Rina Sawayama: Hold the Girl Album Review

Rina Sawayama’s 2020 debut genuinely relied on friendship estrangements and family wounds, but on her best song, the pop singer pretended to be a rich girl dripping in Cartiers and cruising in Teslas. ‘XS’ was intended as an anti-capitalist critique in the age of the climate crisis, but its luxury take was a better sell for being the rich, not eating them; Sawayama whispered “excessas if it were the name of a designer perfume, the smell of the intoxicating “more”. Intention aside, a fabulous pop character goes a long way. Even though Sawayama has become the kind of star who stinks of the Earth with her private jet, as long as she delivers fun hooks, high-quality looks, and damn good live performances, she’ll have people obsessed: “Bestie, what’s the skincare routine?”

Lately, however, the 32-year-old artist has been reading self-help books and having revelations in therapy – thus his second album, Hold the girl, is decidedly more serious and heavier. Sawayama framed the album as part of a process of “reparenting” herself, and the emphasis on her “inner child” may explain why the disc’s imagery leans toward the elemental: blue skies and storms, villains and heroes, the feeling of being imprisoned inside your room. She knows that other queer people also had a complicated upbringing, so she nobly strives to create a sense of belonging: “If I can heal someone around me or someone I don’t know with the songs I I’m writing…why wouldn’t I take it? she reasons. The spiritual predecessor of hold the girl is not the cheerful and stylish “XS”, but the nice and sweet “Chosen Family”.

Another way of thinking hold the girl is that it is an attempt to merge the full-throated spectacle of born like this with the emotionality of survival through the trauma of Chromatic. But there are plenty of other touchstones beyond Gaga, and Sawayama wears them on her sleeve: Karen Carpenter’s dreamy contralto, Avril Lavigne’s slick pop-rock, Katy Perry’s driving and motivating tenor. . Sawayama’s catchphrase for the single “Catch Me in the Air” is basically “the Corrs if they get tossed at Gwen Stefani”, which doesn’t even get half way through. She opens the heartfelt tribute to her single mother with moony new age woodwinds straight from Celine Dion, then moves on to guitars by Kelly Clarkson: “Catch me in the air-eee air-eee air-eee airrr,” she sings in the chorus, as if yodeling while strapped to a roller coaster.

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