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  • Writer's pictureBradley Gambosi

This Hell is Better with Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama Hold The Girl cover art
“Hold The Girl” - Rina Sawayama (2022)

Rina Sawayama has become pop music’s latest provocateur. Her 2020 debut album, Sawayama, was met with critical acclaim and opened her career to new audiences around the world. With a larger audience and such an explosive debut within the music industry, her follow-up album has long been anticipated by fans and listeners alike. And now with 2022’s Hold The Girl, it has finally arrived.

Whilst the overall production of Hold The Girl may seem a bit more formulaic and less risky in comparison to Sawayama, the writing about topics such as self-healing, the past, and moving on are what stand out throughout this entire album. Hold The Girl is quintessential Rina Sawayama through the voice she found through the creation and release of Sawayama. It’s the pop music of today, and she’s leading the field of new artists.

The album opens with the beautiful ballad “Minor Feelings,” with Sawayama struggling with all the emotions she has tried to keep within herself since she was young. Yet, as most people know, one day it all comes crashing down when one lets things build up too much. “Emotions that I try to hide, the more I keep them all inside, the more they bury me alive,” she sings, “All my life I’ve felt out of place… well, all these minor feelings are majorly breaking me down.”

One of the highlights of the album is the title track, “Hold The Girl,” which once again open as a ballad, but transforms into an unexpected R&B dance-floor banger within its chorus. Sawayama describes this track as being about her discoveries she has made in therapy. Her past is what has made her the person she is today, and instead of being ashamed of things that have happened in her past, she’s reclaiming them as experiences that have made her stronger. Our worst experiences in life can truly be our most defining.

My favorite song on the album is definitely the hauntingly beautiful “Phantom.” This is Rina’s self reflection of losing herself to please others. Her old self has become the “phantom” in her life and as she sings, “I don’t wanna do this anymore if you’re just a ghost in the night.” The songwriting on this track is one of her best and the guitar solo in the middle just emphasizes her emotions. Sawayama warns listeners it’s not worth it to lose yourself to please others.

“Hurricanes” is another extremely relatable song to most people. Even though it’s one of her most upbeat and powerful tracks filled with sharp drums, electric guitars, pumping synths; it’s picture is melancholic. She’s constantly self sabotaging herself or “running into hurricanes” and just hopes to find the person who can simply pull her out of the storm. The production on this track is definitely one of the best on the album.

“Frankenstein” is a cry for somebody to help Rina with her mental well-being. “Love me forever, fix me right, I could be your Frankenstein. I don’t wanna be a monster anymore!” All she needs is that one person to show her inner beauty to herself.

On first listen when it came out a few months ago, “This Hell,” was not my favorite track. However, after some time it’s grown on me to become a fun pop song of celebrating having a community when the world around you seems like pure hell. The world just might be awful and maybe “we’re going straight to hell,” but at least it’s better with all the amazing people you have with you! When the world seems to tell us we don’t deserve love, we have to give it to each other. The production on the track is inspired by Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” with other country pop influences, something Sawayama has stated she has wanted to do for years.

While the production on Hold The Girl may seem a bit less exciting from it’s predecessor, it’s an album perfect for the world we currently live in. It’s Rina’s perspective of the hell we’re all living in and being happy to just be alive while being surrounded by people to endure it and love each other through it with. Hold The Girl is a therapy session of exploding emotions, to self acceptance, and Rina is the perfect voice for this perspective.

Rating: ★★★★

“This Hell” will surely be better if you give Hold The Girl a listen!


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