Pride

Rina Sawayama Picks Elton John as Her 'Chosen Family,' Talks Song's Crucial Timing

Rina Sawayama, Elton John "Chosen Family"
Courtesy Photo

Rina Sawayama, Elton John "Chosen Family"

Rina Sawayama enlists Elton John as her "Chosen Family" for the song's official remix on Wednesday (April 14).

Their new version of "Chosen Family" from her 2020 Sawayama album, which was released a year ago on April 17, 2020, also comes with a performance lyric video. In the clip, Sawayama serenades Sir John, who's perched at the piano, and the two engage in a swelling display of familial love regardless of not being related to one another, as the song asserts.

The original power ballad was produced by Danny L Harle and written by Sawayama, Harle and Jonny Latimer as an emotional ode to the alt-pop singer's LGBTQ+ family, highlighting the concept of a "chosen family" for those who've been "ostracized by their family, friends or community after coming out."

The British artists connected again on John's Apple Music 1 radio show Rocket Hour to discuss what "Chosen Family" means to them personally and how it's found universal appeal for the LGBTQ+ community and world at large during volatile times.

"It was just really my genuine feelings towards my friends. Some of my friends have been kicked out at 17 for being gay because their parents are very religious and they've literally had to fend for themselves. And since then, I have friends who haven't come out to their parents yet and they're nearly 30," the "XS" singer said about her original song. "The concept of 'Chosen Family' is such a pure one, such an important one. And I think especially this year, it's been really important, the idea of family being rather flexible, and I can't imagine all the queer people who have had to endure hardship at home.... It's just a very straight up love song to my friends, which then I realized when I wrote about it really applied to other people as well."

The 74-year-old hitmaker felt the song's release came at such a crucial time during the pandemic, where a polarizing presidential election, government and church regulations afflicting LGBTQ+ people, and racist attacks and murders of Black and Asian people have created a more "divisive" world when people are already being encouraged to physically distance themselves from one another for health and safety reasons.

"I just thought this song spoke about bringing people together and loving at a time when people are so hateful to each other and that the world is so divisive.... And I just think it's just awful that people can write anonymous things about people being gay, being of another political persuasion, religious persuasion, or just plain racial," John added. "And this song, I thought, 'God, this is exactly what we need to be saying right now.' It's a song about peace. It's about acceptance, about tolerance. I don't care if someone wants to vote Republican or Democrat or be gay or be straight or be Asian or be Black or be Indian. I didn't care about that. But people are using that to stir up hatred. And I don't know whether they mean it or not. I just think they're stoking the furnaces, and I don't like it."

Watch their conversation on Apple Music 1's Rocket Hour below.