A Mandopop fan's journey with Jay Chou

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

What would it take for another Jay Chou? With his latest release, “Mojito”, we look at reasons why Taiwan’s Prince (or King) of R&B rose to the top since the year 2000 and while reviewing his works, a fan reflects his growth as an artist through her lens. Has he lost his magic touch? Or have young fans become demanding? Or simply put, a generation gap?

An article in Chinese was sent by a music industry friend of mine. The title literally translated, “Giving up on Jay Chou - A story from a fan born in the 90s”. For those who tuned in to Jay’s debut album from the beginning, there might be some poignancy reading such a title. Jay began his career in November 2000 and swiftly became the most talked about Taiwanese R&B singer in the Mandopop circle.

Without fail, every album Jay put out had chart-topping hits. We’re spoilt for choice, but here are some notable tracks if you haven’t heard.

With his signature Chinese style (中国风), music arrangements, and rapping style, which some call “mumbles”, Jay’s talent in songwriting and musical instruments has unquestionably earned him much respect in the Chinese music industry. Last month he released “Mojito”, exuding a Cuban summer vibe. The music video, not surprisingly, was also shot in Havana, Cuba.

According to the fan’s account, “Mojito”, compared to Jay’s other recent releases, has a pleasing tune, but doesn’t send the heart pulsating as his earlier chart-toppers. Jay evolved as a singer/songwriter, rose to international stardom, runs his own label, JVR Music, dabbled in acting with notable films include: Initial D, Curse of the Golden Flower, The Green Hornet and Now You See Me 2 with Daniel Radcliffe, film directing The Secret and later a musical drama, The Rooftop, to publishing his own book, “Grandeur de D Major”. He was also brand ambassador to Pepsi, later shot a Sprite commercial with Lakers’ basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant and more recently, endorsed Tudor's watches in their "#Born to Dare" campaign. Jay’s revenue streams no longer comes from music royalties alone. In his 2014 Opus 2 concert in Malaysia, Jay referred to writing all 12 songs in his new album, “Aiyo, Not Bad”, told fans to listen but it’s okay not to purchase, as this isn’t his main income stream.

From the article, the fan continues to highlight Ryuichi Sakamoto’s journey as an idol from Yellow Magic Orchestra, pioneering electronic music in the 70s to a respectable music craftsman through the ages. Music for Sakamoto, seems to be an avenue for personal and philosophical exploration, which this fan yearns to see as Jay matures with the industry.

Twenty years in, being the successful artist he is, has Jay placed too much emphasis on commercialism or now, as a husband to Hannah Quinlivan and father to Hathaway Chou and Jaylen Romeo Chou, his priorities have shifted? On the other hand, isn’t Jay giving (or attempting to) the audience what they want? Perhaps the bigger question is, in this age of content overload, how should artists strike the tough balance of re-inventing themselves for relevance to the young audience yet maintain the authenticity that first inspired their fans?

Click here to read the full fan account in Mandarin.