I want every teenager on planet Earth to go listen to Rina Sawayama's new bop "Flicker" right now. Because I know that the sultry-confident pop-soul bop, overflowing with the sheer life-affirming spirit the British neo-Britney reliably delivers, is exactly what I needed to hear in the angsty throws of adolescent self-doubt.
"When you're down/ feeling low/ Just remember your name/ They ain't us/ They ain't us baby" Sawayama sings like the affirming queer fairy godmother-big-sister she is, inviting anyone who feels misunderstood or like an outsider into the glowing warmth of her "us." It has the feeling of an old-school Disney "be yourself, forget the haters" song that would be perfect for the on-the-up moment in a Broadway musical, except fresh and alive with the radiant force of Sawayama's thousand-watt charisma, soulful vocals and vintage pop perfection.
Sawayama explains in a press release that the song was inspired by a painful childhood memory of having her name mispronounced, and hopes "Flicker" will have specific poignance for those most apt to feel like outsiders in our society.
"The first day of reception year at school my teacher totally butchered my surname while calling out the register. I remember crying so hard and that was the first time I realised that I was different to all the others in class" she recalled.
"When I was writing 'Flicker' I was thinking how our name shapes our experience in life and identities us in a deeper way than we realise," she continues. "Whether it's a name that no one can say, or the frustration of being misgendered, or quite simply being misunderstood for who you truly are — this is a song for you."
Listen and weep:
Photography: Andrew T. White for PAPER