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“I just get bored quickly,” states Rina Sawayama, aka future pop's brightest superstar. She's talking about her frenetic new single, the Korn-meets-JoJo pop blitzkrieg that is STFU!, the first taster from her forthcoming debut album, and her first release since she signed with Dirty Hit, home to The 1975, Wolf Alice and No Rome. “I always want to go where no one else is going – that's what the artists I love always do,” she continues. For Rina, no genre is off-limits, be it the early 00s boyband-era pop bangers that peppered 2017's critically-acclaimed mini-album, RINA; the crystalline R&B of breakthrough single Cyber Stockholm Syndrome or 2018's soulful pansexual anthem, Cherry. It's this daring attitude that's seen her join the upper echelons of left-field pop's current premiere league, a move augmented via support slots with Years & Years and Charli XCX. 2020 is when Rina Sawayama goes fully interstellar, however. “STFU! is there to wake people up,” she says, smile beaming.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rina finally signing a record deal is that being independent has always suited her (she'll still be the driving force behind every decision, don't panic). It's what has set her apart all her life. Born in Japan but raised by her single mum in north London, she's always had to fight that little bit harder. Even when her determination and obvious intelligence landed her a place at Cambridge University studying politics, psychology and sociology, she had to put up with bullying and countless micro-aggressions, the continuation of latter inspiring the pent-up aggression of STFU! and its hilarious video. When she graduated and subsequently turned down countless high-paid city jobs, much to her mum's chagrin, she funded her early music by modelling, working her way to the top of an industry with its own problems around race. Even in recent years – despite her hyper-modern bops being written about by the likes of Fader, The Guardian, Paper and the New York Times – she's relied on her side projects as a way of funding her real passion; music. “I've done a lot of brand campaigns recently that I've worked around tours and recording,” she says. “It's great, I'm so lucky, but truth be told I didn't keep any of that money, it just went right back into the music. I realised I hadn't saved anything.” And that's why Dirty Hit are so important. There's only so much a self-confessed “typical freelance Londoner” can do.
Rina Sawayama has partnered with PLUS1 so that £1 from every ticket sold will go to environmental organizations working to protect the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants. www.plus1.org
Presented by Kilimanjaro.
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