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Album Review #4: Sawayama (Rina Sawayama)

Updated: 2 days ago

This series explores the most critical aspect of an artist's work - a full studio album!

For this series, I review studio albums that deserve a score from 8.5-10 (out of 10). These are my opinions, so don't expect anything factual.

An album must have at least eight songs to qualify for this series. Finally, if an album went through repackaging and delivered new songs, I won't count those songs in the review.


Track 1: Dynasty

Are you looking for a potent album opener? Look no further than Dynasty!

After a suspenseful one-minute buildup, the song packs a punch with its Evanescene-inspired, rock-fueled drop, switching the energy level from zero to one hundred. The liveliness continues from that point, starting Sawayama on a high note.

Get ready because there are a lot more gems from this album!

Track 2: XS

XS is a dynamic pop track infusing a rock guitar with a percussive dance rhythm. The verses are enticing, each building to a well-produced, innovative chorus filled with repeated, delicious hooks and a couple of rounds of the guitar riff.

This song is pure pop goodness!

Track 3: STFU!

While mu-metal dominates STFU!'s verses, the chorus tells a different story.

In contrast to the frantic verses, the hook has a calm Y2K pop sound, led by a repeating "Shut the fuck up." The idea of this mixture would've raised some eyebrows, but the result proves otherwise.

Track 4: Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)

Comme Des Garçons is another Sawayama dance-pop masterpiece, giving us a bouncy, infectious rhythm as Rina delivers alluring vocal melodies.

This pulsating single is the type of track you need at a nightclub!

Track 5: Akasaka Sad

Even though I won't give this song a repeat, I still enjoy its bizarre production. Akasaka Sad would've benefited from a better chorus and instrumental, but the soundscape is intriguing to dissect.

Think of this as a Billie Eilish record but more charming (no hate towards Billie).

Track 6: Paradisin'

Paradisin's tempo isn't to my liking, but this J-pop-inspired, video game-like track (hyper pop) is a bit of a guilty pleasure. There's no denying how fun and bright it sounds!

Track 7: Love Me 4 Me

If it wasn't for a later track, Love Me 4 Me would've easily been the best song from this album.

Its new jack-swing sound and infectious chorus are dangerously addicting! Multiple background "wooh" and a tasty guitar breakdown enhance the listening experience, thus turning this track into a contagious, groovy b-side masterwork!

Track 8: Bad Friend

Emotional, generic-sounding pop songs can either hit or miss for me. In the case of Bad Friend, I love how it features a vocoder in an ear-catching chorus, but the lyricism and Rina's vocal performance truly push this synth-pop ballad into a respectable hit.

Track 9: Fuck This World

Fuck This World is a solid interlude that doesn't stall the album's quality. The instrumental is pretty, and its lyrics can relate to anybody - I know it relates to me!

After this interlude, though, comes Sawayama's peak moment.

Track 10: Who's Gonna Save U Now?

To me, this is the best song from Sawayama.

Who's Gonna Save U Now? is a commanding anthem, hitting us with concert-ready guitars and percussion while Rina sings with authority. The most impressive highlight is undoubtedly the payoff from the first pre-hook - an excellent rock-driven, powerhouse chorus!

Along with a chilling climax, equipped with an electrifying guitar solo and robust vocals, this b-side presents itself as a galvanizing thriller!

Track 11: Tokyo Love Hotel

It's all about the chorus in this b-side.

Tokyo Love Hotel unveils its peak during the hook, pitching a beautiful, glistening soundscape driven by a tireless synth line. As the beat chugs forward, Rina delivers captivating melodies, with her repetition of "Tokyo" taking the spotlight.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself inspired by the chorus!

Track 12: Chosen Family

Chosen Family is my least favorite song from this album, although it isn't as bad as I make it sound.

There are two reasons why I'm not infatuated with this track - it's a ballad, and the production is lacking compared to the other songs.

The second reason is the main culprit because there's nothing I find ear-catching other than the melody and Rina's vocal performance. Still, those two aspects aren't enough to drive this track home.

Track 13: Snakeskin

Talk about a grower! At first, I wasn't thrilled with this song (mainly due to the drop), but multiple listens made me realize how epic this finale is!

Snakeskin has the type of dramatic production I love experiencing. From its intense buildup to the haunting "Like a snakeskin" repetition, this song ends this lucrative album in a riveting, experimental fashion!

Just like that, Rina showcases this album as one of 2020's exciting musical moments!


Overall Rating: 9/10

My Top 3 Favorites: Who's Gonna Save U Now?, Love Me 4 Me, Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)

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