In today’s social media age of hyperbole where an artist’s every move is immediately labelled “iconic”, talking about how a new act is the future of pop music could seem disingenuous. In the case of 27-year-old Rina Sawayama, however, it’s actually the truth. Not only has she been labelled such by publications like Interview Magazine, Dazed and Confused, Noisey and INTO, but her debut mini-album RINA, released in 2017, saw her land on a heap of “Best Of…” lists, including those by The Guardian, The Needle Drop and Pitchfork. “It’s crazy. I feel so lucky. I can’t put it into words, really. It gives me purpose because it’s clearly working and for the longest time it felt like no one cared,” Rina says, blushes of embarrassment peeking through on her cheeks. “It’s nice when something makes sense, because before the album it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
If you’re on the lookout for love songs, however, RINA isn’t the record for you. In fact, she admits that she can’t even write them. Instead, everything veers towards the political. “I’m gonna get real deep with you right now,” she says, leaning forward as if to impart a closely guarded secret. “I feel like I’ve always thought about why things happen to me via the world. I always ask why I feel a certain way and then look outwards to the world rather than going deep with introspection. So even though I feel like it’s going to be a love song, I always end up writing sociologically.” Songwriting, Rina explains, is just an extension of academia. “I read books, like non-fiction books, to get lyric ideas.”
Continuing, she adds: “I feel like I’m trying to do something new here, so I’ve got to just push through and do it on my own.” Sounds just like the future, right?