Song of the Week: Rina Sawayama Throws the Hottest Dance Party Around in “This Hell”

Hayley Kiyoko, Horsegirl, and Special Interest also dropped essential tracks

Rina Sawayama, photo by Thurstan Redding

Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Rina Sawayama has us burning up in all the best ways.

Rina Sawayama is one of the most exciting and dynamic pop girlies out there at the moment. She gives us choreography. She gives us camp. She gives us bright, colorful, inclusive bops, fueled by her keen sense of melodic construction and a healthy heaping of fun. Look at her indulgent and slyly anti-capitalistic “XS,” addictive “LUCID,” or her verse on Charli XCX’s “Beg For You” if you’re in need of a crash course.

With “This Hell,” she injects a touch of yee-haw into a summery pop jam, and the result is Shania Twain meets Lady Gaga (right down to a reference of the former’s iconic “Let’s go girls”). Sawayama has always been clear about the subject of her music — in one interview, she specified that she’s “always written songs about girls.” “This Hell” reclaims any ugliness that’s ever been thrown her way, spinning the cliche accusation that anyone in the LGBTQ+ community will end up on a certain side of the afterlife and turning it into the hottest invite of all.


In a statement about the song, she shared: “It’s an important song for me given the human rights that are being taken away from minorities at a rapid rate in the name of traditional religious beliefs, more specifically I was thinking about the rights being taken away from the LGBTQ community when I wrote this song. When the world tells us we don’t deserve love and protection, we have no choice but to give love and protection to each other.”

“This Hell” arrives ahead of her upcoming album, Hold the Girl, set to arrive in September. In the meantime, the “devil’s wearing Prada and loves a little drama” — and so do we.

— Mary Siroky
Contributing Editor

Honorable Mentions:

Horsegirl – “Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty)”

Chicago-trio Horsegirl’s latest single “Dirtbag Transformation (Still Dirty)” continues to ramp up hype for their upcoming debut album, Versions of Modern Performance. The track finds the Matador signees at their most ’90s yet, with a chord progression you could imagine Stephen Malkmus playing and an outro that — dare I say — brings to mind Blue Album-era Weezer. Like much of Horsegirl’s output, it’s noisy, jovial, and effortlessly cool.


Come Versions of Modern Performance’s release on June 3rd, which happens to be two days before band-member Penelope Lowenstein graduates high school, Horsegirl may very well accomplish the same feat fellow indie-rockers Car Seat Headrest did in 2016: connecting Gen Z high schoolers with their hip Gen X parents. — Jonah Krueger

Rachel Chinouriri – “Happy Ending”

Rachel Chinouriri longs for her “Happy Ending” on this highlight from her new Better Off Without EP, emulating emotions akin to releasing a cathartic scream into a dark void. Chinouriri’s glowing voice and wistful lyrics create a sonically boundless landscape, evoking feelings of intimacy and being let in on a very personal secret. “Happy Ending” reveals Chinouriri’s journey navigating the exhaustion and grief that often comes with radical love, as well as the ebbs and flows of inexplicable loss. — Kelly Park

Special Interest – “(Herman’s) House”

No-wave punkers Special Interest specialize (pun intended) in structured chaos. Their sound is noisy, high-energy, and takes from a multitude of genres. It’s like taking every color of Play-Doh, smushing it all together, and crafting a perfect replica of Michealangelo’s David — except he’s probably flipping you off.


“(Herman’s) House,” the group’s first single for Rough Trade, finds Special Interest indulging in their funkiest, danciest tendencies. A steady, pulsing kick drum and a hypnotic bassline compliment their characteristic feedback-laden guitars. It’d be just as appropriate to “pop and lock” to it as it would be to out-right mosh. Or, I guess if you could manage it, both. — J.K.

Hayley Kiyoko – “For The Girls”

Hayley Kiyoko’s “For the Girls” is the undisputed song of the summer. Charli XCX’s soft pop ode, “Boys,” dominated the sunny months of 2017, but Kiyoko’s inclusive, catchy, and dynamic new song is sure to soundtrack the heat of this year –- celebrating everything about girls and whoever they may love. Dominated by a deep bassline as Kiyoko chants about “getting ready for the girls,” it’s a self-loving pop anthem about love and all its forms that needs to be blasted through every speakerphone at the beach. “I’m ready for the girls,” Kiyoko croons. Are you? — Cady Siregar

CeCe – “FUEO”

There’s a sense of energy and confidence around the latest release from singer-songwriter CeCe. In a track she describes as a place where she “learned to love her own chaos,” she imprints her own distinct sense of style and self. Sometimes it is easy to become so obsessed with another person and “hang out until you hate each other” — and as much of a cautionary tale as this is, with CeCe’s high energy and self-possession, it’s also a whole lot of fun. — M.S.


Marcus King – “Rescue Me”

The first cut off Marcus King’s new record, produced in its entirety by Dan Auerbach, is a gritty country-rock track that sees the artist, performing solo here and separately from the Marcus King Band, locked in his own memory. There’s so much soul in all of King’s work — it’s like he can’t help but infuse everything he creates with a certain kind of rawness, and “Rescue Me” is no exception. There’s not much room for metaphor, instead packed with an honest reflection on a memory that just won’t quit. It recalls early cuts from fellow country king Chris Stapleton; grounded storytelling at its best. — M.S.

Blu DeTiger, Chromeo – “enough 4 u”

Bassist and songwriter extraordinaire Blu DeTiger has teamed up with future funk duo Chromeo for two groovy new tracks: “Blutooth” and the infectious slow jam “enough 4 u.” DeTiger’s bubbly bass line is front and center in “enough 4 u,” as usual, but Chromeo’s lush production adds a much needed atmospheric boost. It must be noted that it takes a great deal of control to create a song with so much patience at its core — Blu DeTiger and Chromeo provide an ample amount of restraint, never daring to explode the song outward (save for a bluesy solo from Chromeo’s Dave 1). Blu DeTiger is no stranger to collaborations, but the pairing is a match made in heaven. — Paolo Ragusa

Spielbergs – “When They Come For Me”

The appropriately seismic “When They Come For Me” is Norweigan trio Spielbergs’ second single from their upcoming sophomore album, Vestli, due August 19th. With a healthy touch of emo, “When They Come For Me” doubles down on the band’s stadium sized impulses. The song’s final chorus and outro is so overwhelming and cathartic that it feels like the band is playing like their lives depend on it. But the fuzzy, shoegaze-esque production adds a smart layer of distance, making sure these big moments aren’t naked and raw, just disguised under a wash of cymbal crashes, reverb, and pure vocals. The resulting track is as stunning as Norway’s natural environment: lush, layered, and genuinely massive. — P.R.


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