Rina Sawayama is one of my new favorite artists of the year. She is a singer, songwriter and model from London, England. She’s Japanese and British, and she often explores her cultural identities in her songs. One example of her work with cultural identities is her collaboration on a project that was featured in Vogue Magazine that interrogated the expectations placed on Asian beauty and its consequences.
Rina Sawayama’s music videos and live performances are amazing to experience because of her tremendous stage presence and love of music. Her latest tour, the Dynasty Tour, was cut short because of COVID-19 quarantine, but she has done some online performances in the meantime. While I didn’t get the chance to see her in person on her tour, I’ve been filling the void by listening to her music.
Her past performances with Spotify at their events are available online as well as the exclusive singles that she produced with Spotify. The latest Spotify single she released was “Dancing in the Dark”.
She has toured in the past with Charli XCX’s Charli Live Tour as a supporting musician. She performs with backup dancers, stylish costumes and dynamic video cuts. The concepts behind her videos are extraordinarily well executed.
I love her recent video for “Comme des Garcons (Like the Boys)” because it was very different from her past music videos. She relied a lot less on physical staging and choreography and worked with video editing to create the video. The personas she adopts as the man and the woman are hilarious to watch as well as the slightly off-brand names. The song explores adopting male traits to fit into spaces or to be accepted. Rina has stated that it is also meant as a tribute to early 2000s dance pop music that made her feel confident.
Rina Sawayama is openly bisexual and pansexual, and her song “Cherry” follows her journey to realizing her sexual orientation. It was released as part of her last album, Rina, and the songs were a mix of pop and electronic music.
As part of the LGBT+ community, she increases the representation of Asian artists within the space. Other queer artists such as Hayley Kiyoko and Miley Cyrus are much more well-known, but there is always space for new artists. Her fanbase includes people from many places and backgrounds. She has a style reminiscent of Lady Gaga with strong vocals.
She has said in an interview that she draws inspiration and guidance from artists such as Beyonce and Avril Lavigne. Her recent album, Sawayama, was a hit with an innovative mix of R&B, electronic and pop music. According to Spotify, the song “XS” from the album has over 7 million streams and climbing. She is signed with Dirty Hit Records, who helped produce her new album.