Rina Sawayama has Released a Great New Video for ‘Bad Friend’

FEATURE: Rina’s emotional new video explores the heavy themes of her new single ‘Bad Friend’.

Rina Sawayama has released a great new video for ‘Bad Friend’.

FEATURE: Rina's emotional new video explores the heavy themes of her new single 'Bad Friend'.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since the release of Rina Sawayama’s highly anticipated debut full-length, SAWAYAMA.  The album was an ambitious mix of pop and rock soundscapes with deeply personal lyricism, with ‘Bad Friend’ standing out as a prime example of the latter. 

Now, Rina has dropped a stunning new video for the track.  The clip takes the song’s lyrical themes and flips them around in a way that is simultaneously emotional and just a little bit silly.  The film-noir inspired clip uses a highly stylized depiction of a bar brawl to represent the tumultuous emotions brought on by a friendship turned sour.  It has the potential to be heady stuff, but the performances and film style are just tongue-in-cheek enough to keep the whole thing from turning too melodramatic.  It’s a lot of fun, and definitely worth a watch below.

And check out my review of SAWAYAMA here.

Social Isolation Disco

PLAYLIST: 30 prime slices of escapist pop to soundtrack your quarantine party. Six feet apart, please!

PLAYLIST: 30 prime slices of escapist pop to soundtrack your quarantine party. 6 feet apart, please!

Within my personal friend group, I have gained a bit of a reputation for making playlists.  Now, of course, I get to victimize the entire internet with that particular skill.  Historically, though, my closest friends have had to bear the weight of my musical list-making.

Last week, one of my friends reached out to me to create a quarantine playlist for her so that she would, as she put it, “Listen to anything other than superhero soundtracks, please, for the love of god”.  Although I support listening to superhero soundtracks, I was happy to oblige.  There is a non-zero chance that she asked for a playlist just to mercifully give me something to do, but…. that’s a rabbit hole I am not willing to go down.

Cover design by Andrew Henderson

The thing is, I sort of think the playlist I made for her slaps.  It’s 30 songs of modern, escapist pop, ranging from absolute bangers like ‘Tantrum’ by Ashnikko to chill vibes like ‘Too Late’ by Washed Out.  In terms of cohesion, it shouldn’t work.  On paper, it doesn’t.  But in practice, I stand by it.  So, I’m sharing it here with the whole world.  Because the world needs escapist pop now more than ever, and also because I’m a hopeless narcissist when it comes to my taste in music.

Washed Out

A few songs are specifically quarantine/social isolation themed: ‘claws’ by Charli XCX (who’s quarantine-themed album is out 5/15), ‘I’m Bored’ by Betta Lemme and ‘My House’ by Kitten.  But all are great slices of music that run the gamut of modern pop music.  I think it’s great.  I hope you do too.

So, enjoy this playlist, Social Isolation Disco, below.

Social Isolation Disco TrackList

  1. Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor – Aly & AJ Non-album single
  2. Malibu – Kim Petras Non-album single
  3. Love Again – Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia
  4. La vita nuova – Christine and the Queens feat. Caroline Polachek La vita nuova
  5. Over Yet – Hayley Williams Petals for Armor
  6. Super Duper Party People – Allie X Cape God
  7. Nonbinary – Arca KiCk i
  8. Gay Street Fighter – Keiynan Lonsdale Non-album single
  9. Tantrum – Ashnikko Non-album single
  10. claws – Charli XCX how i’m feeling now
  11. Damn Daniel – Bree Runway feat. Yung Baby Tate Non-album single
  12. Shoulda Known Better – Nasty Cherry Non-album single
  13. If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) – The 1975 Notes on a Conditional Form
  14. I Love Me (Travis Barker Remix) – Demi Lovato Non-album single
  15. Daydream – The Aces Non-album single
  16. On the Floor (Initial Talk Remix) – Perfume Genius Non-album single
  17. No Pude – Lido Pimienta Miss Colombia
  18. i like the devil – Purity Ring WOMB
  19. Guilty Conscience – 070 Shake Modus Vivendi
  20. I’m Bored – Betta Lemme Non-album single
  21. Sucker for Punishment – Alex Lahey Non-album single
  22. Ripe – Banoffee feat. CupcakKe Look at us Now, Dad
  23. Stay Tonight – CHUNG HA Non-album single
  24. Dare (AM) – Namasenda Non-album single
  25. Too Late – Washed out Non-album single
  26. My House – Kitten Non-album single
  27. Save a Kiss – Jessie Ware Non-album single
  28. Two Minute Noodles – Aria Wood Non-album single
  29. Take Yourself Home – Troye Sivan Non-album single
  30. Chosen Family – Rina Sawayama SAWAYAMA

