The introductory track of Rina Sawayama’s sophomore album, Hold the Girl, is a two-minute song called “Minor Feelings.” Within it, the Japanese-British pop artist tells us exactly what kind of record we are about to hear.
“Writing my own fairytales, building forts between the sofa and the windowsill/ Dreaming of the day I’m tall enough to save myself/ But I was just a child,” she sings.
Sawayama hasn’t just grown into a dynamic, poetic, and inventive adult — she’s grown into a pop star, and Hold the Girl (arriving Friday, September 16th via Dirty Hit) confirms that she’s one we should all be listening very closely to.
The thread that runs most visibly through Hold the Girl is a dialogue Sawayama is having with her inner child, beginning with “Minor Feelings,” increasing with urgency on the title track, and appearing as white-hot rage on “Your Age.” The artist herself has been vocal about the epiphanies she’s experienced in therapy and how they might have influenced her vision for the album — when “Hold the Girl” was released as a single in August, she shared in a statement that it was the first song she wrote for the album, back towards the end of 2020. “I was crying before going into the studio to write about it,” she revealed.
Sawayama’s fantastic 2020 debut album, SAWAYAMA, is clever, biting, and big, and sees the artist filtering Y2K aesthetics through a prism that yields rock, dance-pop, and R&B sounds. Where many pop artists might have preferred to use a second album to continue to self-mythologize, Sawayama instead seizes Hold the Girl as an opportunity to strip any persona she may have started to build back down to the blueprints, peeling away layers with a dogged fearlessness.
Yes, there’s certainly a touch of that early Lady Gaga spirit woven through Hold the Girl — Sawayama doesn’t play when it comes to visuals — but the direction she chose to go with this LP is her own.