What's Rina Sawayama been up to in the age of Miss Corona? (A Rina dump post)

What's Rina Sawayama been up to in the age of Miss Corona? (A Rina dump post) | Random J Pop

I just felt like posting about Rina Sawayama, because she's been up to a fair bit since she released the deluxe edition of her debut album SAWAYAMA, and I've not posted about any of it. Some of this stuff is small, some of it's big. But who the fuck cares, because it's Rina. So let's just appreciate a bitch, seeing as UK award shows chose not to, despite her releasing one of the best albums of 2020 and one of the strongest debut albums, period.

So, what's Rina been up to in the age of Miss Corona?

Rina made the BPI change their xenophobic eligibility criteria
Last year the Mercury Award and the BRITs (both governed by the same music body, BPI) turned around and had the audacity to say that Rina Sawayama wasn't eligible for neither a Mercury Prize or a BRIT award because, in a nutshell, she didn't match a criteria that deemed her British enough. It was racism and xenophobia from the jump, and Rina didn't scamper away quietly. She voiced her disappointment at the BPI and their eligibility rules about 'being British' and had #SawayamIsBritish trending on Twitter for days. So many music sites and blogs picked up the story, that there was no way that XX could not address the situation and see that their criteria was flat out wrong. And they caught so much heat, that they changed the eligibility rules.

I'm over the moon to share the news that following a number of conversations the BPI has decided to change the rules of eligibility for all nominees for the BRIT awards and Mercury Prise. Starting this year, artists (like me) will be eligible for nomination even without British citizenship. The files have broadened to include those who have been a resident of the UK for 5 years.

I think you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing the #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH campaign worldwide and igniting this important conversation about Britishness.

Without you collective voice this wouldn't have happened. In my 26th year of living in the UK I'm so proud that I can help make this system change for future generations, so that in years to come we can see a more diverse definition of British musical excellence. The idea that my music can be a part of that is unbelievably exciting. I was to thank Zing Tsjeng for sharing my story and the BPI and Ged Doherty for having these important conversations with me.

So one last time: SAWAYAMA IS British. ❤️

- Rina Sawayama (via Instagram), February 24

Unfortunately however, the change is only in effect from next year, which meant no inclusion of Rina for the BRIT's which took place in May, aside from a rising star nomination, which felt like some 'guess we should give her sumn' bullshit. And of course, the Mercury Prize Awards had come and gone by the time this change was made.

I'm happy for Rina and all of the other artists who otherwise would have not been able to not ever win a BRIT or a Mercury Prize award, but I'm still pissed that a music institution which is decades old had this xenophobic are criteria that nobody thought to change until the nerve of it caused a storm on social media, which is well and truly the ONLY reason they changed it. The BPI are still some racist and xenophobic pieces of shit.

Rina featured in a Calvin Klein campaign
Yep. Rina got herself a CK bag.

Rina Sawayama for Calvin Klein | Random J Pop

It's a shame this campaign launched at a time when everybody was holed up at home, because there was probably barely any out-of-home advertising and billboards of this campaign due to the pandemic reducing footfall pretty much everywhere. But still. Rina got herself a CK back, and I'm sure Calvin Klein will bring her back for their Autumn / Winter 2021 campaign.

Rina did a Tiny Desk
Rina made her debut on NPR's ever popular Tiny Desk series. Although, unfortunately, it wasn't at their regular studio. I know that some folk are still trying to adjust to this who remote situation, but Tiny Desks over the past year have taken place in other studios, in people's homes; everywhere but at a damn tiny desk, and it just doesn't feel the same. Rina at least kept her location of choice on theme, opting to perform in a boardroom with a view, as the woman who owns 50% of the company. Her set was 3 songs: "Dynasty", "XS" and "Chosen Family".

