Rina Sawayama is officially the highest charting Japanese artist in history in the UK. KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Friday, September 23, 2022

Rina Sawayama is officially the highest charting Japanese artist in history in the UK.

Rina Sawayama is officially the highest charting Japanese artist in history in the UK. (Read More Here).

Almost every song strives to be Sawayama’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with genre mash-ups and key changes galore. The title track brings 8-bit video game flourishes to a 2-step breakdown, but there’s also the abrupt flare of strings, a country gallop to the verses, and a thunderous choral finale. Follow-up “This Hell” interpolates ABBA, tips its hat to Shania Twain and Paris Hilton, and indulges in pop feminist sloganeering (“Fuck what they did to Britney/To Lady Di and Whitney”). Even then, she can’t help herself, so the song climaxes on a gnarly hair metal guitar solo. Hold the Girl is ambitious in the way that putting on all the clothes in your closet is ambitious. It’s as if Sawayama heard the adage “kill your darlings” and decided it wasn’t slay enough.

Her second record, ‘Hold the Girl’ – released today – is a total triumph, one where she expands on the winning formula of massive hooks and powerful lyricism she demonstrated on her 2020 debut ‘SAWAYAMA’. The second album’s lead single, ‘This Hell’, is dynamite pop: a slinky, Shania Twain-indebted anthem filled with tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“God hates us? Alright then/Buckle up, at dawn, we’re riding“) that, as Sawayama explained on Twitter before it dropped, “celebrate community and love in a time where the world seemed hellish”.

Zooming in from her south London home a week before the record drops, Sawayama is winding down a jam-packed summer of international festival dates that’ve seen her zip across Europe and Japan. A live smash, the power of Sawayama’s on-stage performance saw her take home the trophy for Best Live Act at the BandLab NME Awards 2022 earlier this year. This run of festival dates have been interspersed with preparations for the album – interviews, television performances – and her diary has been constantly full. “I’d love to say once the record comes out I can chill, but it’s kind of when the tour work starts so it gets really busy again,” she laughs.

Lately, though, the 32-year-old artist has been reading self-help books and having revelations in therapy—so her second album, Hold the Girl, is decidedly more earnest and weighty. Sawayama has framed the album as part of a process of “reparenting” herself, and the emphasis on one’s “inner child” may explain why the record’s imagery leans elementary: Blue skies and storms, villains and heroes, the feeling of being imprisoned inside one’s bedroom. She knows other queer people have also had complicated upbringings, so she nobly strives to create belonging: “If I can heal someone around me or someone that I don’t know with the songs I write … why wouldn’t I take it?” she reasons. The spiritual predecessor to Hold the Girl is not the blithe, stylish “XS” but the kindly, saccharine “Chosen Family.”

Another way to think about Hold the Girl is that it’s an attempt to merge the full-throated spectacle of Born This Way with the surviving-through-trauma emotionality of Chromatica. But there are plenty of other touchstones beyond Gaga, and Sawayama wears them on her sleeve: the dreamy contralto of Karen Carpenter, the puckered pop-rock of Avril Lavigne, the rousing, motivational tenor of Katy Perry. Sawayama’s tagline for single “Catch Me in the Air” is essentially “the Corrs if pitched to Gwen Stefani,” which doesn’t even get at the half of it. She opens the heartfelt tribute to her single mother with moony new age woodwinds straight from Céline Dion, then switches to Kelly Clarkson guitar strums: “Catch me in the air-eee air-eee air-eee airrr,” she sings in the chorus, as if yodeling while strapped into a rollercoaster.

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