Back in 2020, Rina Sawayama released her debut album, SAWAYAMA, and entered pop consciousness like how one would kick down a door: Fierce and unapologetic. Her sophomore endeavour, Hold The Girl, has Sawayama looking back through the very same doorway, retracing her footsteps down the path of her childhood. Released Sept. 16, the record is a loving and forgiving ode to her younger self, thematically orbiting around her experience growing up as a queer, Japanese, first-generation British immigrant woman.
Hold The Girl is at its best when it is conceptually and sonically focused, as exemplified by the ABBA-interpolated lead single, “This Hell,” the otherworldly “Frankenstein,” or the frenetic “Imagining.” By interweaving a wide array of genres––hyperpop and rock in the span of two songs––Sawayama embodies her ambitious and striking nature as an artist. Hold the Girl twists, turns, and constantly surprises the listener. But the record occasionally gets lost in its own maze and loses coherency throughout its 46-minute run-time, such that softer tracks like “Catch Me In The Air” fall flat instead of offering a peaceful break. The thematic thread attempting to hold the album together loosens with every startling sonic shift, and sitting through the entire thing can quickly become overstimulating.
Despite this, Sawayama’s insistence on honesty and innovation is commendable, providing a refreshing addition to pop music in an era where, as Beyoncé famously said, “[p]eople don’t make albums anymore.” Hold The Girl and its tracks evade the allure of creating a song around one catchy line intended to go viral on TikTok and instead offers a driven project stuffed with introspection and excitement—even if it occasionally bursts at the seams.
For those who appreciate pop music, Hold The Girl is a goldmine—you just need to dig.
Hold The Girl is available to stream on all streaming platforms.