Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama (リナ・サワヤマ, born 16 August 1990) is a Japanese-British[1] singer-songwriter, model, and actress based in London. In 2017, she self-released her debut extended play, Rina. After signing to Dirty Hit in 2020, she released her debut studio album, Sawayama, to widespread critical acclaim.

Rina Sawayama
リナ・サワヤマ
Rina Sawayama 04 30 2018 -1 (41396335440) (cropped).jpg
Sawayama performing in 2018
Born (1990-08-16) 16 August 1990 (age 31)
Niigata, Japan[1]
CitizenshipJapanese
EducationMagdalene College, Cambridge (BA)
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • model
Musical career
OriginLondon, England
Genres
Years active2013–present
Labels
Associated actsClarence Clarity

Early lifeEdit

Sawayama was born on 16 August 1990[13] in Niigata, Japan.[2] She lived there until the age of five, when her family decided to move to London, where she was raised and currently resides.[14] She holds an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) visa in the UK.[1]

While studying politics, psychology and sociology at Magdalene College, Cambridge,[15] Sawayama decided to pursue music and modelling. During her time at university, she performed in a hip-hop group called Lazy Lion with Theo Ellis from the indie rock band Wolf Alice.[2] She graduated from the university with a degree in political science. In May 2020, Sawayama said that she was doing an online course at the University of Oxford.[16]

CareerEdit

2013–2017: Early careerEdit

Sawayama began her solo career in February 2013, with the single "Sleeping in Waking", produced by Justin "Hoost" Tailor. A 7-inch vinyl of the single, featuring a new song titled "Who?" as the B-side, was released in April 2013 through UK label Make Mine.[17][18] Later that year, she released the single "Terror" on Halloween under the stage name of "Riina".[19] Sawayama would later reveal in a 2021 Billboard interview that the reason she used only her first name is because her last name was "an inconvenience".[20]

In June 2015, she released a music video, directed by Arvida Byström, to her track "Tunnel Vision". In 2016, she released the single "Where U Are", with an accompanying music video co-directed by Alessandra Kurr.[21] The single explored human interaction with digital media, with Sawayama explaining: "Online, you can present your best edited self [and] your overheating phone substitutes human warmth. Weirdest of all – you're together, but also very alone."[22] The song has been described as "nostalgic greatness… ultra-sweet and shimmering pop",[23] and "90s R&B pop perfection".[24]

2017–2019: Rina and touringEdit

 
Sawayama at Heaven nightclub in 2018

In March 2017, her single "Cyber Stockholm Syndrome" premiered on The Fader.[25] Sawayama described the genesis of the themes of the track as: "the digital world can offer vital support networks, voices of solidarity, refuge, escape. That's what 'Cyber Stockholm Syndrome' is about: pessimism, optimism, anxiety, and freedom."[25]

In 2017, the singles "Alterlife" and "Tunnel Vision", a duet with Shamir, were released, followed by her debut EP Rina.[26][27] Sawayama was then an unsigned artist, and Rina was released independently; she confirmed on Twitter that she worked for two to three years to save money to release the EP.[28] The Guardian deemed the EP "bracing and modern", stating that Sawayama had proven "she can shepherd pop into the future, too".[29] Pitchfork ranked Rina in its list of best pop and R&B albums of the year.[30] In 2018, Sawayama released the single "Valentine" on Valentine's Day.[11] The music video for album track "Ordinary Superstar" was released in June 2018.[31] In August 2018, Sawayama released the track "Cherry", in which she explores her sexual identity.[32] Sawayama embarked on her Ordinary Superstar Tour across the UK, the US and Canada in late 2018.[33] In 2019, she performed as the supporting act for Charli XCX's tour across the UK.[34]

