Long before becoming a marquee J-pop name, Fujii Kaze was just a kid sharing piano covers of his favorite songs online. He filmed himself tackling a wide variety of tunes from his Okayama home, first as instrumentals and then featuring his own voice as he progressed through his teens. These uploads introduced Japan to Kaze and his many sides—dexterous musician, elastic vocalist, and charming goofball. Fittingly, when Kaze shot to entertainment stardom with his 2020 debut album, HELP EVER HURT NEVER, he simultaneously put out a collection of piano-driven takes nodding to his earliest output. More than a bonus for longtime fans, HELP EVER HURT COVER provides deeper insight into the creators who shaped Kaze while highlighting his technical skills. Kaze opted for a set of all English-language songs, revealing insight into the singer-songwriter’s own taste. His early online videos found him predominantly covering Japanese pop classics; HELP EVER HURT COVER saw Kaze approaching an eclectic lineup of Western acts including The Animals, Frankie Valli, and Ariana Grande. Kaze could capture the sentimental heart of standards such as Burt Bacharach’s “(They Long To Be) Close To You” and “Alfie.” Next to those are piano interpretations of modern hits from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. The catchiness of the originals came through but Kaze’s arrangements cast them as playful lounge numbers. They also offered a sonic contrast to the works found on his major debut. HELP EVER HURT NEVER plugged contemporary pop flourishes, rock grooves, and hip-hop-indebted rhythms into Kaze’s musical structures. The covers collection, meanwhile, kept the formula simple. It was Kaze playing the piano and singing, with the only obvious studio addition being an occasional multi-tracked chorus. HELP EVER HURT COVER demonstrated Kaze’s pure chops and—when listened to alongside his first full-length—showed his varied approach to songcraft.

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