Rina Sawayama makes music not only for fun but as a form of self-care. “Music was able to heal me and aid that process of healing,” she tells MTV News correspondent Dometi Pongo.
The Japanese-British pop singer has been reaching for the stars since releasing her critically acclaimed debut studio album Sawayama in 2020, which touched upon her experiences from childhood to adulthood within a blend of pop, R&B, funk, rock, and nu-metal. “I consider it a family album because it’s about my perspective and my truth about what was happening in my family when it was growing up,” she says. Currently, her latest single, “This Hell,” is nominated in the Video for Good category at the 2022 VMAs.
In the newest episode of the MTV News documentary series “The Method,” Sawayama discusses how she developed her upcoming second studio album, Hold the Girl, during a pandemic, (It’s set to drop on September 16.) As she explains, she also drew inspiration from her inner-child therapy sessions. “I remember writing in my Notes app ‘hold the girl,” Sawayama says. “It all just came out, and then all the production ideas started going. When that song and demo was being written that day, I knew that was the title and the theme of the record.”
“Hold the Girl” opens with Sawayama elevating her vocals as if in prayer: “Reach inside and hold you close / I won't leave you on your own / Teach me the words I used to know / Yeah, I forgot 'em long ago / So hold the girl.” “I really felt that in this album, I was talking about the things that were holding me back as an adult and also the things I needed to honor myself as a child,” she says. “It’s this kind of feeling of looking into yourself so much that you are cloaked with darkness, and at the same time it’s this idea of re-parenting yourself.”
Fittingly, the album’s cover art shows Sawayama wearing a big black balloon dress as she stands atop water. The singer looks as if she is shaped as a teardrop, perhaps representing the stages of grief and healing she experienced writing Hold the Girl. That said, Sawayama is amused by the jokes and memes inspired by it. “What’s an iconic cover if people… don’t do it for a Halloween costume?”
In making it, Sawayama flew to Nashville in search of “a little bit of country influence.” Facets of that can can be heard on the queer country pop single “This Hell.” “I really had to change my writing style,” she says. That included some Zoom sessions, a necessity of the pandemic, which she did not vibe with. “It was just boring,” she says. “But you know, the first record came out during a global pandemic, so I was like, ‘ I can deal with this. This is possible.’”
Aside from a means of self-healing, Sawayama sees making music as a way to be authentic and have fun. And she wants it “to be a passion forever.” “I don’t want it to be a horrible numbers game,” she says. “I don’t want it to be [about] markets and statistics. And in the pursuit of having fun, I think that’s the one thing that will allow me to stay authentic.” Learn more about Rina Sawayama’s origins, her creative process, and the development of Hold the Girl by watching "The Method" below.