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Rina Sawayama says ABBA blessed ‘This Hell’ despite likeness to their hit

The songwriter realised the riff in ‘This Hell’ sounded very similar to ABBA's ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’

By Charlotte Krol

Rina Sawayama poses for her Rolling Stone UK digital cover shoot
Rina Sawayama poses for Rolling Stone UK (Picture: Marcus Cooper)

Rina Sawayama has revealed that she got permission to release ‘This Hell’ without fear of plagiarism after contacting ABBA about its similarities to ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’.

The singer-songwriter, who is prepping the release of her second album Hold the Girl on 16 September, said in a new interview that she contacted ABBA through Elton John after realising that the guitar riff in ‘This Hell’ echoed the choral hook of ‘Gimme!..’

After panicking and contacting her publishers who “freaked out, too’, as Sawayama told the BBC, “they were like, ‘ABBA are absolutely going to say no to this, and you have to change it’.”

Sawayama re-recorded the song with a different guitar melody but then decided to call John to try and get in direct contact with ABBA’s Benny Andersson or Björn Ulvaeus.

John sent the song to ABBA on her behalf along with a handwritten note from Sawayama. “I said: ‘Look, I love your music. I’m happy to split the publishing. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean this to happen’,” explained Sawayama.

Andersson responded later and approved the song, saying: “No problem. Absolutely fine. All the best.” Sawayama added: “So that song has the blessing of ABBA!”

Meanwhile, last month Sawayama shared the official video for her latest single ‘Hold the Girl’.

The album of the same name has been previewed by the singles ‘This Hell’ and ‘Catch Me in the Air’.

Ahead of the release of her new album, which follows her 2020 debut SAWAYAMA, the singer appeared on the digital cover of Rolling Stone UK. In the interview she discussed the epiphanies that define her new album.

“Like a lot of people, lockdown made you look at yourself and the things that were not making me happy in my life,” Sawayama said, going on to say how she entered a “more intense and specialised therapy” which was “emotionally and personally one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”.

Next month, Sawayama is set to embark on a UK headline tour in support of Hold the Girl. See the schedule, including a new show in Cardiff on 24 October, here.