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Questions worth answering

At last year's festival, Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Nozuka played the smallest and most obscure stage at Fuji Rock--the Mokudotei, which is basically a stop-off point on the portion of the boardwalk that connects the White Stage to the Orange Court. He managed to cause quite a traffic jam.

Nozuka places emphasis on the singer half of his appelation, with a melisma-soaked R&B vocal style that would give Babyface serious pause. However, his songs are anything but the love-you-up jive that usually comes with that territory. This contrast reaches its peak in "Save Him," a harrowing, and harrowingly beautiful, song about domestic abuse. "Save him from the hand that beats me," says the anonymous, and presumably female, protagonist, and in Nozuka's alto it reaches deep into your soul were it just sits there waiting for an answer. Judging from the moony faces of the young women who listened raptly, they probably didn't fully appreciate the import of the song. However, they did get "Oh Momma," which half-Japanese Nozuka (on his father's side) wrote for his "okaasan," as he put it. It's difficult to make a son's ode to his mother sound anything but mawkish, but Nozuka turned it into a real love song. The crowd knew exactly what he was singing about.