shocking horror of violence, many fans of the show were vocal about their doubts about whether “Red Swan” was a worthy successor the previous theme songs.
“Red Swan” feels weaker in comparison to the high-energy fighting anthems that REVO’s songs created for the show. “Red Swan” is trying to bring things down to earth, injecting some thoughtfulness into an atmosphere of politics and bloodshed. The real question is, does Attack on Titan benefit from this soaring, romantic opening song? The show has been both praised and criticized for its pacing, its story beats, and the sober way the most shocking of plot points have been dropped on viewers as if they were discussing the weather. It makes the most heart-stopping things human. Does “Red Swan” underscore, or undercut, that writing? At the end of the day, is “Red Swan”, on its own merits, a good song?
The answer to that question is: hell yes, goddamn.
When you separate “Red Swan” from the animation, the song evokes a powerful emotion like standing on a cliff with the waves crashing against the rocks, spraying water into your face, as the sun sets on the horizon. Compared to the previous “TV Edit”, the mix on the single version is stronger, more focused on the way drums can really influence the pump of the heart — and HYDE sings his heart out. “Red Swan” is grand in the way only songs written by YOSHIKI can be. It tells a story of bittersweet love, the vocal performance absolutely aches with longing. The haunting chorus and echoing words of holding someone like a goddess for eternity create and atmosphere where you can, if for just a moment, believe in things bigger than yourself.
HYDE’s performance of “Red Swan” on Music Station a few weeks back didn’t capture the power for the recorded version, and I sincerely hope that YOSHIKI and HYDE have another crack at performing this song together soon. Maybe day three of Halloween Party this year will deliver that mind-blowing performance. “Red Swan” is a great work, and you absolutely need to add it to your music library.
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