Rina Sawayama, the ever-eclectic alternative pop sensation, releases her debut album SAWAYAMA today.
It comes almost three years since mini album Rina, which featured the fan favourite tracks Take Me As I Am and Cyber Stockholm Syndrome.
And with each song sounding like a world of its own, there’s no better way to appreciate this 13-track collection than with a track by track listen.
“I’m losing myself in the darkness of the world” is a major opening line. She amazes me with her ability to blend genres every time. Here, there’s a tinge of pop, rock and even metal. The drum and bass in the background will take time to grow on me, though.
My favourite of the tracks that were released before the album. The genius of naming a song about debauchery and opulence “XS”is something I will never stop screaming about. And even with her visuals, Sawayama proves that she’s capable of sending a message, and making it look and sound good while she’s at it. It’s a level of pop campiness that we haven’t quite seen since the days of Lady Gaga.
Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of this song when it first came out. Hearing it on the album does help, the song is nothing short of an over-the-top affair—the kind of maximalist pop that fans of Sawayama have come to fawn over.
Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)
Straight from the screams of metal to the halls of dance. This one’s a middle finger to male tropes and the misogyny as Sawayama questions why women are only seen as confident if they act “like the boys”.
This song is so catchy. Listen to it and tell me “Akasaka Sawayama” doesn’t get stuck in your head.
And after a few twists and turns exploring everything from 2000s Britney pop to metal, we’ve arrived at the 80s. Paradisin’ is campy, catchy, and just so much fun. Sawayama explained that she wanted the song to sound like “a theme song for a TV show”. Some artists try to replicate the 80s sound and fall flat, some are hugely successful. This one definitely belongs to the latter.
Love Me 4 Me
The retro influence continues, this time by way of some New Jack Swing. It’s an ode to self-love that never gets old and one of my favourites on the album so far.
This one is a bit of a bummer for me. It sounds like any generic artist chasing the trends of Spotify pop could have sung it. It’s not a bad song by any means, but feels like a dip compared to the rest of the album.
Fuck This World
There’s clearly nothing subtle about SAWAYAMA.
Who’s Gonna Save U Now?
Rocker Rina is back, this time to gloat at the plight of someone who once crossed her. It’s a big song and she’s really belting it. “You burned the bridges and drained the river” is the only way I am addressing my enemies from now on.
Tokyo Love Hotel
Once again with a successful 80s throwback, this song wouldn’t sound out of place on a Carly Rae Jepsen album. It’s a shimmering pure pop moment that also manages to sound very current.
The only ballad on the album, this song truly allows Sawayama to show off her vocals. It’s a tender dedication to friends who have stuck by on good days and bad ones.
A fitting closer for the album, Snakeskin goes back to the genre-bending that we began the album with. It starts off beautifully with nothing but Sawayama’s vocals against piano chords, reminiscent of the sounds of FKA Twigs and Chloe x Halle, before morphing into something more sinister and serpentine. By the time the chorus kicks in, the song is another affair altogether, peppered with handclaps and a trap beat.
And with her genre-bending abilities and a whole lot of attitude to boot, one thing is clear: both Sawayama and SAWAYAMA are here to change the rules of pop.