“Please call me Kaze” - Discussing rising star Fujii Kaze through newest album and live performance
Vibrant, Inventive, Meticulous. All words that can describe the newest album from singer, songwriter, and musician Fujii Kaze. I came across Kaze’s music one February morning after asking my friend to give me an introduction into J-pop, as it was a genre I had been wanting to get into. She sent me a playlist later that day and sitting as the first track was きらり (Kirari) by artist Fujii Kaze. Fujii Kaze is an artist recognized for his entrancing melodies, exciting song structure, and exceptional lyricism. He does this with his extensive range of genres which include R&B, Rock, Japanese traditional ballads, jazz, and classical music.
With his second studio album having been released in March of this year and a song currently catching the affection of the public internationally, Fujii Kaze has shown to be a force that shows no sign of stopping.
To understand many facets of Kaze’s artistry, we must go back to his youth. Kaze grew up in Satoshō, Okayama, Japan. At home his parents surrounded him with music of many kinds, spanning traditional Japanese, jazz, classical music, and pop. Kaze began uploading videos of him playing the piano and vocal covers to youtube at the age of 12 up until high school where he started focusing on his piano playing. Towards the end of his high school career, Kaze decided he wanted to pursue singing and moved to Tokyo in 2019. Now at the age of 25, Kaze has many achievements under his belt. From winning numerous music awards in the less than 3 years since his debut, to being named one of GQ’s “Most exciting artists around the world” in 2021, Kaze’s rise has been a rapid one.
The excitement surrounding Kaze’s name continues as his sophomore album “Love All Serve All'' was released March 23rd of this year. As Kaze caught the attention of music industry players with his first album “Help Ever Hurt Never” due to his eclectic musical choices. His second album extends this motif of creating an electrifying auditory experience even more so. One way in which Kaze creates this compelling experience is through his mix of traditional Japanese instrumentation with modern production techniques. The influence of the music Kaze grew up listening to is directly translated into the songs he creates while still advancing with the musical elements of today’s popular music. This can be heard in songs such as “へでもねーよ - LASA edit” where a traditional string instrument is interlaced with heavy hitting 808s along with experimental vocal manipulations. Another song which exemplifies this is one single off the album titled まつり (Matsuri) where japanese woodwind instruments are layed beautifully over intricate electronic production as Kaze’s smooth vocals flow nonchalantly through the track. The calm atmosphere created by these elements is shattered as a gritty rock portion attacks the chord progression. Diversion of expectations in this way are common through Kaze’s discography with the aid of acclaimed producer Yaffle who is well known in the Japanese Pop industry. Matsuri is accompanied with a music video which exhibits a stunning cinematographic experience as Kaze shows his natural self while participating in a traditional festival and performing several dance pieces with a captivating screen presence. Another aspect of Kaze’s enthralling musicality is his ability to create interesting lyrical connections. As Kaze comes from a very rural background, his dialect is one that can at sometimes sound astonishingly different from traditional japanese. In songs such as “燃えよ" (MO-EH-YO) and “damn,” Kaze creates a sort of lyrical gymnastics by rhyming words from his dialect with traditional pronunciations as the words themselves tell contrasting stories. Not to be forgotten are Kaze’s ballads which highlight two core attributes which have been present since the beginning, his voice and his piano skills. “それでは" (Bye For Now), in comparison to the preceding tracks, is a much more stripped down and raw track. Highlighting Kaze’s piercing vocals, his melodic strumming and an entrancing orchestral arrangement, he paints a picture of seasonal change as he analogizes himself to the land in which he observes. The following and final track of the album, “旅路" (Tabiji), is likewise a calmer overall performance which showcases Kaze’s views on the fast paced, insatiable attitude of the youth and advises that one should slow down, as life does not always go as planned but love still prevails. As Kaze’s second album comes to a conclusion, it is important to keep in mind that the completion of a work in the studio is just one ingredient in the recipe of what Kaze has to offer. A part of the experience which Kaze finds most important is being able to convey his work directly from himself to an audience. Kaze executes this exquisitely in his 2020 live performance at Nippon Budokan.
The performance begins with Kaze sitting in a nearly pitch black hall, a singular red spotlight highlighting the contours of his figure, seated at a piano. A large black screen hangs overhead with red lines creating spirals across the similar void Kaze inhabits. The camera lands on Kaze as he expertly and emotively splays his fingers across the keys of the piano, no recognizable song being played. As the playing progresses, Kaze sings the first notes of his song “Shinunoga E-wa” from his first studio album “Help Ever Hurt Never”, which has caught the attention of the internet recently. The camera follows Kaze as he sways around the stage only to find his seat to perform the last chorus. He sings “I want you to be my last, If I had to keep being separated from you like this, I’d rather die (x2), I choose you over three meals a day, If I had to keep being separated from you like this, I’d rather die (x2)”. This chorus repeats three times throughout the song with this last one being the most powerful and declarative. Kaze makes unwavering eye contact to not what seems like a particular direction, but towards wherever his body feels he must look as he delivers his heart proclamation. The screen with those dancing lights descends over Kaze as he hums the final notes of the song, notes which mix with the sound of applause which reverberates throughout the audience.
With all the musical and technical prowess Kaze possesses removed from the equation for a moment, Kaze’s true outstanding quality is the message behind his music and beaming personality. As Kaze sits with Japan’s ANN News on a September day in 2020, he explains the meaning behind the title of his first album “Help Ever Hurt Never”. Kaze states “Always help someone and never hurt anyone. I’ve heard this phrase from my father. I feel that every precious thing is pulled together in this phrase”. The unchanging thread that weaves through all endeavors that Kaze takes is his simple desire to spread positivity and lift people’s spirits. His musical influences are the auditory equivalent of his personality which come through not only in music videos but in behind the scenes videos, live streams, and social media posts. Kaze and his actors/dancers, which always represent a very diverse demographic, are constantly dancing and coexisting in a carefree, light hearted manner which can be seen in videos such as “きらり" (Kirari) and "何なんw" (Nan-Nan). Kaze is consistently and authentically himself, which along with his pure talent has made him a name to remember.
All in all, “Love All Serve All” has definitely earned its spot as one of my favorite albums of the year and I am excited to see what Kaze has in store in the future. Finally, I will leave you with part of Kaze’s sentiments after the album's initial release.
“Overall I’d say this is the album of rejoice, cheerfulness, and happiness …just as our lives are supposed to be.
Hope u enjoy- Kaze.”