101 Top Tracks: 2019

PLAYLIST: These are my picks for the 101 Top Tracks of 2019. Yes, I know it’s April 2020. Thank you. Shh.

PLAYLIST: These are my picks for the 101 Top Tracks of 2019. Yes, I know it's April 2020. Thank you. Shh.

At the end of every year, I curate a list of my personal picks for the 101 Top Tracks of the year.  Obviously, we are halfway through 2020, so it makes no sense to publish that list now, but I am doing it anyway.  The world is in chaos, and everyone needs good music.

Not every artist on this playlist is a member of the LGBTQIA+ family (although many are), this is just a list of 101 damn good songs to hopefully cheer you up in the coming days.

If you really feel like going back to ancient history, check out this list of recommended tracks from 2018 as well.

Andrew Henderson’s 101 Top Tracks of 2019:

  1. OH DANG DANG – Kopps Non-album single
  2. Get Around It – Midi Matilda Non-album single
  3. I Don’t Wanna Know – Charli XCX Charli
  4. Gimme – BANKS III
  5. fallen alien – FKA Twigs MAGDALENE
  6. Gone – TR/ST The Destroyer Vol. 1
  7. Jerome – Lizzo Cuz I Love You
  8. The One – Betty Who Betty
  9. Picture Me Better – Weyes Blood Titanic Rising
  10. Orange Trees – MARINA Love + Fear
  11. 800 db cloud – 100 gecs 1000 gecs
  12. Rich, White, Straight Men – Kesha Non-album single
  13. Queen of the Rodeo – Orville Peck Pony
  14. Blood of the Fang – clipping. There Existed an Addiction to Blood
  15. Borderline – Florrie Non-album single
  16. bad idea – Ariana Grande thank u, next
  17. Pang – Caroline Polachek Pang
  18. Talk – Two Door Cinema Club False Alarm
  19. Play – Betta Lemme Non-album single
  20. Love Goes On – Hannah Diamond Reflections
  21. Slide Away – Miley Cyrus Non-album single
  22. Borderline – Tame Impala The Slow Rush
  23. Hit the Back – King Princess Cheap Queen
  24. Lightning – Bag Raiders feat. The Kite String Tangle Horizons 
  25. Taste – Donatachi feat. Genes Taste
  26. Do Me – Kim Petras Clarity
  27. Devil is a Lie – Adia Victoria Silences
  28. Adam & Steve – Dorian Electra Flamboyant
  29. New Love Cassette – Angel Olsen All Mirrors
  30. Everything He Needs – Carly Rae Jepsen Dedicated
  31. Love Me Wrong – Allie X feat. Troye Sivan Cape God
  32. The Other Side – Drab Majesty Modern Mirror
  33. Concrete Angel – Hannah Diamond Reflections
  34. Dear Jealousy – MIKA My Name is Michael Holbrook
  35. money machine – 100 gecs 1000 gecs
  36. What Are We Going to Do About the Rich? – Pet Shop Boys Agenda
  37. Old Town Road (Remix) – Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus 7
  38. Serbia Drums – !!! Wallop
  39. WET – COBRAH Icon
  40. sad day – FKA Twigs MAGDALENE
  41. BITE ME – Kilo Kish Redux
  42. Downhill Lullaby – Sky Ferreira Non-album single
  43. Divine Goldmine – Lou Asril Louasril
  44. Tuesday – Malibu Ken Malibu Ken
  45. Click (No Boys Remix) – Charli XCX feat. Kim Petras & Slayyyter Non-album single
  46. I Want to Live with You – Alex Lahey The Best Luck Club
  47. Sympathy – Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride
  48. Heavenly – Cigarettes After Sex Cry
  49. Prophet – King Princess Cheap Queen
  50. Norman fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  51. Sanremo – MIKA My Name is Michael Holbrook
