After a year of working from home in sweats, Rina Sawayama decided that her return to the office deserved some elegance. The singer — who just released her duet with Sir Elton John on her anthem “Chosen Family” — slipped into a robin’s egg blue blazer with waist-level cut-outs and pink leggings for her three-song NPR Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, set inside a downtown office with big windows looking out on the quiet city.
Opening with the soaring “Dynasty,” Sawayama showed off her patented range while leaning into the majestic pop song from her self-titled 2020 debut backed by a full band and string quartet as it picked up from a pop ballad to a soulful rock tune propelled by crunchy guitars. “I’m a dynasty/ The pain in my vein is hereditary/ Dynasty/ Running in my bloodstream, my bloodstream,” Sawayama wailed over the stinging solo.
“That was fun!” she said with a big exhale. “I’ve been dying to play this because I was meant to go on tour last year like most other artists and I couldn’t and the record came out and last and this is the first time we’ve played ‘Dynasty’ live,” she said.
Admitting that baking bread and playing computer games had gotten very boring, Sawayama switched gears to the bouncy, flamenco-spiked pop of “XS.” Then, flipping her high ponytail and moving around to the front of her CEO desk, Sawayama explained why “Chosen Family” is so special to her.
“So many people around the world are not accepted by their parents or their family for who they are,” she said. “Either because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or anything else and I just wanted to write a very pure and honest love song to my friends, aka, my chosen family who have gone through those experiences.”
Flash-forward to a year later and Sir Elton rings her up and asks if he can be on the just-released version of the song. Though John could not join her, Sawayama performed their take on the emotional ballad, complete with Elton’s elegant piano parts.
Watch Sawayama’s Tiny Desk concert below.