Artists have all the time used music as an outlet for repressed emotions, which implies they typically don’t come to gentle till lengthy after you’ve put pen to paper. Rina Sawayama, although, clearly understands the worth of finding out your personal feelings. As she did on her riveting 2020 debut, the pop singer continues to put on her wildly eclectic influences on her sleeve, however she admits that Maintain the Woman‘s greatest inspiration was remedy – and the album goes so far as to mirror her effort to “reparent” herself. So whilst her music nonetheless revels in large choruses that channel childhood trauma, rage, and guilt in uncompromising style, the attitude of her songwriting has evidently shifted, changing into extra measured with out shedding off an excessive amount of weight. It scans because the work of a musician who has carried out the underlying work and is each cautious and playful in bringing it to the floor, discovering as a lot energy in vulnerability as within the broad universality of pop.
Nearly each side of Maintain the Woman feels extra purposeful than SAWAYAMA. That album’s fusion of Y2K pop and nu-metal was intentionally messy and bombastic, but it surely barely held itself collectively; Maintain the Woman attracts from an excellent wider array of types however seems extra cohesive by retaining a stable framing. Its shapeshifting pop presents therapeutic because the turbulent however rewarding means of holding on and letting go, of cultivating empathy for individuals who have induced you ache and exhibiting up for the individuals who matter – together with one’s personal self. If that every one sounds a bit generic, that’s as a result of it’s – and it may possibly really feel irritating, however Sawayama is often self-aware sufficient to make it land. She proves early on that she will stability weighty ideas with over-the-top theatricality, as ‘Minor Emotions’ – which takes its title from the poet Cathy Park Hong’s assortment of essays of the identical title – presents a nuanced exploration of the collective emotions of marginalization Asian Individuals harbour on account of systemic racism. Although she doesn’t disregard their sociopolitical origins, the singer makes a degree of embracing extra as a liberatory response to every kind of repression – even when it often results in clunky traces about being “busy cleaning my soul.”
Due to the scope of Sawayama’s ambition, it’s simpler to gauge Maintain the Woman‘s influence on a song-by-song foundation. However as together with her debut, her capacity to achieve multiple lane is a testomony to her versatility. ‘This Hell’ might sound much less pressing than the equally luxurious and cheeky SAWAYAMA single ‘XS’, however the country-inspired tune is at the very least catchy and well-executed sufficient to promote you on the trail to “everlasting damnation.” Maintain the Woman comes closest to being devilishly enjoyable when it sticks to a single thought, even when which means utilizing Frankenstein’s monster as an apparent but efficient metaphor. And whereas it doesn’t fairly share SAWAYAMA‘s rebellious spirit, it may be exhilarating to listen to her swerve between sounds with the identical voraciousness, from the ominous Eurodance observe ‘Holy (Til You Let Me Go)’ to the bustling two-step storage of ‘Imagining’.
However attempt to soak up it as a complete, and far of Maintain the Woman begins to come back off as shallow and tedious, even when it by no means veers into disagreeable territory. There’s nothing inherently flawed with its earnest strategy to lyricism – that form of sincerity gave us SAWAYAMA’s most enduring ballad, ‘Chosen Household’ – however the album packs so many sentimental ballads that when you can separate the great (‘Forgiveness’) from the dangerous (‘Phantom’), you continue to won’t be capable of keep in mind a lot from both camp. However which may have much less to do with weak songwriting than one other one among Maintain the Woman‘s issues, which is that it suffers from overproduction. While you’re not baffled by style experiments like ‘Your Age’ (Sawayama’s most cloying try at evoking Linkin Park’s glory days), you’re left with songs that prioritize extravagant manufacturing over the power of Sawayama’s imaginative and prescient, her technical expertise over her emotional vary, and sweeping, ambiguous gestures over significant ones.
Maintain the Woman may need fared higher with a tighter tracklist, however its style for the saccharine is put to good use because the album attracts to a detailed. Awkwardly sandwiched between ‘Phantom’ are two of Sawayama’s most poignant songs, driving dwelling the document’s overarching message of overcome hardship. ‘Ship My Like to John’ is not like every other track on the album, a subdued acoustic ballad sung from the attitude of an immigrant mom who begins to acknowledge her son’s queerness. ‘To Be Alive’, against this, is the alternative of refined, anchoring in a pulsating beat, loads of lyrical cliches, and a hovering refrain that seeks acceptance from inside. Although its hopeful sentiment has been expressed time time and again – in Maintain the Woman and pop music at giant – the explanation it nonetheless makes for an exuberant conclusion is pointedly easy: “Appears like the primary time.”