The song was one of two songs that Swift wrote and recorded for the soundtrack to the film, The Hunger Games, the other song being "Safe & Sound". Swift first premiered the song during a performance in Auckland for her Speak Now World Tour, before launching into the song she told the crowd: "I'm really excited about it...but, I mean, you don't think I'd get in trouble if I played it now? Probably not, right?" The song was leaked before its official release date of March 20, 2012. A music video comprised as a lyric video was released on May 17, 2012 on Swift's Vevo account. The video consist of animation with the lyrics.
"Eyes Open" is a song of four minutes and four seconds in length. Critics deemed the song reminiscent of alternative rock. It is also described as a country rock song. According to Swift, she wrote the song about Katniss's "relationship" with the Capitol. Swift describes the song as the opposite of the melancholic "Safe & Sound," stating that "[it is] more frantic and fast-paced, a completely different shade of music."
The song garnered general critical acclaim from contemporary critics - most of whom favorably noted the song's more rock-oriented tone as compared to her previous releases. While reviewing The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, Matt Bjorke named "Eyes Open" as one of the "standouts" on the record. Scott Shetler of Pop Crush gave the song four stars saying that "Eyes Open" "bridges the gap between Swift’s typical radio-friendly tales about the teenage experience and her most recent release, the mature, haunting ballad "Safe & Sound," but described the production of the song to be "the least country-sounding song Swift has ever recorded." Jason Lipshutz of Billboard also found the same description of the song - stating that it "[exists] more in the modern rock vein than her usual country-pop oeuvre."
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 as the Hot Shot Debut at number 19 with sales of 176,000 in its first week. "Eyes Open" debuted on BillboardPop Songs chart at number 28, making it Swift's highest Pop Songs chart debut, later overtaken by "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" which debuted at number 18. The song would later reach number 20 on the said chart on the week ending April 28, 2012. The song also debuted on BillboardAdult Pop Songs at number 24 and later peaked at number 11 on the week ending May 12, 2012. The song became Swift's 16th million-seller and her second million-seller from the soundtrack to The Hunger Games. The song has sold 1.3 million copies in the US as of November 2014.
Outside the U.S., "Eyes Open" achieved moderate success. In Canada, the song entered the Canadian Hot 100 and peaked at number 17 on the week ending April 7, 2012. In Australia, the song peaked at Australian Singles Chart at number 47 on the week ending March 26, 2012. On New Zealand, the song peaked at number six, became Swift's third top ten hit there, following "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me". "Eyes Open" also appeared in Ireland and UK, where it peaked at number 65 and number 70 respectively.