- 15 Apr 21
Breakout star Rina Sawayama drew effusive praise from Elton John last year for her acclaimed debut album, SAWAYAMA.
Sawayama unveiled the ballad and tribute to the LGBTQ community on Wednesday, accompanied by a video of her and John performing the piano-led track.
After getting to know each other over on the phone, the pair convened at a London studio in December 2020 to record a new version of her song, 'Chosen Family' - available to stream now.
John first came to know Sawayama’s work when he was sent her SAWAYAMA hit 'Comme Des Garçons' for his Rocket Hour radio show on Apple Music.
“I stopped in my tracks and thought, ‘Who is this?'” he said. “It just blew me away from the first listen. We’ve since become friends, and it’s such a huge honour and a genuine thrill to be asked to duet with Rina. She is just an extraordinary talent.”
He continued: “Rina doesn’t just represent the cross-cultural mix of inspiration from which the best music always thrives, but a generation who have grown up with the internet and the entire history of music at their fingertips and mix together whatever they please with real love and understanding, unconstrained by old ideas of genre or boundary. To my mind, she’s the brightest embodiment of this: a brilliant, confidence-oozing, endlessly fascinating songwriter and performer.”
Sawayama released her self-titled debut album last year, following 2017's Rina EP. The artist released a press statement expressing how much the emotional track means to her, with John's legendary input transforming the song altogether.
“The song means so much to both of us, and recording it together was such a special experience I will never forget,” Sawayama said. “I got shivers when I heard his voice through the monitor and became emotional when he added the piano parts. Elton has been such a huge supporter from before the album, and when we finally met to record this song we clicked from the get go. I hope people can hear the magic!”
Despite releasing one of the most lauded albums of 2020, Sawayama found herself ineligible to win a Mercury Prize or BRIT Award due to an archaic nationality requirement.
In February, the singer revealed the rules would be changing starting in 2021, allowing artists who have lived in the UK for over five years to be nominated.
"The 13-track album from the Japanese-Londoner is stuffed to the brim with unrelenting bops like this – it feels almost masochistic to listen to, like she’s hitting you over the head with every breathtaking track. A delightful way to be beaten, to be sure," Hot Press' Tanis Smither wrote of the vibrant studio album.
Read the June 2020 Hot Press interview with Rina Sawayama here.
Watch the riveting performance video for 'Chosen Family' below: