I’ve been a fan of Jay Chou since 2005 (wah, it’s been 10 years?!) since his Incomparable album era. But as any Jie-lun fan would tell you, his music over the years has been a process of regurgitation.
Not to say that over the years, he has not spat out any good music. JC is still, after all, one of Taiwan’s top singer-songwriters, his albums still top the charts and he still performs to packed audiences during this tour. (He also sings better live–yes, he still mumbles, but his music is also best experienced live.)
However, the predictability of his music has turned away many. You listen to a new album and chances are, you’d be able to predict how the next track would sound. There is a pattern and it never fails. Every now and then, there would be a song that would stand out in the album, but in general, the music has failed to impress critics and offered nothing new to fans.
Sad to say, his newest album, Aiyoh Not Bad, is not any different. One would have thought he would veer from the path he has since stubbornly traveled considering he had two years to work on it since Opus 12. But unfortunately, it’s more of the same.
To be fair, there are efforts to experiment with new sounds like in the first track Yang Ming Shan, but the not-so-new-novelty soon tapers off as you listen to one track after the other.
This makes me wonder what has happened to JC. It’s normal to experience a plateau. If writers get writer’s block, musicians may also get it, even the best among them. But the thing is, this has been going on for at least eight albums now. It’s like getting a movie sequel eight times in a row, same cast, same plot, same filming set, same old story or in this case, same sound. Only the title changes.
On the other hand, it’s not bad to have a distinctive sound that when people listen to a song, they’d immediately say ~ oh, that’s Jay Chou’s style. Trademark is important especially for artists. But even brand logos reinvent themselves every now and then to keep the freshness and interest.
Still, I like seven out of the 12 tracks in the new album. Aiyoh not bad. Or maybe I’m just a creature of habit, sticking to the same sound all the time. My top favorites are What Kind of Man and Zen Me Le (with Cindy Yen). [The MV for What Kind of Man with Ariel Lin was shot in Verona, Italy; he’s a Europhile with a lot of his MVs shot in Europe.]
He’s also at his best when he
mumbles sings ballads. Like I tweeted earlier, nobody does sad songs better than Jay maybe because he mumbles so you feel the pain. (He mumbles too much that in What Kind of Man, I swear I thought I heard him speak French.)
But the album could have been better.
Maybe Jay Chou needs new inspiration to be able to write new music. I’m hoping his marriage will bring something new to his musicality. Because truth is, it’s like being trapped in a boring marriage with the way his music has been going the past decade.
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