  52. Juice – Lizzo Cuz I Love You
  53. Parachute – Caroline Polachek Pang
  54. Whiplash – Theophilus London feat. Tame Impala Bebey
  55. Want You in My Room – Carly Rae Jepsen Dedicated
  56. Lifeline – A.G. Cook Non-album single
  57. Enjoy Your Life – MARINA Love + Fear
  58. White Mercedes – Charli XCX Charli
  59. Movies – Weyes Blood Titanic Rising
  60. Obsession – Joywave Possession
  61. Goodbye Honeymoon Phase – Kitten Goodbye Honeymoon Phase
  62. God Must Be Doing Cocaine – Charlotte Lawrence Non-album single
  63. 626 Bedford Avenue – The Drums Brutalism
  64. Black Magic – Backxwash God Has Nothing to Do With This, Leave Him Out of It
  65. Ice Cream – MIKA My name is Michael Holbrook
  66. Bad Vibes – K.Flay Solutions
  67. when the party’s over – Billie Eilish WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
  68. So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings – Caroline Polachek Pang
  69. Psycho – slowthai, Denzel Curry Non-album single
  70. STFU! – Rina Sawayama SAWAYAMA
  71. Patience – Tame Impala Non-album single
  72. stupid horse – 100 gecs 1000 gecs
  73. Cross You Out – Charli XCX feat. Sky Ferierra Charli
  74. Fuck it I love you – Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  75. High Beams – Flume feat. HWLS & slowthai Hi This is Flume
  76. Haunted House – Sir Babygirl Crush on Me
  77. Friday’s No Fun Anymore – Kitten Goodbye Honeymoon Phase
  78. Julien – Carly Rae Jepsen Dedicated
  79. Tokyo – White Lies Five V2
  80. Unconditional – Touch Sensitive feat. Kitten Non-album single
  81. Fresh Laundry – Allie X Cape God
  82. Sea at Night – GFOTY If You Think I’m a Bitch, You Should Meet GFOTY
  83. Pretty Please – Allan Rayman Christian
  84. Boy – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour Non-album Single
  85. Hope to Die – Orville Peck Pony
  86. PrettyGirlz – WILLOW WILLOW
  87. Caroline Shut Up – Caroline Polachek Pang
  88. Young Republicans – Lower Dens The Competition
  89. Flamboyant – Dorian Electra Flamboyant
  90. Like a Kennedy – Joywave Possession
  91. mary magdalene – FKA Twigs MAGDALENE
  92. 2099 – Charli XCX feat. Troye Sivan Charli
  93. Harmony Hall – Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride
  94. The greatest – Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  95. Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself – Alex Lahey The Best Luck Club
  96. fReAkY 4 Life – Dorian Electra Flamboyant
  97. cellophane – FKA Twigs MAGDALENE
  98. Door – Caroline Polachek Pang
  99. Jailbreak the Tesla – Injury Reserve feat. Aminé Injury Reserve
  100. All Mirrors – Angel Olsen All Mirrors
  101. Gone – Charli XCX feat. Christine and The Queens Charli
Cover: FKA Twigs from the 'Cellophane' music video. Design by Andrew Henderson.

After listening to my list, be sure to pop on down to the comments and let me know what your favorite songs of 2019 were.  What did I miss on this list?  What did I include that I shouldn’t have?

Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA

ALBUM REVIEW: SAWAYAMA is an adventurous, nostalgia-driven, genre-defying album – and Rina’s best work to date.​

ALBUM REVIEW: SAWAYAMA is an adventurous, nostalgia-driven, genre-defying album - and Rina's best work to date.

