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Rina Sawayama and Elton John to duet on new single paying tender tribute to queer family

Patrick Kelleher April 12, 2021
Rina Sawayama Elton John

Rina Sawayama will be joined by Elton John on a new version of her song "Chosen Family". (Twitter)

Rina Sawayama will be joined by Elton John on a new version of “Chosen Family”, a soaring ballad from her debut album that pays tribute to queer friendships.

“Chosen Family” first appeared on Sawayama’s critically-acclaimed debut album, released last year. It will now be re-released with John on 14 April, the singer announced on Monday (12 April).

Elton John and Rina Sawayama announced the collaboration in an interview with The New York Times‘ Style magazine, where they reflected on their friendship and the importance of queer solidarity.

The singers struck up a friendship when John listened to Sawayama’s debut album last year, and immediately called her to “tell her how brilliant it was”.

Speaking to The New York Times, John said he and Sawayama were “phone friends” at first, “and then Rina asked if if I would like to record a version of ‘Chosen Family.’ And how could I say no?”

Months later, they convened in a London studio to re-record “Chosen Family” together.

John continued: “The lyrical content is so beautiful. There were so many brutal things going on in the world when the record came out, especially in America, and yet it made me feel as if all would be OK.

“I would sing it around the house and I changed the lyrics to ‘frozen family.’ I sang with my kids in the morning, ‘You’re my frozen family/ just a tiny little fish finger.'”

The people who look after each other so much when they’ve gone through so much themselves – the whole song is meant to be a message from a safe space.

Speaking about the inspiration behind the song, Rina Sawayama said she wanted to write something “genuine” that was “specific to the queer community”.

“The people who look after each other so much when they’ve gone through so much themselves – the whole song is meant to be a message from a safe space.

“My friends are basically all queer and I’m from the community. The stories I hear from them, about being kicked out of home for being gay, for example, or not being able to come out to their parents, even at 28 – a lot of trauma and real stories went into it.”

She added: “It’s so close to my heart. And while it’s specific to the community, it was also interesting when someone straight was like, ‘Oh, I can imagine this playing at a wedding.’ I guess chosen family can mean that as well.”

 

More: Elton John, Rina Sawayama

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