Rina Sawayama — SAWAYAMA — Album Review

Pop | Electropop

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My memory is a little foggy in terms of how I discovered singer/songwriter Rina Sawayama, but one thing I know for certain is that it was this year I discovered her music.

This very first instance would be me discovering the single, “Comme Des Garcons (Like The Boys)”, and I remember with a fondness just how effortlessly the upbeat rhythm and wondrous melody exuded confidence.

That being said, I wasn’t too sure what I should be expecting from this artist, and I only later recognised this to be her debut studio album, following the 2017 release of her EP “RINA”. Nonetheless, I continued to enjoy each of the following teasers of this 2020 project such as “XS” and “Chosen Family”. At this point, I was expecting this to be at the very least, quite the solid project overall, and I was anticipating SAWAYAMA as much as I would for a large handful of albums that I review.

But while I might’ve preferred the two former teaser tracks to “Chosen Family”, this track spoke to me in a far more contextual matter, and this would go on to summarise the overall theme of the album quite well.

Rina Sawayama tells us her story of searching for acceptance without compromise, and her journey towards becoming her true self while being accepted as such. This is what I summarised from listening to the album in full, and is also a topic that I can deeply relate to. As a result, many of the lyrics that this album has touched my soul in a way that very few albums do.

As well as being deeply insightful in its context, SAWAYAMA is also uncompromising in its set of musical layouts for each track. To say that this album is musically versatile is barely scratching the surface. But unlike a certain album I reviewed not too long ago, which felt musically varied for all the wrong reasons, all of the tracks on this project succeed in carrying an essence of Rina’s personality is some way, shape, or form.

Being that this is her debut full-length effort, it feels more than excusable that she would be experimenting with many different musical aesthetics. however, there’s seemingly no point where any of the styles felt like they didn’t mix well with Rina Sawayama.

Furthermore, this really helped keep the album exciting every step of the way, and the wide selection of moods that the track list offered really helped drive a narrative of ups and downs forward expertly.

When it comes to potential inspirations behind this project, it is the likes of Lady Gaga, or VUKOVI, or perhaps Dua Lipa that appear in my mind most often when listening to this album. However, SAWAYAMA definitely feels like it is in a league of its own, with its flawless unification of different genres, to the point where there could be countless artists that this album draws a shred of influence from.

I think the majority of the more pop-oriented tracks is primarily kept in the teaser tracks. But on top of this, there are hints of rock, electronic, and even nu-metal in the track “STFU!”.

Quite frankly, there are pretty much no tracks on this thing at-all that doesn’t at least serve an important purpose on the album, and all of them range from enjoyable listens to year-defining anthems. Even the interlude “Fuck This World” competes with the majority of other tracks on the album, and the ending track “Snakeskin” serves as a wonderful metaphor for becoming your true self, and a perfect closer for this iconic album.

SAWAYAMA absolutely shattered the bar I initially set for this project, and it simply leaves me in awe that this is where her discography truly starts. I am utterly excited to see where this decade may take Rina Sawayama, and I believe that it may be just to presume that she may just be one of the biggest stars of the 2020's.

Favourite Tracks: Dynasty | XS | Comme Des Garcons (Like The Boys) | Bad Friend | Who’s Gonna Save U Now?

Least Favourite Track: n/a

Dirty Hit


My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.