Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb

"Cherry" singer Rina Sawayama signifies a global glam-pop renaissance. In this duet with pal and karaoke buddy Nicola Formichetti, her true colors come alive.

"Cherry" singer Rina Sawayama signifies a global glam-pop renaissance. In this duet with pal and karaoke buddy Nicola Formichetti, her true colors come alive.

Photography: Harvey Lee

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Nicola Formichetti's interview with Rina Sawayama first appeared in V119, our Music Issue. V119 is available for sale now at vmagazine.myshopify.com.

Nicola Formichetti We both love the Japanese karaoke hits of the ’80s. My favorites are Yumi [Matsutoya] and Akina Nakamori—all the female vocalists my mom listened to. Who are yours?

Rina Sawayama She’s more ’70s, but Yamaguchi Momoe. I’m getting a tattoo [of her] soon.

NF My secret obsess[ion] is Hikaru Genji—all the boys in roller skates... Should we [keep] talking about music? Or just talk about food...

RS Or wine? Well speaking of music and wine... What do you think it is about karaoke that makes it such an important part of Japanese culture?

NF I don’t know... It’s just such a part of hanging out. RS I think it’s almost like church; it’s the place we go and sing and celebrate life. But there’s an etiquette to it. I get pissed off when [non-Japanese] people start singing Bon Jovi and you’re like, what?

NF That’s so beautiful. [And] you become an instant pop star, in front of all your friends. Speaking of, [what’s it like to be a pop star in real life?]

RS Since the EP, expectations have grown, but I’ve concluded that, as an artist, I have to be consistent rather than try to appease others.

NF Your fans are really dedicated—almost obsessed. Why do you think that is?

RS I think [some artists] realize they have [marginalized] fans and then start catering their shit. From day one, I’ve been completely real about what identifies me—from race to the LGBT community.

NF To me, representation is so obviously important, but when you’ve been doing it for so long... You forget. And then you’re on a project, like, shit, what if I’m not representing everybody? [Or] you could be trying your best and people still come for you.

RS I think you’re referring to cancel culture, which I find really toxic. I think it’s inhumane. The more you drive [people] toward the edge by canceling them, [the more] they actually stop growing. You’ve got to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes, [because], at the root, humanity exists upon a middle ground.

NF Tell us about your fans. Where are they from?

RS Going off Spotify, London and New York are my top cities. My New York shows are the craziest. [But] I’m so grateful for all my fans. They’re crazy and hilarious, but also friendly and respectful.

NF I loved how your EP was nostalgic but also futuristic. Tell me about your forthcoming album.

RS I don’t want to do something that’s just like a pastiche, a throwback... That’s been done and is done all the time. For me, yeah, it’s important to do that, plus address [real] things in my lyrics. On the new record, there will some serious dance tracks, and some really dark tracks. It’s baroque, it’s horror. It’s contemporary, but moves toward the future.

Credits:
Makeup Maki Ryoke using NARS Cosmetics Hair Yusuke Miura Photo Assistants Jingwen Wu, Chongdao Ma Styling Assistants Marta del Rio, Miguel Sanchez Makeup assistants Shoko Sawatari, Agus Arcidiacono Hair Assistant Risako Itamochi Location Pier 59 Studios. Rina wears dress Sensen Lii and headpiece Eric Javits.

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