As I enter the classroom in the early morning, I see my two classmates quickly back away from each other when their lips were glued moments ago. In this empty classroom, the silence between us three is understood. I am not to ask; but the act of secrecy makes it seem like what I had seen was wrong. If anything, intimacy was the only prohibition in our Catholic all-girls’ handbook. 

— 

Are they together?” The hushed whispers pervade the hallway as a pair of giggling girls walk by, arms hung around each other’s shoulders. 

“I know she had a boyfriend.” I say, as if the chances were absurd. In retrospect, I wonder why I thought the situation to be mutually exclusive. 

— 

It took a year for us to grow close — writing playful notes in class, reviewing for exams together, and the countless moments I’d look to the side to catch what you were sketching next. But I couldn’t get closer than two feet away from you. I imagined the stares if we were to hold hands outside of school. I swallowed the idea down. I decided I’d rather be with someone that people would question less. Maybe I’d go out with that boy I met at our first-year soiree. He seemed decent enough.

— 

Hailing from London, Japan-born singer Rina Sawayama dazzles with her latest release, “Cherry (Piano Version)”, which is a genre-bending, melancholic contrast to the original track’s sugary bop, “Cherry.” While “Cherry” may be the next pansexual anthem that listeners can frantically dance to in their bedrooms, its piano rendition will have them weeping uncontrollably, in contrast. It’s a bittersweet confessional that reveals the reality of Sawayama’s internalized biphobia.

Her constant denial with her sexuality resonates in her fervent lyrics, as she sings:

“Even though I’m satisfied / I lead my life within a lie / Holding onto feelings / I’m not used to feeling / ‘Cause, oh, they make me feel alive”

“Cherry (Piano Version)” is a luminous exploration of Sawayama’s complex and multilayered feelings — from confusion, loneliness, and tenderness. In a way, the articulation of these emotions validates the reality that many queer audiences wrestle with. Yet, Sawayama goes beyond the barrier of her self-doubt and eventually asks, “Will you be my Cherry?”

Unlike the rising pop star’s other tracks, from “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” to “Where U Are”, where her breathy, silky falsetto soaks through the synth pop and R&B rhythms, the bittersweet ballad displays an air of yearning that she may never receive. A demonstration of her vocal talent and the toe-tapping beats she produces, this is only the beginning for Rina Sawayama and the future of pop.