The British-Japanese deep-thinking Pop Star says if it’s all going to hell she will see you there
Rina Sawayama is a pop star continuing her rise. She was born in Niigata, Japan, and moved to London at the age of 5. She told Who What Wear, “I’ve loved singing since I was young, but when it came down to making music as a job or a career, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized it was a possibility.” Sawayama had to define who she was and learn to live for herself. It took time, patience, and flexibility. She studied political science, psychology, and sociology at the University of Cambridge. Her formal education taught her how to work hard as she while finding her way. She eventually became a devoted student to the art of music. She has built a study of music through other musicians she likes such as Lizzo’s empowerment, Charlie XCX’s fun-and-freakiness, and Lady Gaga’s genre-clashing vastness.
Sawayama has created a lane of her own by giving us an unexpected mix of head-thrashing rock and early bubble-gum pop, with a twist of country. As an independent artist, she has funded her music and projects. Her debut album was entitled, “Sawayama,” and it started climbing the charts in her 20s. She was still working as a model and bussing tables but she made sure she was able to do what was needed to fund her project. She told Who What Wear, ” Being an independent artist for so long was not about making music. It was about surviving. You want to make sure people are getting paid for their work, and I was always focused on how to fund the next thing, the next video, the next tour.” She signed a record deal with Dirty Hit (the label) in 2019.
At 32, she sings about matters of personal memories and moments of self-doubt that she illuminates on stage by turning all of that into a true diva-ish performance. Her choreography is impeccable, she hits every note perfectly and she creates a sense of solidarity. Her performances are playful yet at times serious moods as seen during her New York performance. She played a toy saxophone before reminding the crowd that “the personal is political.”
She is expected to release her second album, “Hold the Girl” in September 2022. It is the result of all of her intense introspection and healing. She has expressed that she has had so many moments of confusion when she tries to grasp the concept of what true forgiveness means. The combo of therapy and self-help books made her feel emotionally “unblocked.” She sings about shame, forgiveness, and resilience. The album ends with Sawayama declaring for the first time that she knows “what it feels like to be alive.”
She is inspired by country music by Patsy Cline and is drawn more to the likes of Lady Gaga. Her new album is her version of country in her view. She wears cowboy boots in her performances, talks about Shania Twain in her songs, and actually uses a banjo in some of her songs. She is indulged in the storytelling of Dolly Parton and Kacey Musgraves. She states, “Country music is not trying to complicate things, the important thing about country songwriting is that you’re telling the true reality about what happening to you, and that’s something I’ve been trying to stay true to.”
One song that we found interesting is called “This Hell.” The lyrics say, This hell is better with you, we’re burning up together, baby, that makes two.” Whaaaaat, those are some of the best lyrics I have heard in a while.
Her comeback album is for sure to be lit. The song is about homophobia. It’s a fun healing approach to such a serious but sensitive subject. She keeps things real. She states that you can’t live life too seriously and when you find a community that you feel safe around and can joke about you can reclaim certain things. Laughter is key and things like that can help people to heal from their trauma.
She embraces life and she is accepting of the hell in front and behind her instead of being angry and curling up into a ball. The vocals in all the songs are compelling, relatable, and fun and we are here for it all. We can’t wait for the release. Rina, YOU GO GIRL!