The Taiwanese superstar marks 10 years of his music through a $15-million-world tour that showcases 3D technology
By Yasminka Lee in Kuala Lumpur
More than 10 years ago, a 21-year-old young man with looks unlikely to qualify him into Taiwan’s idol-obsessed entertainment industry released an album. The album was made up of songs he wrote but were rejected by established singers. It became a surprise hit and a new star was born: Jay Chou.
A decade later, Chou is Taiwan’s biggest marquee not only in the music world but even in the movies; he has recently stepped into Hollywood. His debut as Kato in The Green Hornet was received positively by the international audience even if the movie itself was not that popular with the critics. Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat aside, his is the only successful foray into Hollywood by an Asian star of his age so far.
But it is Chou’s brand of music that brought him fame. He is not the ordinary pop star who only knows how to dance and has a passable singing voice. He has been trained in classical music since he was three years old and considers Chopin his favourite composer.
This musical ingenuity is still very evident a decade later. It’s one thing to listen to his CDs or watch DVDs of his concerts, but it’s an entirely different experience watching him perform live.
At his recent concert at the national stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Chou wowed not only the young crowd but even the more discerning ones including the editor-in-chief of The Star newspaper who tweeted that he got “dragged” into watching it but ending up being so impressed he described the concert as “amazing”.
Chou’s current concert tour, dubbed The Era, marks his 10 years in the industry. He opened it in his hometown, Taipei, last year, and has since brought it to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the US, Canada, and last weekend, Malaysia.
For non-fans, The Era concert is a good introduction to Chou’s discography as he incorporated old hits that he does not sing anymore in recent concerts. Usually, he would cover songs from his recent album but since this marks his decade in the industry, he made sure to include old school songs like Love Before the Century, Black Humour, Dad I’m Back and Nunchucks, which was featured in The Green Hornet.
In the KL leg, it was a pleasant surprise to watch Chou sing Simple Love and Common Jasmine Orange, two of his very popular songs from his second and fifth albums, respectively.
Of course choosing what songs to include in the 10th anniversary concert was daunting considering that Chou has released 10 original albums to date.
“There’s too many songs, when we were choosing songs it was vexing,” Chou said in a previous interview before he launched the concert tour.
The visual effects that used laser and 3D technology cost US$15 million, and the production team had to recreate the same stage in his overseas concerts, as well as transport the white piano that he uses for the “seasons” part of the show.
On March 4 and 5, the stadium in Malaysia’s Bukit Jalil was transformed into a land of light sticks, majority of them in neon pink, pink being Chou’s favourite colour that even the concert shirts were in pink too. The dancers and two of the guitarists wore pink pants and the nunchuks at the finale were in neon pink, but of course. Obviously, Chou is one guy who is not scared to go pink and his fans even find it adorable, not feminine.
Fans have also noted that Chou—dubbed as the ‘king of mumblers’ for his habit to mumble through his songs—is more relaxed now in interacting with the audience, unlike his earlier concerts where he simply dazzled with his singing and piano-playing, aside from the occasional flash of his dimples that was enough to send fans into a tizzy.
Chou in fact joked with the Kuala Lumpur crowd and if some were not sold on him yet, totally won them over when he sang “Malaysia wo ai ni (I love you)” at the end of Love Before the Century.
The KL leg almost religiously followed the set list of the Taipei one except for a few subtraction and addition here and there. He also played the guitar, did the beatbox and performed magic. He was joined by Lara, Cindy Yen and the Drifters—all of who are under his music company, JVR. But there was no Jolin Tsai, his ex-though-never-admitted-girlfriend, who surprised the audience on the third night of his Taipei concert with a brief number with Chou.
Outside the concert venue, CDs and DVDs of his albums, concerts and movies were being sold. There were even DVDs of Pandamen, a television drama that he produced and directed, as well as Mr. J Channel, his short-lived talk show.
However, Pandamen and Mr. J Channel were not successful despite having Chou behind them. Perhaps he has money to burn or he just wants to pay forward for the success he has achieved in the last decade helping out lesser known friends by featuring them in his projects. After all, without friends who believed in him like TV host Jacky Wu, Chou may still be writing songs for other artistes or teaching piano to students who will never dream of becoming a Jay Chou simply because he remains unknown.
Chou’s fans should not only thank Wu and the others who believed in his talent, but even those singers who rejected his songs because that served as an avenue to launch his career.
Or perhaps it all goes down to “yuanfen”, a Chinese concept that Chou himself believes in. Yuanfen refers to the predetermined principle that dictates a person’s relationships and encounters and believes that there is a binding force that links two persons together.
Chee, one of Chou’s Malaysian fans said: “It’s really awesome that with the power of Jay, we can make new friends and know each other.”
That is one of Chou’s greatest achievement in his decade in the entertainment business, on how he has brought together people from all walks of life and culture through his music, including those who don’t even speak nor understand Mandarin.
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(First published in AsiaNews magazine on March 11, 2011. Copyright: Asia News Network)