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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Genre fusion creates stellar debut album

April 29, 2020 | Dang Le | managing editor

Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama tackles topic of racial discrmination, toxic masculinity, love and friendship in her first album “SAWAYAMA.” Rina Sawayama, Sawayama

The Japanese-British singer’s debut album, “SAWAYAMA,” is a mashup of how metal rock and R&B pop elements would sound like when being put together.

Born in Japan, raised in England and graduated from Cambridge, Rina Sawayama came onto the music scene in 2017. One year later, she came out as pansexual.

The theme of “being an outsider” played a big part in the album. The raging “STFU!” showed her talk about racist experiences in the music industry. The only ballad, “Chosen Family,” described her coming to terms with her sexuality and being accepted into the supportive queer community.

“Paradisin,’” which bears a resemblance to the video game arcade background music, talks about how she grew up with a single mother. The new jack swing track “Love Me 4 Me,” is a self-love track, but the pure-pop, relatable “Bad Friend” sees Sawayama antagonizing herself for leaving her friend behind.

Perhaps one of the craziest aspects of the album is how the singer incorporates nu-metal elements into the tracks. “XS,” which sarcastically criticizes modern capitalism, is a daring combination of Korn or N.E.R.D.’s explosive metal guitar riffs with The Cheetah Girls’ pink-R&B ‘00s vibe.

The slinky track “Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys),” which consists of ‘70s disco elements, Madonna-esque backing vocals and seriously slick basslines, is Sawayama’s ways of criticizing toxic masculinity and Beto O’Rourke’s remarks on his presidential run.

But if one ignores the content the first time, it’s a crazy, luxurious enough song to sweat on the dance floor.

The stadium-shaking “Who’s Gonna Save U Now?,” which takes inspirations from Bradley Cooper’s character in “A Star is Born,” is when the 29-year-old artist reminds the listeners that artists are the best version of themselves when standing on the stage.

Using cheering fan noises in the background, this may be the closest music fans can experience a concert with everything that’s been going on this year. And quite frankly, the track is the best imitation of how energetic live concerts can be.

Behind the boast and loud production throughout the entire album, Sawayama’s vocal delivery can perfectly lean into the ‘90s and ‘00s pop/R&B lane. The sparkly synth-pop “Tokyo Love Hotel” is a highlight of the album where she has the chance to showcase her vocals.

Throughout 13 tracks, it becomes clear that Sawayama doesn’t fit into any label or box. This debut album is just her playing with sounds and blending genres.

It’s too strong to be just pop, but it doesn’t go as hard to be solely metal. The album has that chic, expensive Western production style, yet she doesn’t forget her roots by adding Eastern elements.

The result? The album is a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. And throughout the tracks, listeners may find an artist who’s comfortable enough in her own skin and ready to soar through this music industry. Rina Sawayama is the artist to watch for in the upcoming years.

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