In an interview attached to the release of SAWAYAMA on Apple Music, Rina Sawayama said she was about halfway done with the album when she realized that it was ‘definitely about family’.  Indeed, the album has a strong thematic through-line about family, both blood and chosen, that helps to tie the entire genre-defining affair together.

The album is all over the place sonically.  That sounds like a read, but in this context it actually works.  Rina plays around with dance pop, nü-metal and much more across these thirteen tracks, but the album still has a sense of sick cohesion.  This is due mainly to an incredibly personal approach to lyric-writing that makes each song feel like just another facet of Rina’s own personality.

Additionally, even the sonic aspects aren’t as fully random as they may at first appear.  There is a distinct sense of idealized nostalgia here.  Rina clearly is inspired by the pop and rock acts of the early-to-mid 2000’s, but the album is less a recreation of those sounds as much as an homage to our collective memories of them.  This album doesn’t actually sound like Britney Spears or Evanescence or N.E.R.D.  Instead, it idealizes and modernizes those sounds in a way that still triggers those nostalgic feelings – without losing the sense of modernism and that the actual music of that era lost long ago.

Courtesy of Satellite 414 and Dirty Hit Records

Track-bi-track review

  • Dynasty – Rina called this song the ‘thesis’ of the album, and for good reason. The music is a loving, if obvious, tribute to Evanescence, but the lyrics are a much more intimate and genuine examination of emotional turmoil than that famously-angsty band ever achieved.

  • XS – This song is so fucking fun.  The contrast of the searing guitar riff against the bubblegummy pop of the rest of the song is startling and thrilling and perfect.
  • STFU! – As a lead single, this song was the perfect choice. It is bolder and badder than anything Rina had released up to that point, and it remains an album highlight.  The ‘hahahahahAAAAA’ vocal riff after the first chorus is a truly legendary moment.

  • Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys) – This song is probably the most straightforward pop on the entire album, but that’s not a bad thing.   It may not be the go-to track for demonstrating Rina’s songwriting prowess, but there is a 100% chance that this song will be lighting up the dancefloors of gay clubs around the world for years to come.
  • Akasaka Sad – Sonically, this might be the most out-there song on the album. It makes sense to follow up Comme des Garçons with something more experimental, and Akasaka Sad knocks it out of the park.  The production is absolutely nuts, but it doesn’t stop the chorus from being catchy as hell anyway.

  • Paradisin’ – It’s hard to tell if this is the greatest summer-drive bop of all time or the most insidious parody of summer-bops ever. Either way, it’s a lot of fun.  It runs through its three minutes at breakneck speed, with only the briefest interlude for a quick sax solo and some artificial crowd-screaming noises.  Its wacky and goofy, but so what?

  • Love Me 4 Me – Kicking this song off with a quote from infamous fracking-baron RuPaul Charles is one of those things that maybe seemed like a better idea on paper. Still a bop though.

  • Bad Friend – This possibly the most earnest song on the album, but sadly also one of the less exciting.  It’s not at all a bad song, though. The melody is lovely, and the production is nice…  if the album has a track that could be an actual radio hit, it’s this one.  It’s not a skip (frankly, there are no skips on this album), but by the time the choir-led bridge hits, it’s just a bit too cheese for my taste.
  • Fuck this World (Interlude) – Don’t let the ‘interlude’ tag on this one fool you, this is a full song, and quite a good one. Rina doesn’t let up on the earnestness with this one, but the production here is just so lush and luxurious, it doesn’t feel corny at all.

  • Who’s Gonna Save U Now? ­– This song is a hard-left turn back into the wild eccentricities of the first half of the album, and it is a welcome return after the three previous tracks. In the context of the album, it makes sense to place those three more serious and thematic tracks in the middle of the album, but it’s great to get back to the fun.  This song also features some of Rina’s best vocals on the whole album.

  • Tokyo Love Hotel – Here is the best example on the album of Rina’s personal and emotional songwriting being used to incredible effect. The song is toe-tapping, with a melody and production that is reminiscent of Carly Rae Jepson’s best work.  Far from an empty bop, though, the lyrics contain some of the most introspective thoughts of the entire album.  The perfect balance of those elements makes this an album highlight.

