I'm pretty sure my feelings on Final Fantasy XIII are pretty well documented.
hated it. Having been, underwhelmed let's say, by Final Fantasy XIV and with Final Fantasy Versus XIII probably never seeing the light of day it's safe for me to say that the last direct entry in the franchise I truly enjoyed was Final Fantasy XII.
Final Fantasy XII was a breath a fresh air for the series, forgoing angst ridden melodrama for political intrigue and returning to a high fantasy setting for the first time since Final Fantasy IX. The game had its flaws, notably a lack of character development for some of the cast
unnecessary Penelo is unnecessary, but it still holds up for me as one of the best in the series.
When I was trying to figure out who to do this week's Audio File Friday on, FF12 popped into my head and its theme song along with it. The piano ballad, 'Kiss Me Goodbye' drew me in the moment I heard it and whether it was in English or in Japanese I loved every bit of it. Just like its performer, this week's featured artist, the American/Japanese Angela Aki.
First of all she's drop dead gorgeous, and classy to no end.
An Asian Tina Fey
The bilingual and bi-cultural Ms. Aki was born in Itano, a small town in Japan and grew up there before moving to Hawaii while in high school. Playing the piano since the age of three, she cites her main musical influences as enka, The Carpenters,The BeeGees, and Sarah McLachlan who inspired her to pursue a career as a singer/song-writer.
In 2000 she released an indie album in the US, completely in English, titled These Words. She began writing music for commercials and other artists for a few years before returning to Japan to focus on her own work. In 2005 she released another indie album titled One which grabbed the attention of famed Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu.
As previously mentioned, Mr. Uematsu teamed up with Ms. Aki for Final Fantasy XII's stunning theme song Kiss Me Goodbye which was a key part of the game's marketing. After being involved with one of the biggest gaming franchises in the world she got a lot of attention not to mention a label.
I remember first watching the game's trailer and being so moved by the music that I immediately hunted down an mp3 and played it on repeat.
After a while, especially once the game finally came out, I decided to hunt down the rest of her music. Being that her English music was really obscure and at the time downloading foreign albums was a bit of a challenge, my exposure to her work beyond this one song was limited. But with time and a lot of internet prowling I eventually found more of her work and was pleasantly surprised.
From her mellow tunes to her piano ballads, it all feels very...adult contemporary. My usual musical regimen is comprised primarily of dance/electronic and hip-hop, but every now and then I like a simple piano melody and some striking vocals and Angela Aki provides that in spades. Imagine Fiona Apple in Japanese and you've got the general idea.
Here's a live performance of her single Home, the titular track of her first major label release:
And here's a live performance of Ai No Kisestsu, or Season of Love, off of her most recent album Life:
A preview of her newest single I Have A Dream which dropped in Japan just two days ago:
Her doing the Final Fantasy-thing yet again, this time performing a moving rendition Final Fantasy VIII's iconic Eyes on Me:
And lastly her hit Final Fantasy XII theme 'Kiss Me Goodbye' in English, if you prefer.
Edit: After user Wohdin's comment I'm hitting myself for forgetting to include this: Every Woman's Song. This one's for the ladies:
Ms. Aki is a beautiful and talented singer, and while her connection to the gaming industry may be limited to only two songs I'd be more than pleased to see her make a return and do another. Square-Enix loves nabbing famous musicians for their games, from Koda Kumi to Leona Lewis so maybe one day they'll knock on Angela Aki's door again. If you're a fan of her emotionally charged piano ballads be sure to hit up herofficial website and follow her on twitter. Be forewarned though, it's all in Japanese so you might need to pick up a Rosetta Stone before you take a gander.
Thankfully her music, in any language, sounds beautiful. And don't worry it's just as beautiful when you know what she's saying.
I'm not secretly feeding you offensive hate speech or anything She has five albums, three through her official label which you can import via most websites that import Japanese music, though sadly that's the only way to really get a hold of her work. Get your international catalog together iTunes!
Perhaps one day she'll make her way back to the US and release some more English language work, but until then enjoy her Japanese work, her early English work if you can get a hold of it, and why not dust off Final Fantasy XII and get to the end so you can relieve 'Kiss Me Goodbye' once again.
That's it for this week's Audio File Friday! Let the gorgeous Ms. Aki's gorgeous vocals and gorgeous piano playing see you through the weekend, and see you right back here next week!