You can’t say she didn’t warn us. Nu-metal’s unlikeliest nu queen Rina Sawayama gave Twitter some time to prepare itself yesterday, when she tweeted that the incoming video for her latest single “Bad Friend” was “like nothing [she’s] ever done before”. For a pop star who isn’t shy about incorporating disparate styles into one bold sound, it makes sense that we should have been expecting some similarly bold visuals from her.
— #STREAMSAWAYAMA DEBUT ALBUM OUT NOW (@rinasawayama) May 20, 2020
But even with the warning and a handful of stills in our arsenal, she still managed to catch us off guard. As it turns out, one of the video’s most surprising twists had already been right in front of our faces. This shot (below) from the video Sawayama posted yesterday showed a hammered businessman trying to liven up his dour friend as the two sit behind a pair of empty whisky glasses. The catch? The man on the right isn’t just another actor – under all those prosthetics and the suit and tie is Rina Sawayama.
In an interview earlier this year, Sawayama told Pitchfork’s Dani Blum that inspiration for the track struck after she checked Facebook and saw that a former close friend had recently had a baby. Sawayama reminisces about a trip the two of them took to Tokyo after graduating from uni, and the lyrics detail a time when they got drunk in a karaoke booth and danced to Carly Rae Jepsen (by a funny twist of fate, “Bad Friend” ended up being produced by Jepsen collaborator Kyle Shearer). Now having drifted apart after a fight, she’s so out of the other’s loop that the birth is a total shock.
— rina sawayama pics (@sawayamahd) May 20, 2020
While the video’s narrative and lyrics differ wildly (she and her friend weren’t a couple of 1950s businessmen for a start) the story onscreen does parallel in miniature parts of Sawayama’s own. The black and white video begins with the other businessman drunkenly stumbling into Sawayama, as (s)he sits pensively at the bar, examining his(her) wedding ring. It’s not long before the two are laughing hysterically, downing shots together and very much shooting the shit. As they are shooed away by an offscreen barmaid, amidst the drunken melée Sawayama strikes the other man and a brawl breaks out. The fight ends with Sawayama beating him to a bloody pulp – only to find he’s vanished into thin air. One might be a bit more visceral than the other, but the result is still the same; friends fight and one of them vanishes out of the other’s life. Watch the video below:
“Bad Friend” is the third music video from Sawayama’s debut album SAWAYAMA, released on the 17th of April via Dirty Hit records. Upon release, the album received universal acclaim, with review aggregate site Metacritic awarding it a Metascore of 89/100, based on 14 professional reviews (placing it as the fourth best received record of the year so far). You can buy the album here, or stream it through Sawayama’s own spotify playlist below: