Immigrant Pop Star Rina Sawayama’s Debut Album Eligible For Brit Awards

The change means that Saayama will be able to receive this year's Rising Star award, which honors future talent.

Immigrant Pop Star Rina Sawayama’s Debut Album Eligible For Brit Awards
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The pop star who was told “you are not British enough” to enter The Brits and Mercury Prize has won a change in the rules for being included in the nomination of prizes.

Rina Sawayama was told she could not compete for the prizes last year, as she was not a British citizen.

Brit Awards New Rules

The artist, who has lived in the UK for 26 years, has now won a competitive advantage, after meeting with award executives.

Under the new rules, artists who have been living in the UK for more than five years are eligible to receive major awards.

Sawayama has permanent leave to stay in the UK, but retains a Japanese passport to maintain relations with her family, including her father, who lives in Japan (her home country).

Since Japan does not allow dual citizenship, Savayama cannot have a British passport. That led to his debut album, Saayama, being considered unfit for last year’s Mercury Prize.

“It was very painful,” the popstar told BBC News.

“I think a lot of immigrants feel this way – where they assimilate and they become part of the British culture… and to be told that we’re not even eligible to be nominated is very othering.”

‘All I Remember Is Living Here’

Sawayama first expressed concern about the situation in an interview with Vice last year.

“All I remember living here,” she said. “I’ve only been here all my life. I went to summer school in Japan, and that’s just the way it is. But I feel like I’ve made a difference in the UK in a way that I think should be celebrated, or at least ready to be celebrated.”

#SawayamaIsBritish

The hashtag #SawayamaIsBritish is trending in the UK shortly after the publication of the interview.

“Part of me that worried that I was… going to get blacklisted from the music industry for bringing this up,” she told the BBC. “But I’m glad I did.”

The artist then met with BPI, organizing the Brits and Mercury Prize, giving them a chance to review their goals.

Brit Awards change rules thanks to pop star Rina Sawayama - BBC News

“I’m over the moon to share the news that, following many negotiations, BPI has decided to change the rules,” Savaama said on Instagram on Wednesday.

“From this year, artists (like me) will be able to be nominated even if they do not have British citizenship.”

New Requirements

The British Awards confirmed the change to the BBC, saying they would work on all categories of their awards, as well as the Mercury Prize.

Artists now have to meet one of three criteria to qualify:

  1. They were born in the UK.
  2. They are a UK passport holder (this includes those that hold more than one passport).
  3. They have been permanently resident in the UK for more than five years.

The change means that Saayama will be able to receive this year’s Rising Star award, which honors future talent.

However, she will not be able to compete in major categories – including the best female album and best album – as her record is unmarried in the Top 40.

Saayama has previously benefited from funding from the BPI Music Export Growth Scheme, a grant that supports and celebrates British artists, and her album is full of growing hints in London.

The record, which skilfully blends millennial pop and R&B with elements of nu-metal, was one of the best-reviewed new releases of 2020, with an average score of 89% on the review aggregation site Metacritic.