Crystal Kay has been an exciting singer to watch mature in the music industry. Since her debut at 13 years old, this Yokohama native has wowed fans with her powerful vocals and a compelling personal story of being a mixed-race singer (Korean-American) in Japan.

It’s often difficult to pin a genre on Kay, sometimes she’s on the bill as an R&B singer and sometimes she reps J-pop. On Aug. 14, fans will get the chance to see her perform at the MTV Zushi Fes 11 (Aug. 12-14), which will also feature acts such as 2PM, Do As Infinity and Kay’s fellow Sophia University graduate, Beni. The Japan Times got the inside scoop on Kay’s upcoming performance as well as her own memories of going to Japanese summer festivals as she was growing up.

Summer in Japan means music festivals, did you go to many when you were growing up?

More concerts than music festivals since my parents took me to so many different shows. We’d go to Japanese Bon festivals and I love them. I love the atmosphere, music, all the shops and wearing yukata (summer kimono).

What is one of your favorite festival memories?

My favorite was one with a mizuame (candied fruit) stand and there was this old lady working at the stand every single year. I’d play janken (paper, rock, scissors) against her and if I won she’d give me another mizuame. I was so happy when I beat her!

You’ll be at the MTV Zushi Fes on Aug. 14. What’s in store for the audience?

The last time I performed was in 2009. Back then, I had a band and two dancers. This year, I’m going to make it a little more relaxed and acoustic, a feel-good-by-the-beach kind of atmosphere … but not all the songs will be mellow. I think I want to dance a bit, too. Hopefully, the crowd will dance with me!

The festival has quite a few big names performing this year. Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing perform?

I’m looking forward to seeing After School since I’ve never seen a K-pop girl group perform live — only on TV. I’d also like to see J Soul Brothers. Something about having a lot of people in a group and dancing just makes everything exciting.

MTV Zushi Fes reminds me a lot of the annual spring break parties in the United States, which have audiences cheering on bands from a pool. Have you ever taken part in spring break?

Unfortunately I haven’t! I always wished I was one of those girls jumping around and screaming in the crowd.

I know that you’re originally from a beach area, is it good to have the “home court” advantage for a show?

It’s nice because I feel more at home, but I think the biggest difference is that it’s probably the most laid-back summer atmosphere you can get compared to shows in Tokyo. In Tokyo, everyone’s wearing clothes! It may seem “home court,” but there are people from all over that enjoy this event so overall it’s just so much great energy.

You were recently in Osaka for Soul Fest, next you’ll be in Zushi as a J-pop artist, how do you define your genre and style of music?

I’ve always struggled to categorize myself in a specific genre because I listen to anything that just sounds good, which can be from Frederic Chopin to Miley Cyrus to Bjork to Earth, Wind & Fire. I have my own style — groovy, sometimes funky, a mix of R&B and pop … feel-good, head-bopping tunes.

Crystal Kay will play the Palm Tree Stage at the MTV Zushi Fes 11 in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Aug. 14 (4:30 p.m.; ticket prices vary). For more information, visit www.riviera-z.jp/live.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.