Rina Sawayama Reveals Painful Past that Inspired Chart-Topping Album

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Rina Sawayama, an international pop sensation, opened up about the indelible mark left on her by her traumatic past. In an intimate conversation, she shed light on the painful narrative that fueled the genesis of her second album, Hold the Girl. She crafted this masterpiece following several episodes of sex and relationship therapy.

Later that day, Sawayama would occupy center stage at New York’s Pier 17 venue, commanding the attention of a full house. The audience reflected a diversity far beyond the typical platoon of teenage girls that pop stars often garner. In addition to same-sex couples swaying and expressing their affection whilst engrossed in the anthem-laden setlist, a group of trans women provided unison to the LGBT-inclusive song, This Hell. The same variety was echoed in the team and the tour crew that rallied around her.

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Despite the music industry’s power scales tipped in favor of the straight white male, Sawayama intentionally collaborates with those she wishes to see grow within the industry. Over several months, she has carried her music to the four corners of the globe, and this year alone, her career has leapfrogged several milestones.

From performing solo at Glastonbury 2023 to sharing the stage with Sir Elton John and landing a spot on the cover of British Vogue’s LGBT pioneers’ edition, these badges of honor are not only indicative of her towering talent but also a nod to her relentless resilience. She’s also managed to carve a space for herself in Hollywood, starring alongside Keanu Reeves in John Wick 4.

One of Sawayama’s most significant contributions to the music industry has been redefining the eligibility norms for the Mercury Music Prize and Brit Awards. The Japanese-passport holder, who spent the majority of her life in the UK, initiated a revolution that now allows non-British UK residents to vie for these prestigious awards.

Inside a plush hotel room, as the sounds of New York’s East Village seep in through the window, Sawayama finally unveils the inspiration behind her critically acclaimed album. Deemed a “total triumph” by NME magazine, the album is layered with the raw emotion surrounding her past entanglement with a school teacher at an age when she didn’t have the maturity to understand the dynamics of power and control.

Yet today, shielded by the wisdom of her 33 years, she insists on shining a light on this murky chapter of her life, not to wallow in the past, but to protect her younger self from self-blame. The therapy sessions allowed her to reassess the situation through the lens of adulthood.

As she steps further into the limelight, whether through music, film, or her vocal stance on social issues, Sawayama’s truth stands as bright as her talent. While veering through the glossy yet treacherous landscape of the music industry, honesty is her guiding principle.

Pouring her traumatic experiences into her music has, in fact, led to a bond with her audience, a connection unspoken yet tangibly felt. Much like during performances of her song Hold the Girl, where the sight of fans shedding tears in response to the music affirms this connection.

Laughing lightheartedly about her future work, Sawayama confesses that she’s not certain about the thematic trajectory of her third album. “I don’t want any more traumas to come out,” she admits, adding, “I would love a day where I can write a song that’s just about love or sex.”

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