Blending Melancholy and Pop | “Phantom” by Rina Sawayama


Marion Reilly, Writer/Volunteer

Rina Sawayama’s unique mixture of upbeat instrumentals and introspective lyrics set her apart from the rest; she manages to keep her music lively while simultaneously addressing serious topics. Her new single, “Phantom,” is the latest addition to her newly-released record Hold the Girl, which includes tracks such as “This Hell,” “Catch Me in the Air” and the title track, “Hold the Girl.” 

As an avid fan, this new album is turning out to be everything I’d hoped for. “Phantom” is especially beautiful, and it serves as a nice contrast to some of the more upbeat songs on the album. While this track is still noticeably pop, Sawayama adds a twist with strong melodies and guitar solos; I’m continually impressed by her range as an artist.

Rina’s identity as a queer, British-Japanese singer is prominent in her art — in nearly all her songs, she sings about chosen family, familial trauma and her own personal struggle with self-worth. In a way, her music is a form of therapy. In a constantly changing world, Rina Sawayama brings audiences comfort by sharing sentiments that are often ignored, especially in the realm of pop music.

So far, this next album seems to be about self-love; “Phantom,” in particular, speaks of Sawayama’s struggle to find herself. After changing in order to appeal to others, she can no longer remember who she once was:

“When did we get so estranged? /

Haunted by the way I’ve changed / 

Claiming back the pieces of me that I’ve lost /

Reaching in, hoping you’re still waiting by the windowsill.”

 The metaphorical “phantom” she sings about in the song is most likely the ghost of her former self. Sawayama’s heartfelt lyrics speak to many of us — it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important, including yourself when you feel like no one appreciates those parts of you. She reminds us that self-love is impossible without knowing yourself first.

This track is vulnerable yet powerful. While similar to a ballad, “Phantom” is also a call to action of sorts; by accepting that she cannot continue without rediscovering herself, Sawayama is taking the first step toward healing:

“I don’t want to do this without you /

I don’t want to do this if you’re just a ghost in the night / 

I tried everything to fill up the void that you left me with /

My phantom.”

Rina’s willingness to share her soul with her audience, coupled with her unmatched ability to communicate those feelings through music, is easy to see in this single. Through this album, Rina Sawayama helps listeners become more in touch with their emotions in order to grow into who they truly are.