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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Who is Jay Chou?

Who is Jay Chou?  The entertainment and acting world know Jay Chou as a Taiwanese musician, singer-songwriter, music and film producer, actor and director who has won the World Music Award four times. He is well-known for composing all his own songs and songs for other singers. In 1998 he was discovered in a talent contest where he displayed his piano and song-writing skills. Over the next two years, he was hired to compose for popular Mandarin singers. Although he was trained in classical music, Chou combines Chinese and Western music styles to produce songs that fuse R&B, rock and pop genres, covering issues such as domestic violence, war, and urbanization.
In 2000, Chou released his first album, titled Jay, under the record company Alfa Music. Since then he has released one album per year except in 2009, selling several million copies each. His music has gained recognition throughout Asia, most notably in regions such as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and in overseas Asian communities, winning more than 20 awards each year. He has sold more than 28 million albums worldwide up to 2010.[3] He debuted his acting career in Initial D (2005), for which he won Best Newcomer Actor in both the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by Hong Kong Film Awards for his role in Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). He produced the theme song for the film Ocean Heaven starring Jet Li. His career now extends into directing and running his own record company JVR Music.

 Life and career

Jay Chou was born 18 January 1979 and grew up in Linkou, Taipei County, Taiwan.[4] Both his parents were secondary school teachers: his mother, Ye Hui Mei , taught fine arts, while his father, Zhou Yao Zhong , was a biomedical researcher. His mother noticed his sensitivity to music and took him to piano lessons at the age of three.[4] During his childhood, he was fascinated with capturing sounds and songs with his tape recorder, which he carried everywhere with him. In the third grade, he became interested in music theory and also started cello lessons. He is an only child and loved to play piano, imitate TV actors, and perform magic tricks. His favorite composer was, and still is to this day, Chopin. His parents divorced when he was 13, which caused him to become reclusive and introverted. Although he had friends, he often preferred to be alone, listening to music, contemplating and daydreaming. At Tamkang Senior High School, he majored in piano and minored in cello. He showed talent for improvisation, became fond of pop music and began to write songs.[5][6]
Chou graduated from high school with inadequate grades for university, so he prepared for military service, which was compulsory for all Taiwanese men at the age of 18. However, a sports injury triggered by an unexplainable and severe back pain eventually led to the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a hereditary spine inflammation disease; as a result, he was exempted from conscription.[7][8] Meanwhile, he found himself a job as a waiter. Without his knowing, his friend had entered both their names in a talent show called Super New Talent King. Chou played the piano accompaniment for his friend, whose singing was described as "lousy". Although they did not win, the show's host Jacky Wu—an influential character in Taiwan's entertainment business—happened to glance at Chou's music score and was impressed with its complexity. Wu hired him as a contract composer and paired him with the novice lyricist Vincent Fang.[6]

Over the next two years he wrote songs for Mandarin pop artists, and also learned recording and sound mixing; his dedication was apparent as he even slept in the music studio. Wu's music studio was later sold to Alfa Music, and the new manager Yang Jun Rong asked him to release his own album. Chou already had an arsenal of songs he wrote for others but had been rejected, so among those he chose 10 for his debut CD Jay that was released in 2000. The album established his reputation as a musically gifted singer-songwriter whose style is a fusion of R&B, rap, classical music, and yet distinctly Chinese. His fame spread quickly in Chinese-speaking regions including countries throughout Southeast Asia.[9][10][11] Since 2000, Chou has released one album per year, except the year 2009, each selling several million copies, and has been recognized with hundreds of awards.[12] In 2003, he was the cover story of Time magazine (Asia version),[6] acknowledging his influence on popular culture. He has held four world tours, "The One" (2002), "Incomparable" (2004), "Jay Chou The World Tours" (2007–2008) and "The Era" (2010–2011) performing in cities such as Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Las Vegas, Toronto and Vancouver. Unlike most singers, Chou has an enormous amount of creative control over his music.[6] He is not only the songwriter but also the producer on all of his albums; since 2005 he is also the music director and also directs his own music videos.

