Curated From Check Them Out For More Content.

A vinyl of Fujii Kaze’s laid on a bed of yellow and orange flowers.  The cover art features a painting of a flower on a yellow backdrop; with petals of purple, red, white and yellow.

“Hana” is the third of Fujii Kaze’s post Love All Serve All singles. And y’all. I’m a little bored.

With the Love All Serve All singles there was a real sense of Kaze becoming bolder in his music and his expression of it. The album shared the sound of Help Ever Hurt Never, but it felt like it was operating on a slightly different level musically. It was elevated. But with these new post Love All Serve All singles, it’s just more of the same, but with different producers than Kaze normally works with; neither of whom elevate his sound in any way. They’re just…replicating it. And Kaze is too damn talented to just stay in one place with this music the way he appears to be, based on these singles.

Now, I am not saying that Kaze should change his whole style or revamp his shit. But I do feel like Love All Serve All and these new songs sound like one continuous thing. More so with “Hana”, given the theme of flowers, which was a visual motif for Love All Serve All. And I completely get that the Japanese release model has a part to play in this. The singles which follow an album always sound like songs which should’ve been on said album. But Kaze is switched on. He is with it. And he appears to have a team around him who are with it too. And he also seems to have a good level of control over his music, what he puts out and how he puts it out. But I guess ‘Doing what I did before’ is the move for him now.

But I will give Kaze credit for one thing. Whilst the sauce with “Hana”, “Workin’ Hard” and “Grace” seems the same, there is a difference in it. And the difference is the lyrics. Where-as songs on Help Ever Hurt Never felt like commentaries Kaze was making about himself, and Love All Serve All felt like commentaries on Kaze’s relationship with other people, “Hana”, “Workin’ Hard” and “Grace” are all songs about the relationship Kaze has with life and his place in it. So I imagine this is going to be the theme for his inevitable third studio album, and I do like that. And this sense of Kaze’s relationship with life and his place in it is also something which is carrying through into the music videos. But I do find it to be a shame that Kaze’s sound has not shifted in some way. I don’t need it to be drastically different. But enough to feel like Kaze is actually moving his music forward. Because it’s unfortunate that despite Kaze being in a new chapter of his life and his career, that these things are only informing changes in the lyrics and not the sound. And this is more baffling to me given that for “Hana” and “Workin’ Hard”, Kaze worked with completely different producers instead of his partner in crime for his first two albums, Yaffle.

A screenshot of Fujii Kaze in his music video for “Hana”. Featuring him stood atop a truck covered in flowers, wearing an outfit made up of a colourful patchwork of different patterns and prints.
Fujii Kaze – Hana | HEHN Records / Universal Music

Back in the Spring of 2022, Kaze had posted photos of himself in the studio with A.G. Cook and “Hana” is the fruits (or blossoming rather) of that session. Or at least one of them. But if you are familiar with A.G. Cook and the PC Music sound he became known for, which was popularised by his work with Charli XCX, you would never know that A.G. Cook had anything to do with “Hana” unless somebody told you. The same goes for his work on Hikaru Utada’s “One Last Kiss”, “Kimi ni Muchuu” and “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. It’s a really interesting turn for A.G. Cook, because none of these songs feature any of his widely known signatures or traits. I just don’t see the point in Kaze working with producers other than Yaffle, just to have them do what Yaffle has always done and could still do. It’s weird to me. Did they fall out? Is there beef? As nice as “Hana” is and as much as I respect A.G. Cook’s decision to not impose his sound on Kaze, I do wish we got something more which leaned just a tad into the sound he is known for, or a twist on it. More of that A.G. Cook edge would have helped elevate the song and gave an impression that Kaze’s sound was moving in a direction. ANY direction. But props to A.G. Cook for having Fujii Kaze and Hikaru Utada on his production discography. And props to him for showing range and malleability. I think we’re going to see A.G Cook’s name pop up with far more frequency in Japanese music.

And if using A.G. Cook to produce a song just for it to not sound like A.G. Cook wasn’t enough, “Hana” comes in three versions, two of which remove whatever microscopic trace of Cook there was in the song. The single version. A ballad version. And a demo version. All three versions are worth a listen and give different energies. The demo version is just Kaze and a piano. So it has the same vibe as his covers, which is nice. The single version of “Hana” is basically built around the demo, so it’s like listening to the single version, but with all of the other instruments muted. I imagine the demo version is the one Kaze will perform live when he’s doing his piano gigs. And then we have the ballad version. The absolute nerve of this bitch. Because I actually think “Hana” works better as a ballad. Sometimes I listen to the ballad version and wish it had some strings and some light instrumentation, just to enrichen it. But sometimes I listen to the ballad version and like it with just the piano, because it feels more intimate. Like Kaze is singing it in a jazz lounge. Given the lyrics of “Hana” being touching on existential dread, I do like that the song is upbeat and optimistic. Making “Hana” a ballad would be a bit of an obvious choice for anybody other than Kaze. So it’s no wonder the single version ended up the way it did. But there really is something about the slower and more sombre tone of the ballad version which pulls at me in ways the single version just doesn’t. Or maybe I’m in my feelings and missing Angela Aki.

A screenshot of Fujii Kaze in his music video for “Hana”. Featuring him reaching up into the sky, wearing an outfit made up of a colourful patchwork of different patterns and prints.
Fujii Kaze – Hana | HEHN Records / Universal Music

As slightly ‘meh’ as I feel about “Grace”, “Workin’ Hard” and now “Hana”, I can still acknowledge they are good songs. I do like them. I am so in awe of how well Kaze knows himself musically and how he’s managed to lock in on a sound and really own it so quickly from the outset. Some artists go their whole career trying to find their sound, pin it down and just cannot for the life of them get that shit right. Just ask Koda Kumi.

“Hana” feels like a solid representation of Kaze, which I think is something that’s lacking in music nowadays. So many acts are putting out songs which say nothing about them and don’t really encapsulate them. Putting out music which does this has always been important, but is even more important in this digital day and online age where a song can end up in so many places so quickly. Acts and record labels these days are just putting songs out for the sake of songs. Everybody is trying to adhere to trends. Everybody is sounding the same. No spark. No magic. No individuality. Kaze is not one of those bitches. BUT. “Hana” being the third of a trio of singles where Kaze is just casually coasting musically is a dangerous place for him to be going into his third album. Because we have witnessed so many artists over the years get complacent with their sound and imprison themselves in it. Just ask Ayumi Hamasaki. And I do not want this to happen to Kaze. But we also know how it goes with albums in Japan. And ‘okay-ish’ singles can end up being part of an amazing album. I think back to Hikaru Utada’s Bad Mode. I wasn’t a fan of any of the singles from it, but wound up really liking the album as a whole. So, I am still anticipating Kaze’s third studio album. But I hope the follow-up to “Hana” entices me and gives me a smidge more of Kaze showing the breadth and range I know he is capable of. And perhaps given the alternate version treatment that “Hana” got for its single release and what he did with “Hedemo Ne-Yo” on Love All Serve All, maybe “Hana” will end up with another version on Kaze’s third studio album which will give more than the single version gives.

Source link

- A word from our sposor -

Single Review: Fujii Kaze – Hana