Elton John and Rina Sawayama collaborate on “Chosen Family”

Photo courtesy of Justin Higuchi, Flickr

British-Japanese singer and songwriter Rina Sawayama originally released the song “Chosen Family” with her second album “SAWAYAMA” on April 17, 2020. Nearly a year later, she released a new version of the song as a duet with Elton John. On April 15, the two posted an interview where they gave their thoughts on the collaboration.

Sawayama began by praising her fellow artist. “I love you so much, and I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing this song for me because it means so much,” she said.

“I’m such a fan of your album,” John praised her in return. He claimed his love for “Chosen Family” in particular stemmed from his belief that its subject matter was “what the world seems to need at the moment, and about coming together, and compassion.”

She asked John what the song meant to him personally. His answer delved into his love and appreciation for the network of supportive friends he had built over the years. “It’s important for people, especially gay people, to have a community where they can feel safe,” he added.

They mentioned how they had previously discussed “It’s a Sin,” a recent British television drama miniseries that depicted the AIDS crisis. John stressed the importance of shows that balance humor with educating audiences on a tragic period of history because many younger gay people were unaware of the undignified cruelty their predecessors endured. He lauded the scientific advancements that have lowered the severity of the disease and its transmission rate but cautioned young people against believing they were invincible.

They shifted topics to discuss the music video they had filmed together. He praised Sawayama's professionalism which allowed the process to be time-efficient. Considering how many music videos John had starred in over the years, Sawayama asked to know his favorite.

“Probably the most fun I had making a video was the one I did with RuPaul many years ago,” he said, referencing the version of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” which was the second single on his 1993 collaboration album "Duets". Even today, John said he enjoyed rewatching it with his children because of all the costume changes.

The performance lyric video Sawayama and John shot together was also clearly a fun experience. John played the piano in a black suit with pink accents while Sawayama posed in a formal dress and elbow-length gloves with a matching color scheme. As her rich vocals began, the lyrics appeared on the screen in curling white script. John beamed as she sang the first chorus to him, “Yeah, you are, you are / my chosen, chosen family.”

John effortlessly picked up the second verse. He looked directly at the camera as he sang the line “When you’re ready, we’ll turn the page together” as if assuring viewers they were not alone.

Sawayama and John turned the video into pure magic by singing the following chorus together. Their extensive vocal ranges worked well together to produce a reverberating effect. Animated stars appeared on screen to add to the stunning display. The video ended with John gently taking Sawayama’s gloved hand and kissing it. It was a beautiful moment that perfectly complimented the song’s theme of filling one’s life with supportive people.

Moments like this when LGBTQ+ creators from different eras work together serve as a reminder that they have always existed, they have always worked hard to earn the recognition they deserve, and that they will not be going away anytime soon.