Music

Musical style

Chou's compositions are loosely categorized as pop music. While many of his works fall into contemporary R&B, rap, and rock genres, the term "Chou Style" has been popularized to describe his trademark cross-cultural music and his insistence on singing with relaxed enunciation. Taipei Times once described the meaning of "Chou Style": "In what has become the archetypal Chou style, Taiwan's favorite son blends pop, rap, blues and a smorgasbord of esthetic elements of world music to create his dream-like never-never land ..."[15]

He regularly fuses traditional Chinese instruments and styles with R&B or rock to form a new genre called "Zhongguo feng" which literally means "Chinese Style Music",[a] some of which are written in the Pentatonic Scale as opposed to the more common seven-note scale (Diatonic Scale) to accentuate an oriental style. Besides his own culture, he also incorporated Spanish guitar in "Red Imitation" , American techno/electronica in "Herbalist's Manual" , rap with subtle classical music undertones in "Reverse Scales" , and Bossanova style in "Rosemary" , to name a few. Sound effects from everyday life are frequently woven into his music, such as bouncing ping pong balls, touch tone phone dialing, helicopter blades, dripping rain, and radio static noise (concrete music).[b]
His formal musical training is evident by the use of classical textures in his compositions. For example, counterpoint was used in "Perfection"  and "Sorry" , while polyphony can be found in "The Wound That Ends War"  and "Twilight's Chapter Seven".
Chou's albums have been noted for the lack of change compared to his earlier works, yet he firmly stated that he will not alter his style: "They say I've been standing still ... but this is the music I want, and I don't see what I want by moving ahead."[16] To demonstrate his point, he named his 2006 album Still Fantasy after his 2001 album Fantasy. His use of relaxed enunciation has been criticized as "mumbling"[17] which he also insisted will not change;[18] however, recently he has adopted clearer pronunciation for certain songs, particularly more traditional Chinese style songs, such as "Faraway"  which features Fei Yu-ching and "Chrysanthemum Terrace" .[19]

Lyrics

Chou is more often a singer-composer than a lyricist. Several "regulars" write the lyrics for most of his music, but the content and style is unified with his own personality and image, covering a diverse range of topics and ideas. Vincent Fang accounts for more than half of the lyrics in his albums, helping to establish an important element in Chou's music: the use of meaningful, imagery- and emotionally-rich lyrics, sometimes written in the form of ancient Chinese poetry with reference to Chinese history or folklore.[c] In addition to writing romantic hits,[d] he also touches on war, the Bible, sports, and martial arts.[e] Vivian Hsu is a singer herself and has helped with Chou's earlier hits,[f] while Huang Jun Lang  is noted for his work surrounding unusual themes (such as a detective story and chess game).[g]
Chou himself has written lyrics for many ballads,[h] but has also discussed societal ills such as drug addiction in "Coward"  and loss of the rural countryside to urbanization in "Terrace fields" . Domestic violence discussed in "Dad, I am back" received a great deal of commotion since he was the first to bring up this taboo subject in Sanscript music,[20] which helped solidify his status as a pioneer and a unique pop singer capable of approaching serious issues. In the songs "Maternal grandmother"  and "Listen to Mother", he voiced his high regard for family values. He addressed personal issues about his failure to enter university in "Split" , his resentment towards the paparazzi in "Besieged From All Sides" , and highlighted the importance of individuality in "Popular Imitation" . "Rice Fragrance" , a song from his 9th album Capricorn encourages people not to give up their dreams even when facing difficulties in life.

Collaborations

Chou began as a songwriter for other singers and continued this area of work even after he debuted his own career in singing. He has composed frequently for Jolin Tsai, Landy Wen, and occasionally for other Taiwanese singers such as Coco Lee, S.H.E, Vivian Hsu, Leehom Wang, Will Liu, Valen Hsu, and Hong Kong pop stars Edmond Leung, Gigi Leung, Jordan Chan, Edison Chen, Karen Mok, Leo Ku, Eason Chan, and Joey Yung, as well as a one-time collaboration with Howard Su. He has also written for singers outside of his generation—over one dozen songs for his mentor Jacky Wu, later also for Taiwanese singer Jody Chiang, and Hong Kong singers Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok, and Kenny Bee.[21][22][23][24]
He initiated the band Nan Quan Mama in 2004, selecting band members and overseeing their album production. The group has been noted for sounding too similar to their mentor;[25] as a result, Chou has reduced his involvement in the band,[26] but continues to help increase their exposure to mass audiences by inviting them as guests performers for his own concerts and music videos.[27][28][29][30]

Patty Hou,
He has performed live duets with Landy Wen,[28] Jolin Tsai,[31] and former girlfriend news anchor Patty Hou,[32] but only two studio recordings of duets have been formally placed in his own albums: "Coral Sea"  in 2005 with Lara Veronin (of Nan Quan Mama)[33] and "Faraway"  in 2006 features Fei Yu-Ching, who began his career in the 1970s.[34] Besides working with singers, Chou's longest-running collaboration is with lyricist Vincent Fang, as they both started their careers in the music field in 1998. The compilation album Partners featured 12 songs, each consisting of Chou's musical and Fang's lyrical compositions.[35] Fang has written the words to more than 40 of Chou's songs, was the chief editor of Chou's book Grandeur de D Major , and is now Chou's business partner (together with Chou's manager JR Yang) for the record company JVR Music.[36][37] Jay Chou was also featured in Cindy Yen's song "Sand Painting" released in October 2009. Jay Chou collaborates with Kobe Bryant on "The Heaven and Earth Challenge" in order to "promote youth creativity, as well as an upcoming slam-dunk competition in China." The song was released at a press conference before the NBA All-Star Game on 20 February 2011.[38]

