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Rina Sawayama - Hold The Girl (Album Review)

Tuesday, 27 September 2022 Written by Matty Pywell

Photo: Thurstan Redding

Rina Sawayama exploded into the public consciousness with her debut album ‘Sawayama’ in 2020—delivering the perfect introduction to an artist who wanted to mash together pop and R&B with fiery blasts of nu-metal. Since then, she has been rising up festival bills and collaborated with Charli XCX and Elton John.

Her second album ‘Hold The Girl’ is much more chameleonic, but not always for the better. Throughout the track listing, you’ll notice that almost every song has a different influence, with multiple artists cited among their blueprints.

Everything from Radiohead to Garbage and Kelly Clarkson is mentioned and it means that the album undergoes changes, some quite jarring ones, from track to track.

This Hell is a standout moment, a country-pop anthem that rages against the toxic evangelist culture that would try to push the LGBTQ+ community into hell themselves if they could.

The production is gloriously over the top, as it rejects bigotry and asks us to embrace each other. The title track, meanwhile, is begging to be played loud and proud before stadium-sized crowds and Catch Me in the Air is a tender moment that features a simple-yet-effective vocal hook.

The bigger problems are encountered further along in the album, where those influences become a cross to bear rather than a bonus. Tracks such as Phantom may borrow from 2000s pop but in doing so brazenly they fall into pastiche. There is a struggle for individuality—it feels like the writing process featured a ​​conflab along the lines of, “OK, now we need an emotional bit.”

Sawayama is at her best when she is being herself, twisting genre conventions and putting them under her own spell. Here, we only feel that dynamic in full flow for half an album, otherwise ‘Hold The Girl’ is far too inconsistent.

Rina Sawayama Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed October 12 2022 - GLASGOW SWG3
Thu October 13 2022 - GLASGOW SWG3
Sat October 15 2022 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Sun October 16 2022 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Tue October 18 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Thu October 20 2022 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy
Fri October 21 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sun October 23 2022 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome Concert Hall
Mon October 24 2022 - CARDIFF Great Hall - Cardiff Uni
Wed October 26 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

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