24-year-old Fujii Kaze just debuted in 2019 and only rose to prominence really within the last year. Critically acclaimed, to many he represents the future of J-pop, and upon hearing his latest single, “Matsuri“, it’s not hard to understand why.
The primary appeal of “Matsuri” lies in its happy-go-lucky nature, it’s beautiful and artistic but not self-serious, content with just bringing forth a fun, happy pop song that’s more welcome now than ever. It makes sense then that thematically the point is every day of existence is a potential festival of your own making, and encourages the listener to basically come join him in not giving a fuck. It’s honestly a great four-minute escape (and the endless repeats to follow) into doing exactly that.
While Western influence is always apparent in Kaze’s music, this was a very Japanese release overall, from the traditional instrumentation to the music video’s aesthetic to the almost sultry hook that ends up surprisingly addicting. However, what drew me in from the get go was the fusion of using traditional sounds to re-create something like a G-funk era loop that plays throughout, and it ends up as the core of the track and helps separate “Matsuri” from the pack. There’s also a gear shift in the back half of the song thanks to the introduction of an electric guitar that’s hinted at in the pre-chorus, and this serves not only to build and propel the song forward, but also effectively depicts the mood change in the soundscape (portrayed in the music video as well).
“Matsuri” is a bit understated for the most part, not bombastic or over the top in its thematic portrayal of happiness and enjoying a carefree life. Those types of songs can run the risk of bogging down eventually, but Kaze threads the needle here well, delivering something that’s chill but that also never stagnates and provides a groove that’s easy to get into. If this is, as many claim, the direction that J-pop is headed in the future, then I’d love to hitch a ride.