World tours



Jay held his first series of five solo concerts, titled Fantasy Concert , with the first stop on 11 January 2001 at Taoyuan Arena, Taiwan. Followed by two shows at the Hong Kong Coliseum, one in Malaysia and ended in Singapore on 10 February 2002. His second concert tour, The One Concert commenced on 28 September 2002 at Taipei Municipal Stadium, followed by 11 stops and ended at Shenzhen Stadium, China on 3 January 2004.
Two more series of world tours followed: Incomparable Concert  in 2004 and Jay Chou 2007 World Tours , with stops in cities such as Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Las Vegas, Toronto and Vancouver. In 2010, to celebrate Jay's 10 year career in the entertainment industry, he embarked on his fifth series of concert tour titled, New Era World Tour, with the first stop of three concerts from 11 to 13 June 2010 at Taipei Arena, followed by 24 stops ending in Malaysia on 5 March 2011.
World tours/Live (DVD) album releases

Other works

Movie career

Chou formally entered the film industry in 2005 with the release of the movie Initial D . He has since acted in three other movies, directed one film and more than a dozen music videos. Chou, who once said "I live because of music",[39] ventured into movies because he felt the need for a new challenge. As fans have grown concerned that movies will compromise his music career, Chou has repeatedly reassured that movies are a source of inspiration and not a distraction; at the same time, he realizes the need to balance both careers and maintain his place in the music field to garner the continued support of fans.[40][41][42][43]

 Acting

Entry into acting was an unexpected move for Chou.[41] His high school English teacher thought he was capable of very few facial expressions,[6] and the director of Hidden Track (2003, a movie in which Chou had a cameo role) said that his strong individualistic personality will not make him a good actor.[44] In 2005, Chou's first role as the lead actor in Initial D served two purposes: to launch his acting debut, and to increase his exposure to Japanese audiences.[45] This film is based on the Japanese comic Initial D, where Chou played Takumi Fujiwara, a gifted touge racer who is quiet and rarely shows expression. Some reviewers criticized his bland acting[46] while others felt he performed naturally, but only because the character’s personality closely mirrored his own.[47][48] His performance in Initial D won him Best Newcomer Actor in Golden Horse Awards and Hong Kong Film Awards.[49][50] Chou’s second film was Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). As a supporting character, he drew much of the attention of Chinese reporters; Chou’s involvement in this movie was announced in its own press conference,[51] separate from the meeting held for Chow Yun-fat, Gong Li, and the other actors. Chou portrayed Prince Jai, the ambitious second eldest prince and general of the Imperial army whose personality epitomizes Xiao , the Chinese virtue of filial piety. In this internationally-released film, North American audiences saw Chou for the first time. According to Chinese movie critics, comments about his acting ranged from "lacks complexity"[52] to "acceptable,"[53][54] but was critically praised by Western reviewers.[55][56][57][58][59] His performance in Curse of the Golden Flower was nominated Best Supporting Actor in the Hong Kong Film Awards.[60] In the 2008 film Kung Fu Dunk, Chou portrayed a kung fu student and dunking prodigy, and the film earned over ¥100 million (US$14.7 million).[61] Chou portrayed Kato in The Green Hornet, directed by Michel Gondry and released in January 2011, after Hong Kong actor Stephen Chow withdrew from the project, the film grossed over $228 million worldwide.[62] MTV Networks' NextMovie.com named him one of the 'Breakout Stars to Watch for in 2011'.[63]

