For Rina Sawayama’s sophomore album “Hold the Girl,” I was hoping for something more experimental. Instead, I got a pop anthem album.
Sawayama has created music with some of my favorite artists, gaining her a loyal, and mostly gay, fanbase. She’s on her way to becoming the next pop superstar at 32 years old. Her newest album solidified her as a solid and consistent pop artist.
“Hold the Girl” opens with her laying out all her insecurities and worries regarding the album, setting us up for the title track. I expected more from this track, but it does show off her theatrical vocals very well. She clearly knows how to add extra pizazz on a song, with a beautiful string section highlighting her vocals.
“This Hell,” the first single off of the album, is one of the best music videos of the year. I love the subversion of the idea of hell as a sexy nightclub, and I would ensure that Sawayama is the nightly entertainment.
The next few songs aren’t remarkable. The song concepts are interesting, however, ranging from a mother and daughter discussing their relationship in “Catch Me In The Air” to emulating “The Bends” by Radiohead in “Forgiveness.” The intro in “Forgiveness” boasts an uncanny resemblance to the intro in “Sulk” by Radiohead, showing off her versatility as an artist and creating a fun easter egg for Radiohead fans.
“Imagining” and “Frankenstein” are exactly what I wanted from this album. A little bit funkier and a little more experimental, these songs emphasize the horrors of manipulative relationships. Sawayama’s added notes for “Frankenstein” on Spotify show how she got Matt Tong of Bloc Party to go crazy with the drum track: “Matt sent a pic of his hands bleeding; he’d gone so mad on the drums.” Her constant collaboration with impressive artists shows how much of an artist she truly is. She has a concrete vision for every song she writes and executes it beautifully.
Ending the album with four more emotional ballads, Sawayama’s vocals are the final emphasis of her artistry. None of them are the kinds of songs I wanted, but they are all beautiful nonetheless. “Hold the Girl” doesn’t end on the highest of notes, but it comes to a natural conclusion.
This album is worth the listen. It’s not a single emotion captured in time but rather a tapestry of Sawayama’s life since her first album “SAWAYAMA.” “Hold the Girl” is a more commercial pop version of her debut album. With no features whatsoever, it flaunts her own artistic vision with only her voice to tell it. I expect to hear “Hold the Girl” and “Forgiveness” gracing the radio airwaves soon. It’s only a matter of time before she reaches the stardom she deserves.