With a twice-Grammy-nominated album and a New York Times best-seller to her credit, Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner needs little introduction, as “Jubilee” and “Crying in H Mart” have made her a fast-rising entertainment star in the past year.

Zauner appears on Variety’s new video series “Up Next” presented by Facebook to cosign her friend, colleague and tour opener Sasami, whose music is remarkably hard to pin down: A Los Angeles native, she began as a classical musician and studied French horn at Rochester’s prestigious Eastman School of Music, but soon began playing with indie bands like Cherry Glazerr before striking off on her own with her self-titled debut on Domino Records in 2019.

While that album was a fairly easy to categorize as dreampop-leaning indie rock, for her next album, “Squeeze” (due in February), she’s made a hard left deep into innovative heavy metal. While such moves aren’t unprecedented — artists like Poppy and Rina Sawayama have made similar pivots — it was a surprise for many fans, even Zauner.

“I was nervous about this new, heavier direction with ‘Squeeze,’” she says in the video below, “because Sasami writes such incredible, timeless folk songs, and I was so afraid of losing those songs. But then I heard the album, and she’s a true artist who wants to explore the paths that interest her. I think she’s going to introduce a lot of people who don’t think that they’re metal fans to metal in this tremendous but accessible way. What she’s doing musically is that perfect blend of music that can be really heavy and hard and aggressive, but is also melodic and enjoyable and catchy.”

And Sasami says in many cases, that’s exactly what’s happened.

“There were a lot of people who came up to me after and said, ‘I didn’t even know I liked metal,’ and that’s kind of the vibe — to win some people over with sounds they didn’t know they would like,” she says. “Making music is kind of like speaking a language and it’s the language I feel the most fluent in.”

The new video franchise, from Variety and Facebook, spotlights individuals from underrepresented communities who are driving change, and asks well-known creators and talent from across TV, film and music about individuals they believe are “up next” for major recognition.  

Watch the full video, featuring interviews with Sasami and Zauner, below.