In the constantly evolving world of pop music, going back in time can feel like a breath of fresh air, especially when you add a relevant context. London singer Rina Sawayama is doing exactly that. Using her relationship with technology and as a starting point, she breathes new life into the pop music scene, creating a unique sound that contains elements from hip-hop, r&b and 90s pop music.
Whereas the 1990s pop music era was defined by artists including Mariah Carey, The Spice Girls and, later on, Britney Spears, Rina Sawayama is on her way to redefine pop music by putting it in a modern setting. Her complicated relationship with social media serves as a recurring topic in her catchy songs. In her breakthrough single ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’, she sings
“Free to roam all over my cyber fantasy
Better late than never but I am alright
Happiest whenever I’m with you online”
In an interview with The Guardian, the Japan-born, London-raised singer says that “she spends a ton of time on the internet, sees how anxious she gets, then writes about it”. By voicing the feeling of isolation that goes with the social media age, Rina strikes a chord with teenagers and millennials alike.
The 28-year-old singer has also used her platform to voice bigger issues within the industry. She used her Instagram to call out the lack of Asian representation in music and fashion. In an article written for i-D, she depicted Madonna’s MDNA Skin ad for being deliberately offensive. In the video, East-Asian female extras were cast as silent accessories, providing Madonna and The Fat Jew a manicure. By raising her voice and expressing what she stands for, Rina sets an example for other emerging artists around the world. In an interview with the New York Times, she said:
“I wanted to repurpose the bubble gum pop mold of Britney and ’N Sync and write about something political,”
While her songs are equally as fun and poppy as a Spice Girls song, the lyrics are often darker, depicting deeper feelings of anxiety and loneliness. Beneath the layer of her sparkly music videos filled with neon lights, flip phones and glittery jewelry, there is a lot of depth to be found.
On her seemingly endless list of skills and traits, Rina can add a political science degree at Cambridge, as well as a successful modeling career. Having been featured in numerous campaigns including Monki and Versus x Versace, the multitalented artist already has a career to be envious of.
Through her sparkly, dream-like landscape of cyber pop, Rina Sawayama is slowly conquering the world with a consistent tinge of retrofuturism. In a society where pop music often loses its relevance, Rina raises her voice to express what she stands for and share her views on social media, representation and other important issues.
Photo via @rinasonline, shot by Lillie Eiger