Review: Evocative ‘Hold the Girl’ is Like Reading Singer’s Diary

Listening to Rina Sawayama’s second album feels like taking a journey through the artist’s life.


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The “Hold the Girl” album cover

Ashlee Carpenter, Contributor

Tracks laced with sounds of electric guitars, synths, and electronic and country music influences is the only way to describe Rina Sawayama’s latest album, “Hold The Girl.” 

Born in Japan and raised in London, Ms. Sawayama recently released her second full length album, two years after the critically acclaimed “Sawayama.” Though I am not new to her music, this is my first time listening to a project of hers in full. 

The album opens with the song “Minor Feelings.” While many would start an album with a more buoyant track, Sawayama chose a different route.

“Minor Feelings” is the kind of song to play at night, all alone in a room at the end of a long day. To me, it sounds like a reflection of the way she has processed and dealt with her emotions throughout her life.

It’s a good song for people who feel like their emotions are taking control of them. In it, Sawayama gives the impression that things that used to feel small are now too big for her to pretend they don’t exist.

“All these minor feelings are majorly getting to me now,” she sings.

“Minor Feelings” is cathartic: one to cry to, one to reflect and let go to. 

The second track, Hold The Girl,” doubles as the album name.  It has an almost triumphant feeling.

“Reach inside and hold you close,” Sawayama sings, “I won’t leave you on your own.”

It sounds like Sawayama is reflecting that her younger self is still an important part of who she is today. Like, without her, she would have so little. The song shows the importance of keeping that young girl – and an awareness of her past – close to her. 

The third song, “This Hell,” has a hugely different feeling than the first two. A song about friendship and love, “This Hell” is upbeat and carefree. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to get up and dance; the kind of song I can imagine in a movie. 

The next songs – “Holy (Till You Let Me Go)” and “Your Age” – have a deeper meaning despite their slightly intense, faster paced sound. In “Holy,” it seems like Sawayama is expressing how she was made to feel like the villain after leaving someone.

“I was innocent when you said I was evil,” she sings.

When listening to “Your Age”, I felt like I was being called out, because of how direct and personal the message was.

Other songs on the project include “Send My Love To John” and “Catch Me In The Air,” tinged with a country music twang. “Frankenstein” and “Phantom,” – both of which have titles that seem very fitting for the coming month – have little to do with Halloween, and more to do with wanting to be “fixed” and seem more “normal” (Frankenstein) and finding her younger self that’s no longer there (Phantom). 

Closing out the album is “To Be Alive.” Like “Hold The Girl,” “To Be Alive” feels joyous, like finally being able to overcome the hardest battles. This song seems like the main idea of the album: that the end goal is to feel a sense of relief, to experience all life has to offer. 

Each track on this album has a deeper meaning for Sawayama herself – and for listeners like me. There’s a song for everyone to relate to, no matter where they are in life. For me, “Minor Feelings,” “Forgiveness,” and “Holy (Till You Let Me Go)” hit closest to home. 

Listening to this album felt like a journey through Sawayama’s life. “Hold The Girl” was like getting a look into her diary, the struggles she may have faced over the years, and her use of music as an outlet, to reach people who see what she’s gone through. It was truly a great experience. It has a little something for everyone, no matter what your musical preferences are.