Her most recent battle has been with The Brits and the Mercury Prize, who informed her that she wasn’t “British enough” to be nominated despite her recent album’s critical acclaim. She refused to take no for an answer, and persuaded BPI to change their outdated policy to allow artists who’ve lived in the UK for more than five years to participate in the awards, even without British citizenship. In calling out the exclusivist attitude these musical institutions have towards immigrants as othering and backward, Rina has created a space for celebration of UK artists who previously would have been shunned, forcing the industry to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of Britishness.
But her music isn’t just about attack – it’s also about finding a home and creating solace through sonic storytelling. Sawayama provides a safe space for both the musician and her fans to revel in together. Her elevation to icon status has been well earned, filling the shoes with grace and inspiring people to cherish their identity, no matter their sexual orientation or heritage. Through her musical artistry, Rina inspires others to take agency over their own destiny, as she does with hers. This, in Rina’s words, is “Corny, but it’s true”, and we’re all in need of some corny in this day and age. By inserting herself into an industry that has traditionally peddled conservative attitudes, outdated values concerning regulating female sexuality and the minimizing of artist’s political agency, Rina queers this (largely) straight space as a proud pansexual woman, with catchy hooks tempered with her trademark British irony and wit. While heavy with heartfelt feeling and anger, Sawayama is a story of joy, of the power of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. Rina is the new-age pop star: queer, confident and clever. And we’re here for it.