Rina Sawayama SAWAYAMA Dirty Hit
Rina Sawayama’s daring, glossy pop has always been forward-thinking, but her debut album SAWAYAMA exists in a full-throttle future that she’s built for herself. Wild first single STFU, a nu-metal meets Avril Lavigne rager, got her dropped from a label before she’d signed a contract – a perfect omen for an uncompromising, triumphant record that celebrates the outer reaches of Sawayama’s mighty imagination.
Accelerating the maximalism of her 2017 mini-album RINA, SAWAYAMA is packed with sugary, sinister pop fantasies. The slick, sexy XS makes a mockery of greed and glamour, a late-capitalist cousin to Britney’s Gimme More. Akasaka Sad is a slippery, snaking ballad about loneliness, in which she invokes her own surname as if it’s a family curse. It’s also her most satisfying genre soup yet; jittery trap beats collide with noughties adlibs, a bubble-bursting PC Music-style breakdown and rich, heartbreaking R&B verses.
Combining the earnestness of a vintage Disney princess with the fire and range of Evanescence’s Amy Lee, Sawayama’s agile voice has never sounded stronger. An exploration of identity via family, friends, culture and community, SAWAYAMA opens with a powerful statement of self-sufficiency (Dynasty) and runs the gamut through to penultimate track Chosen Family, a gentle declaration of solidarity. Closer Snakeskin is one final punch – a dizzying, satisfying fusion and an epic monument to the scale of Sawayama’s ambitions. You won’t hear another pop record like it this year.