When I first got into Mandarin music, never did I think that I would ever have the chance to ever meet, let alone interview greats who have shaped the industry into what it is today. Yet here I am, writing a feature for a Mandopop star that has arguably been the one of the most celebrated and pivotal players in the music industry over the last two or so decades – Jay Chou. The 37 year-old pioneer, who was one of the first to spark public interest in an East-Meets-West fusion of musical styles is quite possibly one of the reasons for Mandopop’s past global success; a claim reinforced by the fact that I sit here, very much aware of Chou’s pervasive influence and writing this article from Perth, Western Australia – the most isolated city in the world.
Spreading his music with the world it seems has always been Jay’s primary aim, even as he took on exciting new challenges such as directing and acting. Chou explains that in deciding to take on Hollywood with roles in blockbuster films such as The Green Hornet and the recent Now You See Me 2, his focus in fact was on the music.
“What really gets me excited is not being able to act, but being able to see my music and compositions released throughout the entire world. Such as the song “Nunchucks” which accompanied the The Green Hornet movie and was heard around the world. This time I also wrote “Now You See Me” for the movie Now You See Me 2, and that was also the first time a Chinese song was made the theme song for a Hollywood movie worldwide.”
Indeed, for Chou the sky’s the limit as he goes from strength to strength with a constant stream of chart-topping albums, breaking records and taking on Hollywood. However in recent years we’ve seen the Mandopop King finally settle down, getting married and giving birth to his daughter Hathaway, who was one of the most prominent influences for his latest album Bedtime Stories.
“When releasing this album, I myself also changed my identity. As a father, the song “Lover from Previous Life” was inspired by Hathaway’s random tinklings on the piano. I then took the melody she played and turned it into a full song. So this song was composed both by myself and my daughter, it’s a really special feeling! Other than that, Bedtime Stories also relates to the bedtime stories little children like hearing their parents tell them at night, it’s just that the genres are a little different from what everyone expected!”
Certainly, no matter how many bizarre and otherworldly forms Jay’s music may take on, the maestro is undeniably creative in the way he presents his music. He fervently describes the packaging and concept behind his latest album:
“The entire album is like an audiobook, the ten songs are like ten musical stories full of imagination! The album name is called ‘Bedtime Stories’, so other than the album’s normal version, on the hardcover version we designed it like a real book, reflecting upon this ‘Bedtime Stories’ album concept! So this time from the music to the packaging I hope that fans can immerse themselves in the ‘Bedtime Stories’ atmosphere.”
From cowboys to sailors, vampires to magicians, one thing I’ve always wanted to know was how the singer-songwriter has managed to conjure up all these wacky, eclectic themes over the years. Upon asking this, Chou then let me in on a little-known fact- that his album concepts always come to him organically, rather than planned.
“Actually in the production process of albums, I don’t actually start by designing a theme, but very luckily, once we get to a certain point in production, then an entire album concept will appear!”
Upon hearing this, I was shocked. A superstar like Jay Chou just letting an album take shape by itself, no planning involved? But then again, after recalling that the easy-going singer’s catchphrase is “Aiyo, not bad”, everything kind of started to make more sense. The singer further reaffirmed his relaxed outlook as he shared some calming words of advice for fans participating in his ongoing video creation contest for his latest video “Tu Er Qi Ice Cream”, featuring none other than NBA high-roller Jeremy Lin.
“I hope that everyone can take a relaxed approach to entering this competition, don’t get stressed about it! The more relaxed you feel, the more you are able to create interesting videos…”
Words from a true master of his craft. Perhaps it is this ‘zen’ attitude of Chou’s which has allowed this world-class artist to pace himself, reprising the secret of his long-lasting popularity and success. Indeed, the youthful pop icon shows no signs of tiring, with a seeming wellspring of inspiration and passion for his music always at the ready.
“I’ve interacted with music since I was young, so it will always be in my life. Just like I’ve previously said, if one day I don’t wish to be in front of screen, I will still continue to create. And in life there is inspiration everywhere, from friends, family… you can find a lot of themes. Other than that, when writing lyrics, partners such as Vincent Fang and Huang Jun-lang also have many pretty good themes, we bounce off each other to create new works.”
So for all those hard-core Jay fans out there, you can rest assured that this superstar will never be too far out of earshot. Currently touring on his The Invincible world tour, the megastar even hinted to us that this time, he’ll be incorporating even more interactions with his fans into the concert program.
True to the name of this concert series, Chou’s influence over the Chinese speaking community and wider world has only cemented further with time. Be it movies, TV, touring or original compositions, it’s comforting to at least see that even after all these years, the prolific singer’s passion for creation and innovation has never once wavered. Even if there have been a few bumps in the road in recent years, Jay Chou has long since cemented himself a place in Mandopop’s Hall of Fame. A phenomenon in his own right, I believe that it is not in fact Chou who is invincible, but his evergreen songs. With melodies that continue to be effortlessly ahead of their time even decades after their release, they’ve etched themselves-and Chou’s name-a sentimental place in the hearts of audiences both young and old. So instead of Mr. J, perhaps we should start calling him Mr. Invincible?
Show Jay Chou your creative side in the #jaychouicecream video contest.