Album Review: SAWAYAMA // Rina Sawayama

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SAWAYAMA is outstandingly raw, empowering and full of early 2000s Britney Spears vibes on a rollercoaster ride of bold synthetic beats and catchy lyrics.

Japanese-born British Rina Sawayama has created a supreme, gritty concoction of an electropop and Nu-Metal in this latest release. The album hits sensitive and personal notes that delve into her childhood, acceptance of ourselves and carefree living. This is her first release since the release of her debut mini album, Rina, in 2017 which propelled her unique, ultra-synthetic sound into the limelight.

The first moments of the opening track ‘Dynasty’ focus on Rina’s impressive vocal range, with emotive lyrics and crystal-clear high-pitched synth notes as a tender accompaniment. ‘Dynasty’ explores inherited family complications that have brought pain, which she has no other option but to live with: “The pain in my vein is hereditary / Dynasty / Running in my bloodstream, my bloodstream”. The track continues to be taken up not just a notch, but several, as it goes into full beast mode with electrifying guitar riffs and head-banging drumbeats. This is the moment where the combination of pop and Nu-metal really comes alive. It’s like Pink Floyd and Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’ rolled into one, creating a lively but exposed smash hit.

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Keeping on the early 2000s track with style, ‘XS’ takes you back to the days of singing Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne tracks into your hairbrush. The snappy chorus with sassy lyrics and short rock guitar bursts shows Rina’s badass, feisty attitude while she gives us her thoughts on the overconsumption of our generation: “Luxury and opulence, Cartiers and Tesla Xs / Calabasas, I deserve it / Call me crazy, call me selfish / I’m the baddest and I’m worth it”.

One of the best songs on SAWAYAMA is ‘Snakeskin’. It begins as a beautiful ballad that takes twists and turns into a militant chant that hails high-energy electro beats. All the while building up to an exuberant peak, reaching a heavy bass drop with deep drum kicks that beg to be turned up. This is perfectly paired with abrasive lyrics, surrounding personal existence, acceptance and identification that holds a dark but key message in today’s society.

‘Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)’ gives off a 3am dance club vibe; you’ve had three tequila shots and your confidence is sky high. Its thumping, sonic bassline is full of rebel energy and lyrics that explore toxic masculinity. Rina’s goal with this track is clear: to make you feel like that bitch.

‘Love Me 4 Me’ sets the focus back to the importance of self-love with a bouncy, uplifting number with wicked electric guitar and synthesized vocals. Rina opens the track with an internal monologue repeating the famous Ru Paul quote: “if you can’t love yourself / How are you going to love somebody else?” This track is the ultimate pick-me-up, with nostalgic verses that help you find confidence in yourself. Rina really has created a masterpiece that’s like a rollercoaster ride that you don’t want to get off.

And if you’re thinking that this album has left out one of the most important parts of Nu-Metal, then I’m about to prove you wrong. ‘STFU!’ is all you need; it boasts screamo, jarring rock beats, and strong head-banging guitar strums that will make you feel like you’re in a retro American teen romance movie.

Before hearing SAWAYAMA, I was naïve for thinking electropop and Nu-Metal couldn’t actually work. But I’m here to tell you it does, with tremendous amounts of energy, captivatingly clever mixes of up-tempo electronic and heavy rock beats, extra empowering and thoughtful lyrics which are brought alive by Rina’s stellar vocals.

Words by Chloe Martin

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