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Rina Sawayama Brings Pain & Empowerment in ‘SAWAYAMA’ Album

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CAU chapter.

Did someone say Y2K? Because this is precisely what Rina Sawayama is given the girls with her new album SAWAYAMA. The Japan-born, London-raised artist utilized her LP to express her pain with her own unique sound.

Rina is known for breaking the norms surrounding modern-day pop. She adds various elements from the 2000s era with nu-metal – an alternative metal that combines heavy metal and other genres like hip hop, etc. In the same notion, she addresses her identity crisis, family trials, and societal pressures, like toxic masculinity.

The album starts with “Dynasty,” where she speaks about generational pain. Her ferocious sound instantly comes through as the guitar riffs in the background. Its like old Brittany Spears, but not so nostalgic that you lose sight of the 29-year-olds music. “I’m a dynasty / the pain in my vein is hereditary,” starts the chorus. However, towards the end, Rina makes it apparent that she will not let her family pain continue. “Won’t you break the chain with me?” The songs “XS” and “STFU!” follow this song with the same empowering attitude.

“Bad Friend” carries the album with a more subtle, R&B beat that compliments all Rina has to offer vocally. This song itself embodies self-reflection. Rina seems to identify just how she falls short in her relationships, but we see this doesn’t stop her from wanting to connect with the people who really matter: her fans and supporters.

That’s a bad friend gif

Nearly a year ago, Dorien Electra created “Flamboyant” – a song whose lyrics came from the submissions of fans. Once inspired, she implemented this same genius idea with “Chosen Family.” The concept opened a door for fans to feel apart of the production process and created a space for them to share testimonies about Rina’s musical impact.

“It had nearly 100 submissions, which is really wild considering the amount of effort you have to go through to do it,” she stated. “It’s more important to me to that people feel seen through my music, or feel connected to me, or they feel something new. I take that seriously.”

Unsurprisingly, her mother also had a significant influence on the album.  During an interview with Billboard, Rina revealed how the most critical piece to the album’s transparency was ongoing conversations with her mother. “Going through these memories with my mom and asking, ‘Is this right? Was this true?’ has been really interesting.” She disclosed, “some things were not how I remembered it, or I got them completely confused. Most things were right and true, and it was amazing to feel validated.”

Ariana Blow Kiss

Also, who would not want their mother to love their work? Rina’s mother praised the album before the release as well, ultimately, solidifying its greatness for the artist. She even inserted a recording of her mother’s voice in “Snakeskin,” SAWAYAMA’s last song.

In pop, it is rare to see the individuality Rina Sawayama incites in her sound. Her album debuts pain from all angles; however, it will not spoil the mood. You may even feel more conquered to dive headfirst into your own trauma.

Da'Zhane Johnson is a Junior at Clark Atlanta University. She often finds herself eagerly waiting in a Starbucks line, or happily looking for new coffee orders to add to her collection. Her major is Mass Media Arts with a hard concentration in journalism, so in her spare time, she's usually writing. To read more of her articles, check her out on Instagram @bydazh!