Rina Sawayama — Hold The Girl — Album Review
Pop | Electronic
When it came to artists that I had discovered in the unusual musical year of 2020, none really made an impact quite like London-based popstar Rina Sawayama. While of course, she officially released her first musical project with her 2017 EP RINA, it was through her debut album, titled SAWAYAMA, that I had had my first taste of her Gaga-esque, stadium-ready electro-pop sound.
I enjoyed SAWAYAMA to the point where it ranked as my sixth favourite album of that entire year (if you want to take a look at my top 50 albums of 2020, click here). On top of that, I even brought the vinyl! The album displayed the kind of musical versatility that every great debut album has (when executed right, like this album had done). And on top of that, it carried with it some incredibly unique and engaging pop bangers.
That being said, I was excited to see where Rina Sawayama would take her sound next. I remember hoping for an album that would further chisel out a unique musical brand for the artist, which seemed like a fitting step forward after the experimentation that was rife on Rina’s debut.
Thankfully, I feel that her sophomore album, Hold The Girl, displays exactly that.
But before we get into the album, a little rant first; I must admit that, earlier in this musical year of 2021, Rina Sawayama seemed to be standing on a bit of a rocky slope, with her feature on Charli XCX’s “Beg For You”. And while this was only a feature appearance on another artist’s project, it is easily the most accessible (and least unique) that Sawayama has ever seemed.
Judging by the fact that this “Beg For You” is the most popular single on Rina Sawayama’s Spotify page (despite it not even being her original single), it seemed that many mainstream pop listeners hadn’t paid Rina much mind prior. so perhaps this was a smart move from the artist to reach out to a wider audience. However, it definitely compromised a lot of her creativity.
Following this, would be her first teaser track to herald the arrival of Hold The Girl. Titled “This Hell”, this track also carried scents of high accessibility. However, little shreds of her uniqueness were creeping back into the limelight. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel anxious towards the idea of this album serving as Rina Sawayama’s way of blending into the rest of the oversaturated crowd of female pop singers.
But as more teaser tracks followed, not only did more of Rina’s uniqueness returned, but I could also see a trend of there being an even more anthemic aura to this album to be. Tracks like “Catch Me In The Air” and the title track definitely showed this.
There were, of course, a few other teaser tracks that were released very closely to the album’s release, such as “Phantom” and “Hurricanes”. However, I only really had chance to have a few glimpses of those tracks before Hold The Girl had finally arrived in full.
It is safe to say, that many other new and amazing tracks can be found on this sophomore album, making an overall tracklist of a pretty generous 13. And like I stated before, there’s undoubtedly a very anthemic and sing-along nature to this album that leads me to believe that the vast majority of tracks would be a marvelous spectacle to witness live.
Along with this, Rina Sawayama doubles down on her soul-searching narrative that also seemed apparent on her debut album. There’s certainly another helping of narrative focussed on the artist finding happiness within herself, as this album kind of serves as her personal victory lap and celebration of her personality.
And while, for the most part, Hold The Girl put my worries about her being overly accessible to rest, there are still a few moments on the album that do feel a little too commercial for their own good. An example of this would be “Frankenstein”, a single that feels kind of bland in its lyrics, but was obviously premeditated as a 2022 Halloween anthem. And once again, it’s results showed, as it is yet another popular song of hers.
I simply wish that the tracks on this album that reflect Rina Sawayama far better got more attention than the ones that don’t. That being said, I implore you to explore this album fully if you haven’t already, as it is yet another amazing piece from this talented artist, and carries with it a great amount of phenomenal tracks.
Favourite Tracks: Catch Me In The Air | Holy (Til You Let Me Go) | Your Age | Phantom
Least Favourite Track: Frankenstein