TUNES // Rina Sawayama – Take Me As I Am

My new favorite thing about this late-90s-early-2000s renaissance that is upon us is Rina Sawayama. My other favorite thing about the late-90s-early-2000s renaissance is how it has been seized as an opportunity to relive the fantastic teenage dreams that in a very serious way defined millennial youth, while re-writing the elements of pop culture that tbh really fucked us up as children.


Which is to say, the pop of my youth rarely passed the Bechdel test and was with few exceptions overwhelmingly white, skinny, and seemingly designed to be a shimmering hologram of male desire. These were the women we looked up to, (though ‘looked up to’ is probably too strong a phrase – we knew little more about them than their preferred athletic brand). In lieu of meaningful messaging we emulated whatever we could absorb through osmosis and MTV: a brazenly pubescent sexuality, toddler-like cooing, low-rise jeans, and the impossibility of a double D bra with a 25 waist.

All of this wouldn’t have been so bad if these ladies of pop had also given us something constructive and empowering to do with our baby sexuality (a la Beyoncé some 10 years later) but more often than not it was carelessly channeled into a puerile male fantasy about Catholic schoolgirls.

Anyway fast forward to 2012 or so and we’re all waking up to the shittier long-term psychological effects of spending most of 1999 finding ways to integrate …Baby One More Time into elementary school presentations. Disempowerment. Infantilization. Body dysmorphia. To name a few. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Britney Spears as much as the next girl. She wasn’t the problem, just a symptom of it. And she made some great fucking pop music. No need to throw the baby out with the pervy patriarchal bullshit, so to speak.

Which is why I love this Rina Sawayama track so much. It is sweet, revisionist history. Reaching back to a little girl stuffing her bra with tube socks in the bathroom to hand her a mic –

Don’t underestimate me
Make me feel like I ain’t okay
Your bullshit ain’t fooling me
One man false economy
Make me feel like I ain’t okay
Your high praise ain’t feeding me
One girl false autonomy

It is the Inglourious Basterds of late-90s pop music.

That’s all.

Buy Rina Sawayama’s debut album, RINA, here. Also DO NOT MISS her jam with Shamir called Tunnel Vision. It is superb. 


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