Hold The Girl by Rina Sawayama album review by Greg Walker for Northern Transmissions

Dirty Hit Records

8.1

Rina Sawayama

Hold The Girl

“I don’t wanna do this without you / I don’t wanna do this if you’re just a ghost in the night,” London pop wonder Rina Sawayama sings on her ambitious project, Hold The Girl, which came out on Friday on Dirty Hit Records. It’s not a love song to a lover, but a song to her inner child, who she realized in therapy, as she was writing the album, had a lot of healing to do.

An artist that follows in the footsteps of Lady Gaga, in her flair for the pop-bombastic, with a killer voice like Gaga’s, and with songs that champion those who are the often castigated minority, she has the leg up on Gaga, being a part of those minorities herself: Japanese and queer, in particular. Lady Gaga had her “Born This Way,” and Rina has “This Hell,” an anthem for the queer and marginalized, which pushes back to those who claim that her lifestyle is a means to “eternal damnation.” “This Hell is better with you / We’re burning up together.”

For a poli-sci student in one of Cambridge’s sister schools, a self-proclaimed avid reader, and a deep student of music, she has a way yet (like many therapists of our times) of distilling her thoughts into ideas that you could put on a poster on your wall. “Reach inside and hold you close / I won’t leave you on your own.” It is both the strength and weakness of the album, that she takes all of her very personal experiences with racism and homophobia and sexism—being bullied at her college for being a minority with aspirations, having adults push their religious beliefs on her, etc—into grand sweeping proclamations.

It is her expertise it seems, to make her complex, intellectual thoughts fodder for a broad audience in a super emotional and relatable way. She finds a way to be literary with her pop music, a few times, like on the dark dancey number, “Frankenstein,” where she sings, “Put me together, one more time / Love me forever, fix me right / I could be your Frankenstein.” I think, overall, the album would benefit from more of those bridge sort of songs, between the masses and the intellectuals, like herself.

But like Gaga, before her, her music seems predominantly about giving permission to her listeners to feel, to be fully themselves, despite the haters and doubters, in perfect pop form. The music is fully realized pop alternative and she hits it out of the park with her composition, production, and performance. It’s an impressive album of well-written songs, with all the bells and whistles, including the often perfect vocal ad lib. It must have been a super healing album to write, dealing with the wounds of her inner child, and promises to be liberating for a large group of listeners, who have struggled like herself with accepting herself, no matter the status quo.

Purchase Hold The Girl by Rina Sawayama HERE