Directing



Chou's acquired his first directing experience in 2004 through music videos. He initially experimented with a song by the group Nan Quan Mama titled "Home"  where he was involved throughout the entire process from research to editing. After learning the difficulties of being a director, he refused to direct again even at the request of his record company.[64] However, his interest resurfaced again as he directed music videos for 4 of the 12 songs in own album November's Chopin in 2005,[65] and later television advertisements.[66][67] By 2006, he had taken responsibility for the storyboard, directing, and editing of music videos for all his songs.[40] It is unclear how the public appraises his work, since music videos are rarely the subject of critical review; however, director Zhang Yimou said that Chou's directing abilities may surpass his own in the future, after viewing several of Chou's music videos.[51][68]
In February 2007, Chou finally directed his first movie Secret. The story he wrote is based loosely on his relationship with a high school girlfriend, with a plot focused on music, love, and family.[69] He stars as the lead actor of the film with Kwai Lun-Mei‎ as the female lead, and Hong Kong veteran actor Anthony Wong as Chou’s father. Despite previous experience in filming music videos, Chou admits that movies are more challenging due to storyline and time constraints.[69] This movie was released in July 2007.[70]
In 2005, Jay Chou played the male lead in Initial D, but according to reports, he will be back to direct the sequel, while Andrew Lau, who was a co-director of the first Initial D, will take on the role of the producer.[71]

Book: Grandeur de D Major

Chou published his first book titled Grandeur de D Major  on November 25, 2004.[k] This 200-page book features a prologue written by his family, friends, and co-workers; the main section is a compilation of his personal attitudes, philosophies, and recollections of childhood experiences along with pictures from his music videos, many of which have never been released; and lastly, a list of the artist's major awards, musical and lyrical compositions, and discography. For the usually low-profile singer, this book revealed his personality and convictions that has served as the basis of his musical and public image. He demonstrated a strong appreciation of family values with an especially deep connection with his mother and maternal grandmother. His confidence and dedication towards music is evident as he dedicated 2 out of 7 chapters to music: the current state of the industry, his composition methodology, and the importance of individualism to his success in music. This pride is contrasted against his modesty and self-assessed naivety about many aspects in life, particularly regarding relationships and marriage.

Endorsements

Chou has been a spokesperson for popular brands such as Pepsi (2002–2007), Panasonic (2001–2005), Motorola (since 2006), M-Zone/China Mobile (since 2003), Levi's (2004–2005), Deerhui (sporting goods, since 2003), and Metersbonwe Group (casual wear, since 2003), Colgate (2004–2005), popular computer game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (2002), science and nature magazine National Geographic (2005).[72][73] To maximize the celebrity branding effect, advertisements are nearly always linked to his music and TV commercials are occasionally directed by him.[66][67] He acted as the tourism ambassador for Malaysia in 2003.[74][75] Recently[when?], Jay is promoting Sprite with Angela Chang. In the commercial, he can be seen performing magic tricks. He also did a Sprite commercial with Kobe Bryant.

Accolades

From the launch of his music career in 2000, Jay Chou has won more than 350 singer, singer-songwriter, and producer awards in Asia.[12] The highly coveted Golden Melody Awards in Taiwan[j] awarded "Best Album" for his debut CD Jay (2000) in 2001, and five awards (including "Best Album", "Best Composer", and "Best Producer") in the following year for the album Fantasy (2001). However, failure to win "Best Album" for three consecutive years has left him disheartened with award ceremonies. Although he continues to win more than 20 awards per year from various organizations in Asia, Chou has stated he will rely more on album sales as an indicator of his music's quality and popularity.[76] In 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008, he was awarded Best-Selling Artist in China by World Music Awards for the albums Common Jasmin Orange, Still Fantasy and On the Run.[77]

Media and public relations

Public image

Despite living under continual media scrutiny, Chou's public image has changed little over the years as he emphasizes individuality as his "personal philosophy".[6][78] In his music, this is also evident as he fuses Chinese and Western styles and explores topics unconventional for a pop singer, which have been described as "authentic" and "revolutionary".[6][10][11] The media describes a hard-working[79] perfectionist[6] with clear self-direction[80] who is occasionally regarded as competitive[81] and a "control freak".[6] There is a misunderstanding about his nickname "Chairman Chou" , used by both the press and fans to underscore his domineering personality and impact on Asian music,[82] but also points at his musical talent.[20][79] Yet the origin of this nickname emerges from his fever of collecting antiques as the word comes from "antique" in Chinese . Outside of music, Chou is reported as shy, quiet,[80][83] modest, and views filial piety as "the most important thing".[84] In-line with his aim to present a positive image,[16] he is a non-smoker, non-drinker, and does not go to nightclubs.[85] Government officials and educators in Asia have awarded him for his exemplary behaviour,[86] designated him a spokesperson in the youth-empowerment project "Young Voice" in 2005 and an anti-depression campaign in 2007,[87][88] His lyrics for two songs[i] has been incorporated into the school syllabus to inspire motivational and filial attitudes.[89][90][91][92] In November 2007, Chou was criticized for attending the funeral of Taiwanese gang leader Chen Chi-li to console Chen's son Baron Chen, whom Chou met while filming Kung Fu Dunk.[93][94][95]