  • Chosen Family – There is no doubt that for many of Rina’s fans, especially her LGBTQIA+ fans, listening to this song will be an emotional experience.  This tribute to the idea of being able to choose one’s own family will resonate with so many.  This may not be the most experimental-sounding song on the album, but producer Danny L Harle does some of his best work creating a power-ballad moment that is simultaneously rousing and just vaguely tongue-in-cheek.
  • Snakeskin – It is an odd choice to use this song to close the album rather than, say, ‘Chosen Family’, but it is a high note to end on, nevertheless. This track features some of the most heart-pounding production, built around an instrumental that is as anthemic and orchestral as it is grimy and electronic.  The song features samples from Beethoven and the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, so there’s really no way it was ever going to be anything less than epic.

Final Notes

SAWAYAMA isn’t a perfect album (I’m still giving that RuPaul quote some side eye), but it is a damn good one.  Rina manages to be more emotionally raw while simultaneously having more fun than she ever has before.  It is rare for a debut album to show this much musical and lyrical maturity.  With this, Rina Sawayama has effortlessly placed herself in the ranks of pop music’s best.

You can stream SAWAYAMA at the links below, and definitely tell me which tracks were your favorites in the comments.

Rina Sawayama – Chosen Family

TRACK REVIEW: Rina’s newest isn’t her most musically adventurous, but it’s an important anthem for LGBTQIA+ culture.

TRACK REVIEW: Rina's newest isn't her most musically adventurous - but it's an important anthem for LGBTQIA+ culture.

For many LGBTQIA+ individuals, the idea of ‘chosen family’ is a sensitive one.  For many of us, blood family is a painful subject, as we have faced rejection, discrimination and abuse from unaccepting family members.  Therefore, our chosen families – those individuals with whom we make connections and lives with – are an important part of the makeup of the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.

'Chosen Family' single cover. Via Dirty Hit.

Rina Sawayama’s new single (titled “Chosen Family”) is a beautiful tribute to the people who make up her own chosen family – and the idea of chosen families itself.  “We don’t need to be related to relate,” she sings on the chorus.  “We don’t need to look the same, we’ve been going through the same thing.”

Musically, this is probably the least interesting of the four singles Rina has released from her upcoming debut album SAWAYAMA.  But that lack of interest doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  Rina’s voice sounds as good here as it ever has, and the production has a charming early-aughts pop ballad feeling.

The song is produced by pcmusic’s Danny L Harle, who showed a knack for creating gorgeous ballads as the executive producer of Caroline Polachek’s Pang album from last year.  “Chosen Family” isn’t as lush as anything from that album, but it’s a strong showing, nonetheless.

Most concerning here is how this song fits in with the other three singles already released from SAWAYAMA.  STFU” is a shockingly aggressive nü-metal banger, “Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)” is a house-inspired pop track, and “XS” sort of combines the two, pairing late-90’s pop production with industrial guitars.  It’s all been very edgy stuff up until now, and it will be interesting to see how it all comes together.  After all, there are nine more tracks on the album that we haven’t heard yet.

Regardless of any stylistic qualms Rina’s fans may have with this song, though, there is no doubt that this track will be an emotional one for many LGBTQIA+ folks, and Rina deserves praise for that, at the very least.

Listen to “Chosen Family” below.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

SAWAYAMA is set to release April 17th, 2020

50 Bops

PLAYLIST: What 50 songs best define the idea of ‘The Bop’?​

PLAYLIST: What 50 songs best define the idea of 'The Bop'?​

For 50 Bops, I wanted to create a playlist that really encapsulated the idea and the aesthetic of The Bop.  Yes, I wanted songs that are timeless and iconic, but I was more interested in the sound and the feeling of each song rather than how popular or famous it is.  I wanted songs that were catchy, bouncy, danceable, and infectious.  I also knew I wanted a list of 50 tracks without any repeated artists.