2020–present: Sawayama and the Dynasty TourEdit

In 2020, after signing to Dirty Hit records, Sawayama released the singles "STFU!", a nu-metal, heavy metal, pop and avant-pop song, and "Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)", a "homage to early 2000s dance tracks", both from her then-upcoming debut album.[35] A third single, the rock and 2000s R&B-inspired "XS", was released on 2 March.[36] The following month, Sawayama released another single from the album titled "Chosen Family".[37] Her debut album, Sawayama, was released on 17 April to widespread critical acclaim.[38][39] On 29 June 2020, she released a cover of the Grammy-nominated Lady Gaga song, "Dance in the Dark" (2009) as part of Spotify's Singles series. The song was recorded in Sawayama's home studio and is an electropop composition with production handled by Clarence Clarity, her version replacing the Europop sound of the original song with nu-metal-influenced electropop.[40]

In late July 2020, Sawayama made a public tweet about her ineligibility to be nominated for major British music awards, such as the Mercury Prize and BRIT Awards, due to the fact that she does not hold British citizenship.[1][41][42][43] The hashtag "#SawayamaIsBritish" became trending on Twitter in the UK shortly after.[44] Sawayama's movement gained major support from Elton John online,[45] who wrote that he was "happy to hear that the [BPI] are reviewing the rules that led to Rina Sawayama's well-deserved album being snubbed from this year's [Mercury Prize] list of nominees."[46] The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) later changed the rules to allow anyone who had remained in the UK, including her, to be eligible.[47]

On 26 October 2020, Sawayama made her television debut performing the song "XS" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[48] The following month, she released a song titled "Lucid", produced by BloodPop.[49] On 4 December 2020, a deluxe version of Sawayama was released.[50]

In April 2021, Sawayama released an updated version of her song "Chosen Family", as a duet with Elton John.[51] The following month, Sawayama was cast in an undisclosed role in the fourth installment in the John Wick film series.[52] In August 2021, Sawayama was included on Newsweek Japan "100 Japanese people respected by the world" list.[53] Sawayama contributed a cover of the Metallica song "Enter Sandman" to the charity tribute album The Metallica Blacklist, released in September 2021.[54]

Other venturesEdit

Modelling careerEdit

Sawayama has been signed to Anti-Agency and Elite Model Management. In 2017, she was chosen for Versus x Versace's fall winter campaign.[55] She has also starred in campaigns for Jourdan Dunn's Missguided,[56] and wrote and performed an original track titled "Play on Me" for Nicola Formichetti's MAC x Nicopanda.[57]

In September 2021, she walked the runway for Balmain to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Olivier Rousteing being the head of the French House.[58]

CollaborationsEdit

In 2016, Sawayama collaborated with Taiwanese visual artist, John Yuyi, on a visual series critiquing Asian, including Japanese, beauty standards. Subsequently, she was profiled in Vogue. In the interview, Sawayama described the genesis of the idea and collaboration: "For a lot of women in Japan, these are the expectations people put on them, from anime culture, kawaii culture… that can really put women at a disadvantage, objectifying and infantilising them."[14] Sawayama has worked with Nicola Formichetti for MAC x Nicopanda. Formichetti also directed the music video for Sawayama's track "Ordinary Superstar". The genesis of the partnership was outlined in i-D.[59]

Artistry and public imageEdit

In 2017, Sawayama was ranked in The Guardian's "18 for '18" list as well as Dazed's "100 people shaping culture in 2017" list.[60][61] Her main influences came from 1990s and 2000s musical acts such as Christina Aguilera,[62] Lady Gaga,[63][64][65] Avril Lavigne,[66] Hikaru Utada,[67] Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Evanescence, NSYNC, Kylie Minogue[68] Limp Bizkit,[68] Pink, Ringo Sheena, Taylor Swift, and Janelle Monáe among others.[69][70][71]

Personal lifeEdit

In August 2018, Sawayama came out during an interview with Broadly, declaring: "I've always written songs about girls. I don't think I've ever mentioned a guy in my songs, and that's why I wanted to talk about it." She identified as both bisexual and pansexual.[72]

In July 2020, she signed an open letter to the UK Equalities minister Liz Truss calling for a ban on all forms of LGBT+ conversion therapy.[73]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2022 John Wick: Chapter 4 Akira Filming

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2019 Turn Up Charlie Layla Valentine Recurring role; 2 episodes
2020 The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Herself Musical guest (Episode 1341)

DiscographyEdit

Rina Sawayama discography
Studio albums1
EPs1
Singles18
Promotional singles2

Studio albumsEdit

List of albums, with selected details, chart positions
Title Details Peak chart positions
JPN
Dig.