Response to the news media and paparazzi

As with other stars, Chou has expressed a strong dislike of the paparazzi. In the early years of his career, unwanted attention by the media was usually dealt with by avoidance. In-line with his quiet nature, he frequently wore baseball caps and hoods while lowering his head and evading eye contact during interviews.[83] In recent years however, he has been less passive about the invasion of his privacy. To discourage the paparazzi from taking unsolicited pictures, Chou is known to photograph the paparazzi that follow him.[96] He openly calls the paparazzi "dogs" and tabloids "dog magazines", as shown in his lyrics for "Besieged From All Sides". The media have also accused Chou of evading compulsory military service[97] by feigning to suffer from ankylosing spondylitis. Later that year he was acquitted after providing the relevant medical records and letters from the army confirming a lawful exemption from draft dated before the start of his music career.[98]
Despite constant harassment and stalking by the media, he does acknowledge that not all media attention is unwelcome.[99] Coverage by international journals and news agencies such as Time,[6] The Guardian,[100] and Reuters[78] help ascertain his influence on mainstream culture. An editorial written by Kerry Brown of Chatham House named Chou as one of the 50 most influential figures in China, one of only three singers on a list dominated by politicians and corporate owners.[101] At the end of 2009, he was included on JWT's annual list of 100 Things to Watch in 2010.[102]

Fanbase


It is difficult to estimate the size and global spread of Chou's fanbase. Jay's fanbase originated and grew extensively in China. The Chinese-speaking populations of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Mainland China make up a significant percentage of Chou's fans. Despite rampant piracy issues in this region of Asia, particularly in China, every album Chou has released so far has surpassed 2 million sales. According to Baidu, the most popular internet search engine in China, Chou is the number one searched male artist in 2002, 05, 06 and 07.[103][104][105][106]
In Hong Kong, he has been the best-selling Mandarin artist for the past 4 years.[107] According to a 2004 survey in five Chinese urban centers for children ages 9 to 14, 1 in 6 named Chou as their favorite idol;[108] he was also reported as the favorite singer of youths aged 8 to 25 in a study conducted in seven Asian countries (2006).[109] He has a solid fanbase throughout Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.[109] In Singapore, Chou was the second most searched celebrity behind Britney Spears in the music category.[110]
Currently, Chou remains largely unknown outside of Asia, except in cities with large Chinese immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. He has held concerts in major venues such as the Acer Arena (Sydney – 3 July 2009), HP Pavilion at San Jose (San Jose – 31 December 2010), Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (Los Angeles – 8 January 2011), MGM Grand (Las Vegas—25 December 2002), Rogers Arena (Vancouver – 23 December 2010),[6] Shrine Auditorium (Los Angeles—18 December 2004),[111] Galen Center (Los Angeles—24 December 2007) and the Air Canada Centre (Toronto – 18 December 2008). His intention to increase his prominence in the Western world beyond Chinese audiences is clear. In 2006, Chou composed and sang the theme song for Fearless, a movie released in major theatres in most English-speaking countries,[112] though the impact to his fame has been minimal. His role in Curse of the Golden Flower (limited release) marks his acting debut in North America. Despite having a supporting but important role in the story's plot, the North American version of the official posters only featured a view of his back, greatly contrasting the Asian versions where his face and name were clear and placed between the leading actor and actress. Although Chou is still far from being well-known to English audiences, this movie has brought him international exposure. Chou gained further exposure to western audiences in his starring role as crimefighter Kato in January 2011's The Green Hornet.
Chou has won the Favorite Male Artist of the 20th Golden Melody Awards in Taiwan. He did not attend the event to collect the award because he was on tour in China at the time.

Filmography

Films

Year Title
Role
2003 Hidden Track
"Himself"
2005 Initial D
"Takumi Fujiwara"
2006 Curse of the Golden Flower
"Prince Jai – Yuan Jie"
2007 Secret
"Jay – Ye Xiang Lun – "
Director
Producer
Original story author
2008 Kung Fu Dunk
"Fang Shi Jie – Fong Sai Kit – "
2009 The Treasure Hunter
"Lead actor [113] – Qiao Fei"
2010 True Legend
"God of Wushu" / "Drunken God"
2011 The Green Hornet
"Kato" (First Hollywood Film)
Secret 2[114]
"Jay – Ye Xiang Lun –"
Director
Viral Factor
Lead actor
2012 Initial D 2[115]
"Takumi Fujiwara"
Director

Television series

Year Title
Role
2010 Pandamen
"Detective Leo Lee"[116]
Director
Mr.J Channel
"Himself – Host"[117]

 























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