London-based singer-songwriter Rina Sawayama is one of the most iconic singers in England today, blessing the world with pansexual bops and analysis of how technology both connects and divides us, with songs about racial prejudice.
“So, my name is Rina Sawayama, and I found out one label exec jokingly called me Rina Wagamama,” she told the crowd on stage at Manchester’s Albert Hall, performing at one of a string of shows supporting Charli XCX, NME reported. “I was pursuing a deal with them, but you know, that’s gone,” she finished breezily. (https://www.nme.com/music-interviews/rina-sawayama-stfu-interview-2570843#Pj7sskhUiSPACuST.99)
Her new track, ‘STFU!’ was inspired by racial microaggressions she has had to deal with throughout her life. Sawayama, who lived in Japan until the age of five when her family decided to move to London, England, where she was raised and currently lives. She studied politics, psychology and sociology at the University of Cambridge and decided to pursue music and modelling. After graduating from the university with a degree in politics, she began her solo career with the single “Sleeping in Walking” in 2013.
In 2016, she released the single “Where U Are”, with an accompanying music video co-directed by Alessandra Kurr. 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”
In her latest tune, she’s giving a massive fuck you to everyone that’s who’s made a racist remarks to her—and she’s speaking out that we can’t normalize these. Sawayama described the song’s inception in a press release:
“‘STFU!’ is a song about releasing the RAGE against microaggressions. As a Japanese girl growing up in the West I dealt with an array of aggressors ranging from: sexual stereotypes, comparisons with Lucy Liu and Cho Chang, to having to be the unofficial PR person and tourist board to Tokyo (a city of Western fascination that I left when I was 4), to people shouting Asian greetings down the street (nihao! Konnichiwa!), and finally to people doing “slit eyes”. The way I’ve dealt with these microaggressions in recent years has been through comedy – my Asian friends and I have bonded over our shared experiences, laughing at how truly ridiculous these microaggressions are. Through humor we heal and can move on. This is the spirit of ‘STFU!’ It was truly a therapeutic experience to condense all the things that people have said to me over the years into a situation that highlights how ridiculous these comments are when said all in one go in a context (like a first date) of flattery.”
Rina Sawayama’s debut album doesn’t have a release date yet, but she’s just announced her signing to Dirty Hit.