A Majestic Opener: a Breakdown of Rina Sawayama’s Most Personal Song “Dynasty”
A complete lyrical breakdown of Rina Sawayama’s debut album opener “Dynasty”
Rina Sawayama just released her debut album “Sawayama” earlier this year and I have been listening to it on loop non-stop since it released. There’s one song that catches my attention different than any other song, and it is the album opener called “Dynasty”.
With an opener called “Dynasty” you would expect a huge number of majestic production and profound meaning with a historical touch to it, and she completely nailed it with this Evanescence-inspired track. This song sets a perfect tone for a self-titled album sonically and lyrically by exposing how cohesive, personal and universal it is. By describing her struggle with her family issue she had to live with, she brings the listeners deep into her life as she continuously chant to break out of it.
Here’s a full breakdown of “Dynasty” lyrics that will guide you to understand the meaning behind it.
Her storytelling technique in this song is really interesting to explore. She tries to tell a whole story starting from the problem until the resolution itself. This technique is very intriguing to explore as not many song uses this progression formula in telling a story. She started the song explaining about how she feels and problems. Consider this as the opening of a story.
I’m losing myself
In the darkness of the world
Catch me before I fall
She expresses her feeling by telling how lost she is and how life is just an endless loop of her surviving her family issue. The usage of “Darkness of the world” to describe her situation with her family issue deserves a shout out. we might ask our self how severe it is for an issue to be global? to be worldly? well for her, the issue must have been rotted and looped many times to the point it is part of her identity, or in this case “the world’s identity”. Her usage of hyperbole is very fitting as family matter would be one of the most important and significant thing a person would experience, and it could mean the world to everyone.
Is all I really know
Seen it been done before
She later expresses her grievances by explaining that saving herself is no longer a choice but a way to survive. You can actually interpret the line when she said “Saving myself, is all i really know.” by two different meaning. First is her way in telling the listener how saving herself have become a habit of her, it is a part of her. Second is her way expressing her frustration of only being able to save herself, and not the situation. Saving herself might be the only achievable options for her, and that’s the only thing a child could do. As a child, Solving family issue seems like an impossible task as it is often bigger than their knowledge/capability. This gives a clear imagery of the depressive and unbearable situation she lives in, call it like a cry for help .
She started the verse with a compelling mark by incorporating a chant that connects to the verse right away. this chant is created for an exaggeration effect of confession. Repeating the word “I’m a” for approximately 14 times before the first Verse come creates a tension of what’s going to happen next and is also very catchy to listen.
I’m gonna take the throne this time
All the words all mine, all mine
It’s been way too long, too far
Too gone, to carry on
After realizing that she was going to make a big decision to changer her life, her “I’m a” chant creates a this effect of uncertainty where one would repeat before doing something. it is like a stutter effect people said when they’re nervous. This technique might look shallow in music because how repetitive it is, but it is actually a way to create tension (or exaggeration) and also just for that catchy pop-tune people would hum.
Quoting from genius lyric annotation, she uses of “Throne” as a metaphorical representation of ownership. She describes that for a long time, in a broken family, she haven’t been able to define her own story. Often times, it is a story of her father and mother. This time, she finally decided to be the narrator of her own life. Just like most Dynasty, one would fall when the people are not happy and it is time for Rina to create a change.
What’s coming next might give you precedence of her frustration in needing a change.
You can’t hide it in the walls
Sweep it under marble floors
It’s been living in our lives
Best told damn family lie
Essentially, family matters are often become taboos that is forbidden to discuss. it is sensitive, yes, but for many people this could be frustrating. Rina saying “It’s been way too long, too far” indicates how infuriating the lies and secrets her family have been keeping. This part of the verse expresses her frustrations and disappointments towards her parents reaction about their issue.
In the Chorus, She alternates the Metaphorical usage of “Dynasty” as an endless immortal cycle of pain.
The pain in my vein is hereditary
Running in my bloodstream, my bloodstream
And if that’s all that I’m gonna be
Won’t you break the chain with me?
Dynasty often time describe as a huge strong empire that can lives thousands of years prior its heyday/destruction through folklore or history book. It could be a pride or an ignominy. Rina uses that definition to express the immortality of her struggle by explaining that it is hereditary and is running in her bloodstream. Interestingly, every dynasty has a warrior. A warrior to win the dynasty or to win the people. In this case, Rina is a Warrior to win the people in the dynasty (her self). She decided to break the immortal chain of her struggle.
What caught my attention is, how she uses interrogative sentence at the end of this chorus. This could mean two things (1) she asks herself to break free/reminder for herself to break free (2) she invites the listeners to be a part of the journey or to relate with her story. Not only that, the placement of this verse is very gripping. Both after the chorus finishes, the lyrics are very confession-ish. She asking herself to break free creates this dramatic effect of a certainty and Understanding how big of a deal this issue is, make more sense that she needs courage from her own self or listeners.
Confronting your destiny has never been easy, Rina who is in big trauma of her Family issue, confesses to her family by expressing her journey throughout her teenage era for a change. She gradually illustrate her fight to win her over the depressive situation she was living in the bridge.
Mother and father, you gave me life
I nearly gave it away for the sake of my sanity
She confessed to her family that she was struggling with a consequences of her hurting herself and a possible suicide attempt. Though this particular lyrics is very personal to her, this hold quite a universal approach to relate an emotion. She, just like thousands of her listener, has ever experience the feeling of pessimism from extreme guilt and discomfort, especially to the closest person we lived with.
She then pledged to herself that she is in this fight to win it. in the lyrics, it was interesting to discuss for how it prolongs the previous narrative of pessimism.
(Hurting inside, no end in sight)
(Passing it down, I’m not losing this fight)
The tool she used to describe her her declaration is very interesting to break down. She used contradictory statement to stress on the optimism. she put two different sentence contrasting each other stressing on pessimism and optimism. This creates a thrilling follow up to her confession as she go back to the loop of trauma and idea of immortality to a statement of triumph. Not only this contradictory sentence create an exaggeration (in a good way) of her triumph, this is actually a great precedent of heroism story. As beautiful as it written, it shows a story how a hero was build with a faith and set to win a war though its obstacles.
In the next part she tells a very personal story about the family issue she was having during her adolescence.
Mother and father, I know you were raised differently
Fighting about money and his infidelity
Quoting from genius lyric annotation, she reveals that she was a child of divorce and how mean she was to her mom during her teenage era as a result of the situation.
In the last part of the bridge, she expresses how she will be her own warrior to her own dynasty.
(Now it’s my time to make things right)
And if I fail, then I am my dynasty
Rina actually commented about this quoted lyric herself in genius lyric annotation. She explains by giving two different outcome of her fight in breaking this chain of immortal pain. she could make things right and not repeating the same mistake her parents made or she failed and having her failure as her legacy that lives on further to her child and that’s why she is her own “dynasty”. She is a part of the immortal pain she was talking about. This explanation is very intriguing because in real life matter, this is the outcome that child of divorce would face.
With this song being ended with a guitar solo and a loop of the chorus, this gives an empowerments tone behind its sounds. With overall story of her struggle from inherited family issue to overcoming it (and amazing storytelling), she created an amazing opening track to her debut album that talks about many aspects in her life. The song “Dynasty” quality stands strong like a dynasty and will live long until many generations to come.