Album Review: The enjoyable but inconsistent “Hold The Girl”


Thurstan Redding and Dirty Hit

Rina Sawayama’s sophomore album, “Hold The Girl”, was released on September 16, 2022. The album has a large focus on Sawayama’s attempts to reconnect with her identity and find joy in her life.

Lia Althouse

I’ve been a fan of Rina Sawayama for a few years. Her debut album, “SAWAYAMA,” was my most-listened to album of the year in 2020. I was drawn to the sound and polish of it, as well as her celebrations of LGBTQ culture. As someone who is LGBTQ themself, I connected with the album and have admiration for Sawayama for celebrating her identity through her music. 

As a result, I was eagerly looking forward to her sophomore album “Hold The Girl,” potentially her poppiest work yet, taking inspiration from the 2000s and 2010s. The metal influence on her debut is gone, with the heaviest songs on this album being primarily electronic. This works for the most part; many of the songs are infectious, and Sawayama’s vocal performance is great throughout. According to an interview Sawayama did with Apple Music, the album is inspired by country music, although it’s an influence that I did not notice on most of the songs. My personal favorite song was the uplifting “Catch Me In The Air” for being dynamic and beautiful. 

Throughout this album, Sawayama also continues exploring aspects of her identity. She focuses especially on her queerness and desire to reconnect with her inner child. I enjoyed her storytelling, especially the way it progressed over the course of the album. 

However, “Hold The Girl” loses steam towards the end. It makes sense narratively; heavier songs in the beginning that focus on Sawayama’s struggles shift to more emotional tracks focusing on healing. The problem is that after “Frankenstein,” the songs blend together and are sometimes dull compared to the rest of the album. 

I didn’t dislike all of the later songs. “Send My Love to John” has some of Sawayama’s best lyrics yet and her vocals are equally powerful. “To Be Alive” is an emotional track that acts as the album’s closer. Both of these are effective in isolation, but they’re put alongside “Hurricane” and “Phantom,” both generally uninteresting apart from their lyrics, and as a result, all four tracks are dragged down. 

“Hold The Girl” has some standout moments (see below) and is a decent listen, but has less staying power and more missteps than Sawayama’s debut. However, I would give this album or her other music a shot if you enjoy pop made in the 2000s or 2010s. I am excited to see what Sawayama comes up with next.