If you’ve been anywhere on the Internet in the past year, you’ve heard of Rina Sawayama. The genre busting pop star has gone viral multiple times, and received high acclaim from online audiences and award networks. By suggestion from my peers, I’ve decided to listen to her latest album, “SAWAYAMA,” in full order and review it to see if it lives up to the hype.
First Impressions: A combination of what I’d heard about this record before listening, and thoughts afterward can be summarized as the following word: Dynamic. This record was marketed, recorded and renowned as a major pop record with pop and hip hop influences, with a fresh new sound unparalleled by Sawayama’s contemporaries and peers. The tracklist will serve as the defining factor on whether this front is how the album truly resonates.
Track by Track:
*Dynasty: The album opens with a bold, independent anthem about building yourself up and choosing to pave your own path different from those before you. Sawayama’s vocals shine, and an excellent guitar solo pierces the bridge and the catchy hook. 7/10.
*XS: This glitzy single is pop perfection, with lyrics poking fun at materialism and the title playing on the term “excess”. This song feels aptly appropriate for 2021, and will be sure to stick in your head for hours after listening. Note: the vibe of this track is similar to Little Mix’s “Wasabi,” so check that out as well! 10/10.
*STFU!: This track is 90s pop rock perfection, and a confident statement against haters and challengers. Sawayama’s vocals are strong as always, and the sassy charm she uses to deliver them is replay-worthy. 6/10.
*Comme de Garçons (Like The Boys): A glimmering get-ready-bop, telling a tale of a person who has it all “like the boys”. The theme is similar to XS without the bouncy stride that carries the latter. 7.5/10.
*Akasaka Sad: This track’s production is a bit grittier, as Sawayama sings of confronting someone who irritates her. With references to suffering like her parents, and a forward lyrical pace, this song is one of my favorites. 8/10.
*Paradisin’: The summer bop we’ve been waiting for! 80s pop tinged and sunny sounding, this track is simple and perfect for cruising down Lake Shore Drive once it warms up a bit. 7/10.
*Love Me 4 Me: Every essential pop album needs a self-confidence boosting song! This track boasts Sawayama’s work she invests into loving herself before someone else can love her, and raising her expectations for a partner. 8/10.
*Bad Friend: Vulnerability shines through on this track, in an all too relatable way. Recounting times when one has failed others, let them down, or been unable to support them because of their own avoidance is a familiar narrative. A smooth melancholy production makes this track a standout of sad pop. 9/10.
F*ck This World (Interlude): I’m a sucker for a cohesive album that utilizes interludes as a tool and this one certainly does this. Transitioning into an emotionally vulnerable section of the record as opposed to fun party songs, this interlude is open and raw. 8.5/10.
Who’s Gonna Save U Now?: At this point in the record, Sawayama goes full rock. Beginning the track with a rousing audio clip of a crowd screaming her name, she launches into a guitar-studded vocal display that makes us wish we were back in stadiums to hear her play it live. 9/10.
*Tokyo Love Hotel: This is the perfect love song for nighttime adventures. In a vulnerable lyrical tale of quick flings in Tokyo versus Sawayama’s genuine love and affection for the subject, the pounding bass and easy pace are perfect for a drive under the stars with your boo. 8/10
*Chosen Family: This is a sweet ballad that captures caring for those you love. The lyrics and production are simple, but the melody pulls you in like a campfire song and tells a tale of found family amidst pain. 6.5/10
*Snakeskin: On the closing track, Sawayama finds peace in shedding her skin. Vocal effects and a lilting tune remind the listener that the end of this chapter is coming to a close, and a new revelation will begin next. 7/10
Overall Rating and Final Notes:
I regret putting off listening to this album for so long! I highly recommend it for anyone looking for fresh voices in pop, rock, alternative music, or all of the above at once. Some tracks stick with you more than others, some keep you dancing in the mirror while others might make you cry behind the wheel: Sawayama does it all. We’ll be keeping our eyes on Rina Sawayama in the future!
Final Rating: 9/10!
By Leah Ollie, Senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School