Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Utada Hikaru & Skrillex – Face My Fears

And here they are…


Katie Gill: How “Face My Fears” is a perfect metaphor for the Kingdom Hearts franchise, a review in multiple parts. Super emotional: Utada Hikaru’s voice and singing, the ending of 358/2 Days. Slightly incongruous parts: that drop, the Gummi Ship parts in Kingdom Hearts 1 that were a pain in the ass. And finally, choices that make you wonder “hmm, why did they do it that way?” For “Face My Fears,” this is the way the lyrics are translated and arranged, so you get awkward phrases such as “breath/should I take a deep?” For the Kingdom Hearts franchise, this is the entire goddamn plot.

Iain Mew: On a scale of The Kooks in FIFA 09 to Faye Wong’s “Eyes on Me” in Final Fantasy VIII this is… OK, I can’t use this scale fairly because I’m not going to play Kingdom Hearts III for another five years. Perhaps in its context I would be swept along much better. As it is, I get a reasonable triangulation between JRPG theme, Disney ballad and “Where Are Ü Now” shuffle-chopping, so it’s not all bad.

Iris Xie: When Utada’s vocals come in, they’re so fragile and thin, like the notion of connection and love is melting and scattering into pixelated decay. Combined with the delicate piano work that sounds like a slightly novel take on both the guitar melody in “Hikari” and “Dearly Beloved,” it has the potential to be another deep dive into another legendary theme song…until this song gives away to a horrific noise. That EDM scritch-scratch takes all that build-up, grabs it, and then destroys all the affect left behind by her voice, like a raccoon-driven accordion that won’t stop skipping or whining. Complete with anonymous ad libs that couldn’t be decoded through a reversed version, and is also a very weak throwback to “Passion,” this is disappointing. Utada’s strength is in completely immersing herself with her vulnerability and becoming incandescent, allowing a listener to melt with her narratives, but here, Skrillex keeps interrupting her instead of letting her flourish. Overall, we only hear glimpses of this potential here, and it emerges again briefly in the haunting outro and slight minor chords, but by then, the song has progressed too far and it’s too late. All the magic has melted completely, leaving nothing but an upsetting, vague, dissatisfaction. I wish we had this song instead to end the Kingdom Hearts trilogy.

Stephen Eisermann: Maybe it’s my love for the video game that this song serves as a soundtrack single for, but I’m on board. Sure, the lyrical phrasing is, being generous, rough, but I’ll chalk that up more to rough translations than anything else. The vague cliches work well against the incredible beat drop and perfectly summarize the lovely mess that is the Kingdom Hearts storyline. It may not make a lot of sense, but damn does it sound good, doesn’t it.

Will Rivitz: Trashing Skrillex is typically not just passé but inaccurate: the man consistently creates some of the most exciting, well-produced, and interdisciplinary sounds in an EDM market that makes its living rehashing its seven or eight in-vogue sonic templates ad infinitum. His remix of Pendulum’s “The Island” represents a rare opportunity to scorn him accurately. A shambolic interlacing of dub samples, future bass cliché, and snares so overprocessed they sound like Kraft cheese; the remix is his first genuine misstep in a few years. It’s appropriate that “Face My Fears” is the sonic face of Kingdom Hearts 3, as it’s effectively a Disneyfied edit of the aforementioned remix, unwieldy interlude sections replaced by Utada Hikaru sounding for all the world like every other female vocalist Proximity has ever featured. At least the dub was interesting.

Jonathan Bradley: It’s not that Skrillex overshadows Utada; rather, he finds a natural complement for his ostentatious disintegrations in her searching balladry. Much as he did with “Dirty Vibe,” he shows better understanding of East Asian pop sensibilities than might be expected. If anything, these electronic shards seem to underplay its lead’s careful poise; it isn’t clear whether they’re decoration or centrepiece.

Will Adams: We were never going to get another “Simple and Clean,” nor would we ever get a remix that employed that sci-fi trance sound that was left in the early ’00s. It’s 2019, so we have future bass. That’s fine; Utada’s voice is still as moving. Except Skrillex created a drop that sounds like aggressive squeegeeing.

Ian Mathers: Ay, there’s the wub.

Alfred Soto: There are scarier things than facing your fears with Skrillex at your side.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The Japanese version is better, but only slightly. That the title line is sung in English gives the song a welcome contrast in language. At the very least, it distracts from the instrumentation’s tiresome “motivational ballad-cum-stadium EDM” formula (that the English isn’t as clunky as the verses helps). I like the small dubstep wobbles in the second verse, but the chorus’s attention-grabbing drop doesn’t build on the hopeful yearning of Utada Hikaru’s vocals. Like those sitting through the opening sequence of Kingdom Hearts III, I listened to the entirety of “Face My Fears” on principle. Like those sitting through the opening sequence of Kingdom Hearts III a second time, I’ll want to skip this whenever it comes on again.

Thomas Inskeep: I played this in the background while doing other things, and it played like background.

Reader average: [5] (2 votes)

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7 Responses to “Utada Hikaru & Skrillex – Face My Fears”

  1. Ian I’m cackling

  2. Omg why did you choose this splash??? I successfully forgot about Sora’s shitty design LOL

    Ian that’s too funny and I giggled a fit

  3. y’all know i’m excited to give words on any and all utada songs but then i actually listened to this and all i could really add is that it is exactly as advertised: a kingdom hearts song made by skrillex, nothing more, nothing less.

    i’m sure sonny made some amateur machine-gurgle dubstep edit of “Simple and Clean” when he was bored. if not, his copycats of 2010-2012 prob has uploaded one on youtube.


  4. Utada’s end credits song for this game is pretty darn great!

  5. Thanks Alex! Sometimes something just pops into your head when you’re listening to a song and will not be denied.

  6. Iris is right — “Shittosarerubeki Jinsei” rules.

  7. Thank you Isaac, I am glad that someone else also sees the glory of “Shittosarerubeki Jinsei” ! Also yay for reader comments!!