Bubblegum pop and self-medicating: the many records of singer Rina Sawayama

It’s a bit of a late bloomer. 32-year-old Rina Sawayama is still young, but when it comes to her breakthrough in pop music, she’s not the youngest. She is very active: a world tour, festival performances from Coachella to Primavera to Roskilde, a duet with Elton John, a star on the popular Metallica album, collaborations with Lady Gaga and Charli XCX, and next year she can be seen in her first acting job, and then on The Fur Door next to Keanu Reeves in John Wick 4.

There is not much time to think about all this. Sawayama tours Japan and emails short answers to questions from there. She first played concerts in her home country and immediately made headlines when she (a self-proclaimed sexist) spoke offstage at the Sonic Festival in Osaka to legalize same-sex marriage, an issue she believes is very important. “I’m here again for the first time since 2019, and I’m finally seeing my family again. And I immediately found out how popular I’ve become here since my debut. It’s really surreal to be recognized in Japan and ask for autographs.”

This Hell:

Sawayama started full time with music at the age of 27, after years of researching her own voice. Finally, he appeared for the first time Swayama That this sound can be anything at once. Bubble pop, bombshell divas blasts, floppy electronica, heavy metal guitars, sweet R&B: a wild and constantly fun mix of styles that are no longer racy. This album was in bad timing – April 2020 – but it stood out enough to end up on many year-end charts. On her new album hold the girl She uses genres she didn’t use on her previous album. “I listened to Shania Twain, Dolly Parton, and Casey Musgraves a lot during the setup,” she says. “But there is also indie pop in it, and you can also hear elements of British dance. It really is a mixed bag!”

In the rather dark “imagination”, you can already hear the sounds of synths ringing over thick beats. But in “Send My Love To John” (about a friend whose relationship with his mother fell apart and recovered after he moved out) you can hear Sawayama’s versatile, lyrical voice, with more than just an acoustic guitar. “Hurricanes” is close to punk pop, but in most of the other songs it is dominated by full glossy fat pop, which you know very well how to handle.

With her mother in one room

Sawayama was born in the Japanese city of Niigata, and moved to London when she was five years old to work with her father, who worked for Japan Airlines. This was the idea temporarily, but her parents divorced and she remained in England with her mother. A country whose language they don’t speak, they don’t have a steady income and they don’t have much to rely on. She had to share her bedroom with her mother until she was fifteen, well into adulthood. She caused strained relationship with her mother and remained bad for a long time.

As a teenager, she struggled for her Asian identity. She wanted to be British, and her mother sided with Japan that she wanted to leave behind. Sayyama was ashamed of her, if she mispronounced something, for example. To escape this, she plunged into pop music, where she found like-minded people dated, while her mother kept a close eye on everything she did – even sneaking around her social media.

She also did not initially find her place at Cambridge University, where she studied political science, psychology and sociology and left with a diploma for the former. I didn’t know what culture there was before I went there. I learned very quickly how the upper class works anyway. But I wasn’t a good fit at all.” Before joining a groupamazing people“With whom she felt comfortable and safe, she became depressed. Her relationship with her mother deteriorated to the point that she kicked her out of the house.

That relationship has improved since then. Her mother has been living in Japan for several years, and the distance is good for them. You can hear it on her new album on the song Catch Me In The Air filled with loving messages to her mother: “I was afraid, but you put wings on me,” “Look at us now, high above the clouds, I wish you were proud,” “Mama, look at me now, I’m flying”. “We fought a lot. I realize now that she really went out of her way for us, I couldn’t see that then. But I’m so proud that our band is so much better now, that’s what that song is about.”

closer to home

She says this album has become closer to her hometown than her debut, and it’s also closer to her character. „This was made during the Corona crisis, from 2020 to the end of 2021. Only in the studio in Wandsworth [Londen, red.]. As a result, her songs became more introspective, self-medicating than a raucous party—or at least a combination of the two.” The harsh, hard feelings that came into play when making this album. All in all, it’s about rediscovering the child within you, and sticking with it: hold the girl. I learned this during treatment. This is how I try to come to terms with my past.”

She thinks that being a little older than the starting average pop star is an advantage. “I’ve been through more than others, and I feel like I know very well what my limits are and what I want to achieve exactly. I don’t feel like I have to force myself to do anything against my will.”

A big difference between this album and her previous album is the lack of metal guitars – although This Hell does have a sharp solo guitar and lyrics.Does the Lord hate us? Well, buckle up at dawn“Beautiful metal. „It wasn’t a conscious choice, I chose a different path when it came to that It seems he goes. By the way, there is a very angry moment in your “age”, this might be the heaviest thing you’ve ever made! “

Is this the final Rina Sawayama-It seems? “No, it’s just in motion, I have no idea what the next album is going to look like, and that’s what makes it so interesting.”

hold the girl Written by Rina Swayama To be released on Friday 16/9 on Dirty Hit.

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