Rina has barely performed over the past year and a half, so first of all there's that. It's great to finally see her perform, especially given that if it weren't for Miss Corona's world tour, Rina would have been well into her own. And it's great to hear a performance of a song other than "XS". I was hesitant on "Dynasty" initially, purely because of the scale of the song. "Dynasty" needs to be played at a proper gig, ideally in a stadium or an arena. But despite performing a song for an arena in a scaled down setting, none of the energy of the song was lost. And I was not expectign Rina to hit every note as the does on the album version. Not because I felt she couldn't, but because some of those notes are notes that any singer, even with the best of voices would consider ducking or changing. But Rina hit every one. This performance really made me appreciate how good Rina's vocal technique and delivery is. These are things that she said she had worked on, and you can really hear it.

Rina looked amazing and sounded great. I woulda taken "Bad Friend" over "Chosen Family", but I completely get why she performed it, in light of the release of the new version which features Elton John. (We gon' get to that). It's just good to see her perform, because she's only performed about four times since her album released over a year ago, which is crazy. Pixels are gonna get their entire lives when they finally get to see her on tour this year and next.

Rina's got train tracks
In April 2020, Rina made an announcement.

Rina's got braces | Random J Pop

A bitch got some braces. These are definitely gonna affect how she sings. S's and F's are 'bout to be a struggle. But Rina has a slight lisp anyway, and you wouldn't know it listening to her music. So she gon' be fine, and she knows it. She wouldn't have gotten braces put in otherwise, knowing full well she's still gonna have to record and perform a whole ass tour.

Rina gave the BRITs a performance they didn't deserve
Rina didn't get to perform at the ACTUAL BRITs, because...obviously. But she did perform as part of some Rising Star award bullshit, which was a recorded performance that went out separate from the award show itself. Y'all know kinda like how the VMA's used to have people perform outside the venue? A bit like that. Except lower tier, and not part of the show itself.

Rina has performed "XS" live three times if I'm not mistaken, and each time the arrangement is a little different, and Rina's energy is a little different. I should be sick of "XS", especially as it wasn't a song I was in love with when it first released, but Rina keeps giving me reasons to not hang it up. Each of the few live performances she's given just make me excited on behalf of all the fans who will be seeing her on tour. You can tell that Rina really cares about putting on a performance and making sure that her mic is always on.

Rina shows up at the BRITs
After the whole scandal with Rina's album not being eligible for BRIT nominations, and #SawayamaIsBritish trending to fast and so hard, that the BRIT's had to back pedals and say they'd change the eligibility criteria, Rina actually turned up to the BRITs. She's better than me. Because after that whole fuckery, I woulda turned up for the red carpet, lets the paps snap me, then have them catch me hopping in the Uber back home. The fact that the BRITs turned around and said 'Oh, you'll be eligible next time instead of shortlisting her album this year was a whole entire mess.

I hate award shows, because they are always rigged to a degree. I didn't even bother watching all of the BRITs, because a) Much like the VMA's and the GRAMMY's, they have haven't been good for well over a decade. b) Looking at the categories, it's clear who is going to win. The best album category was always gonna go to Duolingo's Future Nostalgia, even though Jessica's What's Your Pleasure? (which was nominated in the same category) was by and far the better album. SAWAYAMA is a better album than Future Nostalgia. But even if SAWAYAMA was shortlisted, it wouldn't have won.

It's all trash.


Rina at the BRITs | Random J Pop

Rina looked lovely.

Rina might be featured on Lady Gaga's Chromatica remix album
Lady Gaga's Chromatica done came and went with the quickness. Nobody but the fans be giving a damn about that album now, and even they been over it. Lady Gaga is moving on with her film career and just threw her fans some pink Oreo's to shut them up and show she still knows that Chromatica exists. But word on the street is that there might be a Chromatica remix album on the horizon. It sure is interesting. The idea of a remix album to a dance album that already sounded like a remix album, kinda. I'm really not fussed. Except for the fact that there is now a possibility that Rina is involved with it. At the Brits, Rina was asked about if she will be doing anything for the rumoured remix album, and Rina confirmed that she'd recorded something for it. But she didn't say that she'd ever met Lady Gaga and only knows that Gaga knows of Rina through a third party.

Something to note here is that primary Chromatica producer Bloodpop seems to be the one at the reigns of this remix album. And given that Bloodpop has worked with Rina before, famously on the Chromatica sounding-ass "Lucid", it's likely that it's him that made her hop on a Lady Gaga song, as opposed to Lady Gaga herself.

