The Lyric Beauty of Eyes

The Lyric Beauty of Eyes

By Rob Taylor


No matter where you look, there they are. In fact, without them, you wouldn't be able to look anywhere, so they're certainly very important. Indeed, as an ever-present part of our lives, the eyes have trickled down into all the spheres of culture – film, literature, art and music – and are frequently employed for their vivid imagery and as a symbol for the things that lie within us. Today, let's delve a little deeper into the ocular world with a look (pun intended) into the presence of eyes in the music that we listen to. Why let the ears have all the fun?

Where to begin? Well, the best place would probably be way back at the dawn of music with the plainsong of the monks of old(e) – unfortunately for us, nobody seems to have bothered to translate their drones into English, so we have no idea whether they're singing about eyes or the price of donkeys. Instead, we'll skip ahead to a time when some genius somewhere invented the lyric. Actually, a few years beyond that, even, to a point where we're all pretty much on even cultural footing. The 1960s, let's say.

(Incidentally, we'll be sticking strictly to the literal sense of the term "eye" here, so don't expect any "Eye Don't Wanna Miss A Thing"s, or "Everything Eye Do, Eye Do It For You"s. If you're in the market for optical puns, though, you've come to the right place.)

Beginning with the swinging sixties, let's take a look at a song by one of the most influential artists of all time – none other than Jimi Hendrix. On his 1968 album Electric Ladyland, Jimi treated us to an aural extravaganza in the form of "Gypsy Eyes." The song mentions our optical apparatus on more than one occasion: "Well, I realize that I've been hypnotized, I love your gypsy eyes / I love your gypsy eyes." Come now, how many times have you found yourself "lost" in someone's eyes? It's a great example of the lofty places our eyes can take us to.

Moving swiftly along, we find ourselves in (nearly) everyone's all-time favorite decade, the 70s. So, which of the plethora of songs from that era have been singled out here? Why, it's arena-rock band Queen with their song "White Queen (As It Began)." Released in 1974 on the album Queen II, the song opens with a significant reference to our body part of choice - "So sad her eyes / smiling dark eyes / so sad her eyes / as it began" - revealing yet another facet of these ubiquitous biological orbs: their ability to convey emotion (or, indeed, their ability to convey conflicting emotions... smiling, yet sad at the same time – those clever things).

Next up, we'll look at "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles. Featured on the 1975 album One Of These Nights, the song rolls down a heartbreaking path of Americana gold, passing these lyrics on the way: "You can't hide your lyin' eyes / and your smile is a thin disguise / I thought by now you'd realize / there ain't no way to hide your lyin eyes." This reminds us that these eyes of ours don't always work in our favor, and, more often than not, they'll tell the truth long before we do.

Let's flash forward to the go-go 80s. Shoulder pads, huge hair and Corey Feldman – a glorious era it was (and one which should never, ever be repeated). Amongst this new age of booming business and burgeoning technologies, we find the subject of our next stop: Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Released in 1982 as the theme tune to the possibly unnecessary Rocky III, the song was an immediate smash. In this case, the use of the word "eye" seemingly relates to determination and power: "It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight / risin' up to the challenge of our rival / and the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night / and he's watchin' us all in the eye of the tiger." Here, Survivor are using the term to portray a focus on success – never giving up – just like the mighty tiger hunting down his prey.

We're remaining in the 80s for the next eye-popping lyrical extravaganza, and it's one that every woman over the age of sixteen in the entire world should know. Yup, it's "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen, prominently featured in the 1987 flick Dirty Dancing. So, how do our visual sensors work their way into this one? Let's take a look: "With these hungry eyes / one look at you and I can't disguise / I've got hungry eyes / I feel the magic between you and I." The use of the word "hungry" here really is a perfect fit – what better term could there be to describe that sheer buzz you feel when gazing upon someone you really love?

Now it's time to jump back into our time machine (a magic carpet, perhaps a DeLorean – whatever takes your fancy) and head to a far more recent point in time, with female solo artist KT Tunstall's 2004 debut album Eye To The Telescope - and in particular the song "Suddenly I See." Now, whilst this song doesn't mention eyes directly, it does represent the emotionally perceptive nature of our eyes: "Suddenly I see / this is what I wanna be / suddenly I see / why the hell it means so much to me." These words seem to convey a sudden realization – a vision not created by the eyes, but by the heart. Sure, it's a tentative link, but the album title features the word "eye," so it's in!

Heading into even more recent territory now, we find ourselves in the company of one of 2007's biggest R&B stars, Rihanna, with her song "Rush" from the album Good Girl Gone Bad. How do eyes figure into this hip little number? A little like this: "I wanna hold your body close, it's callin' to me / and when I look into your eyes, I'm likin' what I see". This song gives us a glimpse of something a little more lustful and primal – our eyes' power to convey that most basic of our human urges...Any more explanation than that would lead us down a totally different road, and I figure we've got to stay PG here.

Throughout our magical optical journey, we've managed to travel across decades (a few, at least) and see just how important our eyes can be – not only so that you don't bump into walls and tumble down stairs, but also as a means to express what we feel inside, that fire that comes from the love or passion that drives us all. Here, my friends, endeth the lesson – and you've all been exemplary pupils (always go out on a high!)...

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OPTI® eSTORIES is a place for eyes, of course - a forum for sharing tips and stories, for offering new vision and perspective, for discussing lifestyle and image, all through the window of our eyes. More than that, though, OPTI® is about celebrating the beauty within all of us, and the way our eyes can be just as unique as we are. Fun and feisty, elegant and soulful. It's all here. It's all OPTI®.

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