In order to do this, I started with artists I felt had to be included.  The greats of modern pop music – Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Madonna etc., and then supplemented the list with lesser-known, but still deserving entries.  For each artist, I picked the song I felt was their truest Bop.  Not necessarily my favorite song by them, but the one that encapsulated that distinct Bop feeling better than any other.

So what's in it?

In some cases, that song was a career defining hit (like ‘TiK ToK’ by Kesha or ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry).  For some other artists, I picked something of a b-side.  For example, I chose ‘I Hate Boys’ by Christina Aguilera, from her criminally underrated Bionic album.  I’m sure some of my choices will be controversial, and I will probably regret some of them tomorrow.  But, overall, I am pleased with this list.

The track list is ordered in a way that I thought created a pleasant flow throughout the three-hour runtime.  It is not in any way ranked by quality (or boppiness).

Ultimately, I created this list to hopefully bring a smile to your face and to get you dancing around your apartment.  I know I’ve been dancing around mine.

Stream at the links below.

50 Bops TrackList

  1. G.U.Y. – Lady Gaga ARTPOP

  2. Can’t Be Tamed – Miley Cyrus Can’t Be Tamed

  3. Stronger – Britney Spears Oops… I Did It Again

  4. Girls Night Out – Charli XCX Non-album single

  5. I Don’t Want It At All – Kim Petras Non-album single

  6. Greedy – Ariana Grande Dangerous Woman

  7. TiK ToK – Kesha Animal

  8. Boy Problems – Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion

  9. Tearin’ Up My Heart – *NSYNC *NSYNC

  10. Get Outta My Way – Kylie Minogue Aphrodite

  11. Irresistable – Jessica Simpson Irresistable

  12. Ba$$in – Yelle Complètement Fou

  13. Intuition – Jewel 0304

  14. Hi High – LOONA [+ +]

  15. American Boy – Estelle featuring Kanye West Shine

  16. Hung Up – Madonna Confessions on a Dance Floor

  17. Juice – Lizzo Cuz I Love You

  18. Waiting for Tonight – Jennifer Lopez On the 6

  19. Fembot – Robyn Body Talk

  20. We Run the Night – Havana Brown featuring Pitbull Flashing Lights

  21. Sparks – Hilary Duff Breathe In. Breathe Out.

  22. Demons – Hayley Kiyoko I’m Too Sensitive for this Shit

  23. Are We Good – G.R.L. Non-album single

  24. Larger Than Life – Backstreet Boys Millennium

  25. California Gurls – Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg Teenage Dream

  26. There You Go – P!nk Can’t Take Me Home

  27. That’s My Girl – Fifth Harmony 7/27

  28. Casanova – Allie X CollXtion II

  29. I Hate Boys – Christina Aguilera Bionic

  30. Physical – Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia

  31. Play – Betta Lemme Non-album single

  32. Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani featuring Eve Angel. Music. Baby.

  33. Fluids – Michael Medrano Non-album single

  34. Pandemonium – LIZ Non-album single

  35. Turn Me On – David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj Nothing But the Beat

  36. What Do I Tell My Friends? – Bree Runway Non-album single

  37. Anna Wintour – Azealia Banks Non-album single

  38. One, Two Step – Ciara featuring Missy Elliott Goodies

  39. Crazy in Love – Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z Dangerously in Love

  40. Primadonna – MARINA Electra Heart

  41. Rumors – Lindsay Lohan Speak

  42. Boss Bitch – Doja Cat Birds of Prey: The Album

  43. Mine – Slayyyter Slayyyter

  44. SOS – Rihanna A Girl Like Me

  45. Damaged – Danity Kane Welcome to the Dollhouse

  46. Gimme – Ralph A Good Girl

  47. Blinding Lights – The Weeknd After Hours

  48. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan Saxobeats

  49. Be Good to Me – Ashley Tisdale Headstrong

  50. Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys) – Rina Sawayama SAWAYAMA

After you listen to my list (enjoy!), head on down to the comment section and let me know what your all-time favorite bops are.