I can thank the Youtube algorithm for introducing me to Rina. It was a couple years ago, and sometimes I like to just find a random new trending artist and let the songs play to find new music(I’m weird), and the music video for what’s probably her most popular song to this date, “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome.” This song and video is such a good example of the art Rina makes, from the futuristic but also retro pop/r&b feel of the track to the futuristic but also retro music video. Rina has been taking elements from pop, hip hop, r&b, and rock from the early 2000’s, and putting her own spin on these sounds to make them feel futuristic in a strange way. It kind of feels like someone 30 years from now trying to recreate music from that era, but is a little off and futuristic sounding because it’s being made in the future without traditional instruments. Rina is just as adventurous with her fashion and overall appearance, as she is just as likely to have her hair short and embrace more of an androgynous look as she is to have long flowing beautiful hair(usually a wig) and a very feminine outfit. She is Japanese-British, and incorporates her Japanese heritage into her music and appearances, from songs that have a distinct J-Pop/rock feeling like “Alterlife” to beautiful and elaborate music videos like the ome for “Ordinary Superstar,” which embraces the Tokyo club scene of the 80’s through its set and outfits. Everything about Rina’s innovative forms of art ooze is star power, and I firmly believe the release of her first full length album later this year will catapult her to heights she hasn’t been close to reaching yet. The combination of Rina’s love of so many different kinds of music and art and determination to destroy boundaries in fashion and music is so fresh and innovative. She has learned to tow the line of weird and popular to make art and music so cool that I am sure it will not be long until she is a pop superstar.
Rina was born in Japan, and she lived there until she was five, before moving to London with her parents. She would spend time between Japan and Britain growing up, resulting in her listening to J Pop and being very influenced by Japanese fashion. She has stated she regrets being embarrassed with some of the Japanese elements in her childhood as she tried be more British to be accepted in school. When she got older, she realized this heritage is awesome, and started to completely embrace those elements in her art. She is also very open with the fact she is bisexual, and makes sure to include lgbtq components in her art, modeling, and social media presence, making sure people know she loves who she has become. Rina has been making music since she was in college, but she really started to take off when she met producer Clarence Clarity. Clarity is know for very eccentric and futuristic sounding electronic music, and his and Rina’s love of retro pop music and pushing boundaries collide in the best way when this tag team is making music together. Clarence Clarity is the main producer on Rina’s first full length album coming out later this year, so we should expect it to have the same beyond the norm feeling as expected from Rina.
When I first heard “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome,” I absolutely loved it because it reminded me of the pop from my youth. It has a familiarity to it that is comparable to the peaks of artist such as Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, or Christina Aguilera. This familiarity is engulfed in an electronic sound that feels like its from 2069. I’ve never listened to an artist that sounds so futuristic but also classic like her other than maybe Charli Xcx. All of Rina’s music has this feel to it. Her song “Take Me as I Am” legitimately sounds like it could be off of Britney’s “Oops, I did it again.” On this track, Rina sings about some dude(probably in the music industry) trying to butter her up and flatter her enough to convince her to change her art to be more typical. Rina doesn’t take this, and demands to be taken as she is or left alone. One of my favorites by Rina so far is “10-20-40.” I’ve actually seen two explanations for the lyrical content of this song, both being relatable for us wild ones. One explanation is that this song is about being addicted to opiates, and not being able to deal with the pain of being alive without them. The other is that she is relying on SSRI’s(type of anxiety and depression medication) and they make her feel numb, knowing she needs them but feeling nothing while taking them. I’ll let you decide which meaning you think is the real one. This song sounds like something out of the late 80’s, having a guitar solo in particular that sounds like it’s from a one hit wonder pop rock song from this era. Of course, the instrumental has Rina’s typically futuristic flair as well. The second song I heard from Rina, which caused me to fall in love with her music so early into listening to her, is “Alterlife.” This song also has a late 80’s early 90’s futuristic pop rock sound, and features Rina singling about finally realizing who she wants to be and what makes her happy, and sticking to those things no matter what anyone thinks. The music video shows the different elements of her character being embraced individually, all coming together at the end to show the whole of who Rina is. It’s an awesome message. Her song “Cherry” also features Rina embracing who she is and showing it to the world no matter what anyone thinks, which is a common theme in her lyrics. Sonically, this song sticks to her retro and futuristic feel, although being a little more radio friendly than some of her other music. On “Cherry,” Rina sings about embracing the fact she likes women(romantically) for the first time in her life, pleading to her crush that she needs someone to be her Cherry, or first. It is an inspiring song to any young women afraid to embrace who they are sexually; it’s ok to be gay or straight or different in any way as long as you stay true to who you are and want to be.
Through the short time I have been following Rina, she has changed her aesthetic and look many times very drastically. When I first starting paying attention to her after hearing “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome,” she had a very bad ass early 2000’s look, embracing tight leather and sparkly clothing while having beautiful long flowing orange hair. By the time she made the video for “Ordinary Superstar,” she had a totally different look and feeling to her fashion. In this video she is wearing beautiful Japanese dresses while embracing a short hair in an almost androgynous look. It seems like as the weather changes, Rina’s fashion inspiration changes. She never stays in one place with her art and fashion, and this is the part of who she is that makes her so different and great. I look forward to seeing how she continues to push boundaries, and continues to take outdated looks and styles and remaking them to look like they are from the future.
Rina is becoming a force in an underground pop movement that is bound to burst into the mainstream sometime very soon. Her ability to embrace so many retro sounds and ideas and styles and revamp them into something we haven’t seen or dreamed of can not be denied. I think with the release of her new album later this year, Rina will start to sore into the stardom she deserves. Someone who can make art that’s so futuristic but so classic can not be denied superstardom; Lady Gaga could only be held down so long as well. If you want to seek cool to your homies and show them Rina before she’s the world’s top pop star, please listen to her Spotify linked below!
Photo Credits: https://www.last.fm/music/Rina+Sawayama/+images/356225dce9b55af9a6ec66df04141659