Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Favorite Video Game Music, #5: One Winged Angel

#5: One Winged Angel
Final Fantasy VII

Had I published this list ten years ago--and every track on this list was extant ten years ago--I would likely have been criticized for rating this track as low as #5. I might have gotten away with rating it #2. But mostly people would have expected it to be #1. That was the height of FF7-mania and Sephiroth-mania, and one of the big reasons Sephiroth got to be as popular as he did was this music.

There has never been a more popular piece of video game music in its own time. One Winged Angel was probably the first video game music to be so popular it got noticed outside the video game world. Remember how I speculated Bloody Tears (#13) may have been remixed more times than any video game track in history? If anything beats it out in remix count, it's this track. One Winged Angel launched (or, perhaps, re-lauched) a vogue in Ominous Latin Chanting that lasted a while and was seen in numerous big-budget films. (For a superb example of Ominous Sanskrit Chanting, check out the climactic fight in Matrix Revolutions.)

This music was something brand new to the video game world; that was a lot of its charm. It rolled hard rock, opera and brass into an ass-kicking package; virtually everyone that played it (on the Playstation; the music in the PC version of FF7 sucked) was blown away. It's not even that the final battle in Final Fantasy VII was tremendously great in itself; really it was pretty anticlimactic even by Final Fantasy standards, you beating the tar out of hapless ol' Safer Sephiroth and the battle mostly being slowed down by his various long-execution attacks so you can enjoy the music. But oh man, the leadup to that final confrontation: the opening horns and drums of this music blaring as the Kefka ripoff One Winged Angel himself descends to do battle with you. There has never been anything better for instant heart-pumping... with possibly one exception (still to come on this list).

But now it's 2011, and I am likely to be criticized for ranking this music far too high. Because no music was ever more popular, and that means no music ever suffered more from It's Popular Now It Sucks backlash. Especially in Internetland--and you probably noticed that there is a lot of overlap between Gamerland and Internetland--nobody wants to be seen liking what everyone else likes. It's a rule in Internetland that you have to be at least as unique as everyone else. That means you have to like stuff that isn't popular, preferably stuff most people have never heard of. (Find a movies forum and witness how 75% of the posters turn up their nose at all Hollywood films and seek out European or Asian movies that are obscure even in Europe or Asia to heap praise upon. And also how 90% of them are pissed off I just used 'film' and 'movie' interchangeably in the previous sentence.)

So now One Winged Angel is overrated. One Winged Angel being overrated has become so universal that it is now comfortably underrated. It is epic music, it was groundbreaking music in its time, and above all, it stands up extremely well today. It is by far the trophy winner in the category of "best video game music for a baseball closer to have blaring on the sound system as he walks to the mound to finish a close game". (For your reference, the most iconic rock songs that closers have actually used are Hell's Bells and Enter Sandman.) The message this song would send to opposing hitters can't be mistaken: I am a complete badass and you are doomed. Plus the lyrics would be good for your ass-kicking closing image. Burning with vehement anger and all that.

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