[74]
SCO
[75]
UK
[76]
UK
Indie

[77]
US
Current

[78]
US
Heat

[79]
US
Indie

[80]
Sawayama 65 24 80 5 82 6 43

Extended playsEdit

List of extended-plays, with selected details, chart positions
Title Details Peak chart positions
JPN
Dig.

[74]
Rina
  • Released: 27 October 2017
  • Label: Self-released/Dirty Hit
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming, 12″ vinyl
40
Sawayama Remixed

SinglesEdit

Title Year Peak
chart
positions
Album
UK
DL

[81]
NZ
Hot

[82]
"Sleeping in Waking"[83] 2013 Non-album singles
"Terror"[84]
(as Riina)
"Tunnel Vision"[85] 2015
"Where U Are"[86] 2016
"This Time Last Year"[87]
"Cyber Stockholm Syndrome"[88] 2017 Rina
"Alterlife"[89]
"Tunnel Vision"[90]
(featuring Shamir)
"Valentine (What's It Gonna Be)"[91] 2018 Non-album single
"Ordinary Superstar"[92][93] Rina
"Cherry"[94] Non-album singles
"Flicker"[95]
"STFU!" 2019 Sawayama
"Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)"
(solo or Brabo remix featuring Pabllo Vittar)
2020
"XS"
(solo or remix featuring Bree Runway)
"Chosen Family"[96]
"Bad Friend"
"Lucid" Sawayama (Deluxe Edition)
"Chosen Family"[97]
(with Elton John)
2021 62 24 Sawayama (Deluxe Edition) and The Lockdown Sessions
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.

Promotional singlesEdit

Title Year Album
"Dance in the Dark"
(Spotify Singles)
2020 Sawayama Remixed
"Enter Sandman"[98] 2021 The Metallica Blacklist

Other charted songsEdit

Title Year Peak
chart
positions
Album
US
Dance

[99]
"Free Woman (Clarence Clarity Remix)"
(Lady Gaga featuring Rina Sawayama)
2021 20 Dawn of Chromatica

ToursEdit

Headlining

Supporting

Awards and nominationsEdit

Organisation Year Category Nominated work Result Ref.
AIM Independent Music Awards 2021 International Breakthrough Herself Pending [100]
Attitude Awards 2020 Breakthrough Award Won [101]
BRIT Awards 2021 Rising Star Nominated [102]
British LGBT Awards 2021 Best Music Artist Pending [103]
Denmark GAFFA Awards 2021 Best International New Act Nominated [104]
Best International Solo Act Nominated
Best International Album Sawayama Nominated
Gay Times Honours 2021 British Excellence in Music Herself Won [105]
Gold Derby Music Awards 2021 Album Of The Year Sawayama Nominated [106]
Best New Artist Herself Nominated
Best Rock/Alternative Artist Nominated
Golden Indie Music Awards 2020 Asian Songwriter Award Nominated [107]
GLAAD Media Awards 2021 Outstanding Breakthrough Artist Sawayama Nominated [108]
Independent Music Companies Association 2020 European Independent Album of the Year Nominated [109]
Music Week Awards 2021 Artist Marketing Campaign Herself Pending [110]
Rober Awards Music Prize 2020 Best New Artist Won [111]
Best Pop Artist Nominated
Song of the Year "XS" Nominated
Best Music Video "Bad Friend" Nominated
The Daily Californian Art Awards 2020 Best International Album Sawayama Won [112]
Vogue Japan 2019 Women of the Year Herself Won [113]

ReferencesEdit

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