When U.K. genre-blending artist Rina Sawayama explained her beginnings in music to MTV News in 2018, she mentioned how Avril Lavigne inspired her to pick up the guitar and start working out some chords. She’s no stranger to rock-infused pop that also delves into R&B the way a roller coaster dips to its next drop — her 2017 polyglot album RINA (specifically its opener “Ordinary Superstar“) is proof.
But on “STFU!,” her latest cut that dropped on Thursday (November 21), Rina finds inspiration not in the clean guitar lines of “Complicated” or even the gilded softness of mid-’90s pop groups. This one’s all nu-metal. And for good reason: Rina’s not gonna take it anymore.
The clip’s opening finds her on a horrible date with a white dude who — sharp inhale — goes on about writing Japanese-POV fanfic, flings food at her face while pantomiming samurai movie-trope fight sounds, and extremely upsettingly touches her eye in a racially toxic manner without her consent. Naturally, this is the catalyst for the song’s overall theme: simply, shut the fuck up!
Rina’s fury here presents itself through the song’s aggro nu-metal guitar tones and pounding beats, along with her lyrical explorations. “How come you don’t respect me?” Expecting fantasies,” she sings.” “Have you ever thought about taping your big mouth shut? / ‘Cause I have many times, many times.” This all-caps RAGE (as she wrote in a statement) is personified in the video, which Rina directed with Ali Kurr, as she explores various personas and simply reclaiming her own narrative.
“‘STFU!’ is a song about releasing the RAGE against microaggressions,” she explained in a statement. “As a Japanese girl growing up in the West I dealt with an array of aggressors ranging from: sexual stereotypes, comparisons with Lucy Liu and Cho Chang, to having to be the unofficial PR person and tourist board to Tokyo (a city of Western fascination that I left when I was 4), to people shouting Asian greetings down the street (nihao! Konnichiwa!), and finally to people doing ‘slit eyes.'”
Check out the bombastic “STFU!” video above, then get to know Rina better in the MTV News interview below.