Monday, December 4th, 2017

Rina Sawayama – Cyber Stockholm Syndrome

Lucy (and others) have urged us to cover this new Brit…


William John: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; for every argument posited for the Internet as a means to self-empowerment there are countless counter-arguments presenting it as a force of entrapment and hostility. Rina Sawayama wrestles with this quandary, and tries a few aesthetic formulae to achieve a solution; first, dimly lit R&B, then aquatic bubblegum, before a finale of dramatic guitars and cascading, layered vocals. The song’s patchwork quality mirrors that of many social media feeds, and acts to underline Sawayama’s thesis, namely that instead of rebelling against our dependence upon technology, we should revel in it; that the oppressive and hateful aspects of the online world are best countered by optimism, and should be treated not as enslavement, but as opportunity. It’s idealistic sentiment, and shouldn’t work in practice, but then again neither should a singer mining perceived influences as diverse as the Gran Turismo soundtrack, early Sky Ferreira, and Samantha Mumba, and yet here we are.

Eleanor Graham: On Björk’s new album, there’s a devastating line about “googling ‘love’.” For her, the Internet is adjacent to the thing. For Sawayama, it’s the whole thing: “never the overrated touch.” It’s a different approach to a topic crying out for exploration, not better or worse, but less easy for me to connect with. I prefer narratives in which the Internet is — if this makes sense, and I’m not at all optimistic — the popcorn, not the movie. Nevertheless, “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” is sonically and aesthetically incredible. It gives me a specifically feminine nostalgia, something like “There You Go” by P!nk and Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical and those pink, plastic password-protected journals. All of that stands in compelling contrast with the euphoric warp-speed futurism of the final chorus and the video’s Blade Runner neons. Kelela’s old-school R&B/electro-pioneer amalgam is sleeker, but Sawayama’s is more fun. It makes me want to put on a lot of orange eyeshadow and not leave my house.

Jessica Doyle: The first time I heard it, I kept being surprised every time she went high and warm when I was expecting icy contempt. Sawayama is speaking for, not about, her protagonist, and that willingness to find warmth and bravery and self-assertion in a position that could easily be caricatured (the Internet is The Worst) makes all the difference.

Anjy Ou: For obvious reasons, bodily autonomy is very important to me as a woman. But both creepy and well-intentioned men have a way of invading my personal space that makes me feel unsafe — they forget or they never were told that a woman has the choice to accept or reject someone’s touch, and they shouldn’t assume that every woman is okay with even the most innocent touch. I rarely make a fuss because I don’t want to make trouble — I make an excuse, pull away, change my body language, whatever it takes to send the message, “DON’T TOUCH ME.” So for me this is a song about a girl who decides to control exactly who has access to her and when and in what circumstances, by limiting that interaction to the cold technological world. Here she is queen, accepting audience when she feels like and disconnecting when she doesn’t. The ’90s R&B pop vibe is a great match, seeing as nostalgia for times past is just as much a fantasy as a world where women hold all the power. And that soaring middle eight plus last chorus is a great representation of the relief you feel when, even for a brief moment, with someone else or alone, you feel truly safe.

Jonathan Bradley: The bridge blows out real big, which doesn’t necessarily work in this song’s favor — Sawayama’s voice falters before the bombast  — but “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” is poised and pirouetting R&B that’s admirable for its sense of control. She nevertheless seems worth watching for her willingness to step aside from the main currents of Western pop today: where her peers are languid and dazed, she is precise. I hope for more.

Nortey Dowuona: Soft, pulsing piano builds up to clattering woodhits and bubble percussion swirling around Sawayama, who confidently strides through the soft, unimposing drum programming, before taking off in the chorus while the bass rises and rises as the drums become heavier, the synths slide in sharply and her background vocals soar above… and then it all crashes without trace, a single bubble emerging from the sea.

Alfred Soto: An odd arrangement, somewhere between the Pipettes and American Idol, which suits the primly authoritative lyrics 

Iain Mew: Showing that the dawn of the Internet age can be represented at least as well by lush ’90s R&B as by primitive synths is reason enough to find “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” refreshing. That she fixes in on the personal and gets across the emotion of just how transporting online interaction can be, complete with ambivalence but without getting into theorising and moralising, is better still.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: As the song begins, the indistinct chatter reminds us that the tendency to retreat into our phones can feel like an embarrassing crutch. But as lonely as the internet can make us feel, it’s a source of solace and empowerment for many. Rina Sawayama nails that exact feeling when “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” hits its final chorus. And as the song concludes, we’re left with the sound of glass shattering and a fadeout — signals that we’ve been brought back to reality. The only difference is that we’ve experienced the ecstatic joy of being on the internet, and we’re now ready to face our screen-less selves and world with a comforting afterglow.

Ryo Miyauchi: The throwback R&B sound clouds whether this is nostalgic for the turn of the century or actually addressing the ills of the present. Whichever the intent, “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” makes the case that Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins provided one of the best pop templates to release post-Y2K anxieties, both then and now.

Reader average: [8.57] (7 votes)

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3 Responses to “Rina Sawayama – Cyber Stockholm Syndrome”

  1. Rina is one of the most promising pop acts in a whiiile – she’s been killing it this year, cannot wait to see what she does the next. :)

  2. just listening to this now and I’m digging it but I’m kinda shocked no one here mentioned Aaliyah

  3. I got DC3 vibes from the second verse