Seemingly long gone are the days of music videos on MTV, anthemic pop R&B numbers serving as the soundtrack for everything from Disney channel original movies to major hit pictures, and the space-age, high-tech visual aesthetics that pervaded pop culture throughout the '90s and early '00s. Then enter Rina Sawayama who personifies every ounce of collective cultural nostalgia while still presenting a unique and revitalizing take on one of pop music's most beloved chapters.
Rina Sawayama is a Japanese-English double-threat poised to charm both the modeling and music worlds alike. However, before Sawayama fully committed herself to a world of artistry she was a student at The University of Cambridge studying psychology, politics, and sociology while playing in a hip-hop group with Theo Ellis who would go on to form Wolf Alice. Not finding personal joy from the world of academia, Sawayama fully enmeshed herself in her artistic visions and those visions have begun to bear fruit. From shooting campaigns for Nasty Gal, Ally Capelino, Jourdan Dunn, and others to releasing her highly praised and much talked about EP, RINA, Sawayama took 2017 by storm. And it is little surprise as to why 2017 welcomed her with wide, open arms.
2017 is a year that has satiated over the idea of nostalgia like no other before it, and it's no wonder why a fascination for simpler times would be so popular given the recent state of practically everything. With that being said, transforming nostalgic elements into a newly realized works of art is a highly challenging feat, particularly in music, and a feat that Sawayma deploys brilliantly in her debut EP RINA. Throughout RINA's twenty-four minutes and its accompanying videos, Sawayama explores pop's lack representation of Asian women and themes encompassing all realms of living in an extremely digital-based age, all backed by some of the best glitchy pop production in recent memory. RINA is the rare the album of an artist who through revisiting their past, in this case Sawayma's love for '80s, '90s, and early '00s j-pop, managed to create something entirely new and welcomed. From beginning to end, RINA is filled hints and nods to the trademark pop stylings that shaper her, but as if viewed from an entirely new perspective. Sawayama is not merely rehashing the music of her childhood; she's reinventing it for a new generation. And in doing so, Sawayama presents a world that is nostalgic yet captivatingly futuristic, all at the same time.
While there is something undeniably familiar about Sawayama, she's something we've never quite seen before now. With her bright neon orange hair and street-style inspired aesthetic, Sawayama makes an immediately clear statement that she is an artist completely in her own right and one that we were perhaps not ready for up until this moment. Challenging societal and cultural norms that have all too often objectified and infantilized Asian women, Sawayama serves as a figure that is actively defying these stereotypic conventions. And therein lies ones of Sawayma's greatest strengths. Sawayama does not fit neatly within any typical conventions. She's not the next Madonna. She's not the next Mariah Carey. She's not the next Janet Jackson. She's not the next anyone. If there is one thing Rina Sawayama is, it's the next big thing and only 2018 and beyond will tell what exactly that ends up looking like.