But the prospect of a Lady Gaga and Rina Sawayama song is pretty exciting, for not other reason than it being amazing promo for Rina, in addition to being an amazing honour for Rina herself, who has spoken Lady Gaga's praises numerous times and cites her as an influence.

Rina did a photoshoot with Elton John
In June 2020 on his Apple Music show Rocket Hour, Elton John went on the record to say how much he loved SAWAYAMA and that it was one of his favourite albums of the year. This may not seem like a big deal to some; especially those who had no idea who Elton John was until they saw that Kingsman boy playing him in Rocketman, or only know him because he features on that one song on Lady Gaga's Chromatica - but Elton still has sway and influence, and there are still folk who cares about what he says. After all, when he dragged Madonna a few years ago it made the news. He's not one to mince words, and he doesn't advocate for artists he genuinely doesn't fuck with. So an Elton John co-sign has currency, and is great press for an album that despite critical acclaim, was still slept on commercially.

Rina Sawayama on the cover of the New York Times with Elton John | Random J Pop

Then in April of 2021, Rina Sawayama and Elton John featured on a cover of The New York Times Style, and also did an interview together where Rina spoke a bit about Sawayama and Elton John's impact, whilst Elton just stanned Rina the whole entire time. It's a really sweet interview that's worth checking out if you haven't already.

📰 The rising star and the established icon who’ve discovered they have a lot in common, New York Times Style Magazine

Rina released a version of "Chosen Family" featuring Elton John
I'm not a fan of "Chosen Family". It's the only song on SAWAYAMA that I skip. But I know a lot of folk love the song, and regardless of how much I don't like it, I do adore the message behind it. And given that Elton John was one celebrity to sing the praises of Rina's debut album, and that he's queer as hell, Elton featuring on a new version of "Chosen Family" makes complete sense and he sounds really good on it. The new version of the song even has a new piano intro courtesy of Sir Elton, and his ocals are all over the song to a point where it feels like he had actually recorded it with Rina. If I had to choose my preferred version, it would definitely be the version with Elton.

It's a shame that this new version of the song kinda flew under the radar. I think holding it back for Pride and giving it a huge push in June would have been a better move. But, whatever. There's nothing to stop Rina from still doing that. Although what I'd really want is for Rina to reshoot a video for "Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)" and set that on all of the gays who slept on it the first time around. I also just hate the video Rina gave it. It deserved better, and y'all stand know it. That ghetto green-screen, lyric video looking-ass mess was disgusting.

Rina's working on a new album
Rina done gave her Pixels a heart attack when she posted this...

Rina and Clarence start work on album #2 | Random J Pop

Rina has started working on her second album with her partner in crime Clarence Clarity. I'm not getting excited just yet, because who knows when this will see the light of day. The road to SAWAYAMA releasing was LONG. And the behind the scenes footage of how the album came together revealed how much Rina doesn't particularly enjoy recording songs. Also, anything can change. Rina may decide to release an album, but she could also decide to release another EP, which I wouldn't be mad at, given how amazing her first one was.

When Rina attended the BRITs, she was asked by NME if she's working on a new album, and she shared that she's already written enough material for a new album, in addition to the type of music she's been listening to which could potential shape the album. Garbage, grunge 2000s Brit pop, Girls Aloud, Xenomania, 90s rave and garage. So who the fuck knows what this album is gonna sound like. Although the prospect of Clarence Clarity and Rina giving me 90s rave and garage has me so hyped. Lemme calm not and not get these hopes up.

SAWAYAMA was such a melting pot, that I couldn't even begin to imagine what it's follow-up would sound like. But at the core, Rina and Clarence Clarity seem to love the late 90s and early 2000s. So chances are whatever they do together will branch off from those periods in music.

Bottom line is that Rina is working on new shit, and whenever it drops, I'mma be right here, and it better get the commercial sales success it deserves.

💿 Album reviews: EP: RINA | LP: SAWAYAMA
📀 Revised edition: The unofficial deluxe edition of SAWAYAMA