Following her on social media can make it seem like you’re traveling together. Although Sawayama has been critically acclaimed and has made some historic changes, it has yet to break into the mainstream (“If you keep pre-ordering, something very deadly could happen, Pixels…it could traceshe whispered excitedly in an Instagram video posted Wednesday).
Her only US single so far is 2022’s “Beg for You,” a collaboration with Charli XCX that reached No. 10 on Billboard’s dance chart. But she hopes that might change. “I’m very realistic that my music is unusual,” Sawayama told me. “It’s not normal pop. I’m also not signed to a major. At the same time, my team works so hard, and when their work isn’t valued, I feel sad for them, because I feel like it’s not reflected in the numbers.
“I feel so lucky to be able to do this as a job anyway,” she said. “A lot of what I’m talking about would have been unthinkable to me two years ago, four years ago. The goal posts are constantly moving and I have to master that. Otherwise, I will never be happy.
Although she presents herself as a pop girl, Sawayama’s music has been critically acclaimed specifically to embrace nu metal, R&B, electronica and rock. The mission, she says, is to make music not cool cool again. “It’s about authenticity and storytelling,” she said. “I never think of genres in a commercial way like that. It’s so much fun for me to play with genres. And that’s kind of why my music sounds the way it does.
hold the girl continues to pander to all kinds of “uncool” music. There’s the country ballad overtones on “Forgiveness,” the house textures of the title track, the epic rock vibes of “Hurricanes” that automatically give you Disney knees. But it makes sense: Sawayama mixed loud, brash genres with lyrics condemning consumerism, cultural appropriation and toxic masculinity. hold the girl selects musical genres, such as country and midtempo tunes, that best express the introspective and powerful turn that Sawayama took at this time – reflecting on his relationship with his mother, struggling with fluctuating feelings of forgiveness, his connection to religion despite the blatant opposition of Catholicism – LGBTQ prejudice.
“It’s really good that we’re now in a more honest phase of pop,” Sawayama said. “People know that all is not brilliant. I feel so lucky to be in a time where people can really talk honestly about their mental health issues or how they feel that day.
Sawayama said she wrote this album with live performances in mind, having attended so many concerts as a teenager. I asked if she remembered any faces or images in her mind after playing IRL. “It’s diversity, that’s for sure. It sure is queerness,” she said. “I only see queer people in my audience. I remember thinking when the first show of [the Sawayama tour]I thought, The audience has gotten bigger, so maybe there will be fewer queer people. And then I was like, oh, no, these are just queer people. It’s so nice. I can hear them heckling me between songs, but in a nice way – ‘yeah, bitch, kill.’