On (finally) first listening to Jay Chou’s tenth album

Since Jay Chou’s second album, this is what I do every time he releases a new work:

  1. Pre-order or buy it in a belated panic on the day of release.
  2. Hurry home.
  3. Slip the disc into the hi-fi.
  4. Switch off all the lights and close the door.
  5. Position myself at the ‘sweet spot’ between the speakers.
  6. Listen.
  7. Listen again while squinting at mostly arcane lyrics.
  8. Put disc on repeat for a month.

I admit I’ve been skipping step 8 with the last few albums. They’ve always entertained and never failed to hold at the very least a gem or four, but I guess I’ve been searching for that high I had after listening to the second album — it yielded the irrepressible exultation, “By gosh, he did it!” (And also made me sometimes hope I’d be able to hear all the songs he’ll ever produce before I die.)

Anyway, with age (and that time-waster, Treasure Hunter — though after seeing him in a Pepsi music video, I realised he wasn’t exactly above merchandising his artistic soul), I know I might have been a bit, um, eccentric in my devotion. So, with his tenth album in eleven years, I did not die despite only getting a few days after release, and not listening to it till a week later.

Maybe it was because the one-year break enforced by The Green Hornet (can’t wait!) broke the habit of anticipation — no, that doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t it increase the anticipation? … But also the anticipation that it should be better … maybe it was the fear that the album would be disappointing even with him taking a break — a fear not helped by the bleepy bloopy music, undergirding what was undeniably his voice, pouring through the store where I got the album. “What the heck!”

The nail in the coffin of fear though was the packaging (I regret getting the special edition, which was only a tin can and some metal buttons. Thanks a lot. The second album’s sticker was still the best freebie.) — there was a vampire theme. Jay Chou as Edward Cullen?! Involuntary eye-roll. Then burning questions:

  1. Usually only concept albums would have the artiste decked out according to some sort of theme. The whole album would be based on that theme, not just one song — this is what he’s done in his most of his albums though, but when you have a distinctive public persona, I guess you can do anything you want. However, I couldn’t really identify a ‘vampire’ song anywhere in this album … maybe I’m thinking too literally? I heard about him saying it’s cos vampires are a popular thing going round … !!! … like a disease if you ask me.
  2. If you’re supposed to be a vampire, why is there food on the banquet table?
  3. Who the heck is that dolled-up woman? Hey … didn’t you say once that if you had a girlfriend, you’d plaster her face all over your album … but maybe you’ve learnt a lesson from poor Patty Hou.

All that aside, I finally found myself slipping the disc into the hi-fi. But not switching off the lights. And quite determined to potter about the flat unless compelled to otherwise.

First song: some bleepy bloopy, but not too bad, was manageable. An experiment, clearly.

Second song: Hey. Something … different. Emotion. I feel emotion. Huh? I haven’t ever been … moved by one of his weeping Tarzan songs before … huh. I sat down and started paying attention.

Third song: Woah. Experiment with the voice — so intimate, can’t tear self away now.

Fourth song: The comedy number. Genuine laughter in parts. Entertainment! English!! Full meta jacket!!!

And so it went … except for the seventh song, which was the scary bleepy bloopy song I heard in the store, and was just as strange on the second go, I was drawn in. I even did my silly dance to the ninth song. And was truly moved by the eleventh, even while giggling to him moaning about his Time cover (I have the issue! Sort of understand why he wants a reshoot, but the cover photo captured that cheery bravado he has, I thought. And gosh, I’ve gotta go find that CNN interview!).

I think … I think I’m going to put the disc on repeat for a while. There’s something in there … Yes, his greatest work is yet to be — I have a dream about what that could be like — but I think he’s heading in that direction. It seems to me that art, or at least popular art, is produced as a response to the world, but the shaping of that response lies in the hands of the artist(e). Someone who can say “Don’t gamble — gambling isn’t good” while performing as a guest of a casino (i.e. The Venetian) surely has the potential to shape a response of startling and enduring beauty. May his myriad blessings bear ever greater fruit in the days to come.

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5 thoughts on “On (finally) first listening to Jay Chou’s tenth album

  1. I fell in love with the 3rd song and had it on repeat for the longest time. The only disappointing thing was its MTV – totally not what I imagined when I listened to the song (I had so much anticipation but it fell flat after I’ve watched it). This is still my favourite song of the album though (partly because of the lyrics – let’s not forget the immense talent of Fang Wen Shan too).

    My 2nd fave (on repeat now) is the 6th song. I love how it goes into a totally different genre in the middle and then going back. This is why I started listening to him in the first place. He creates genres and others really just copy him. Also this song is emotional but not in the wailing and I-need-to-sing-as-high-as-possible-in-my-real-voice-even-if-my-voice-is-not-cut-out-for-it sort of way (like the 2nd song – still nice though).

    Yes, he used too much bleepy effects in this album – 1st and 7th song. And yes the 7th song sucks – cheap (in lyrics too). But I guess every album must have a song like that (catering to the techno genre). If you’ve noticed, he seems to have fallen into a fixed formula and genre-proportion in his recent albums. I like the last part of the 1st song with the vocal overlays and harmony.

    I always chuckle a bit at the start of the 4th song – it never gets old! Again, this song is part of that “formula” ie. the token joker song.

    The 5th song is really forgettable and is the token song with Hokkien.

    The 8th song is kind of standard too though I like the arrangement (it really gives a very cold and windy (even snowy) feel).

    The 9th song is very similar to the 10th song of the previous album (both in lyrics and tune – which is actually quite disappointing when you think of it). Yet another manisfestation of the “formula”.

    The 10th song is almost exactly the same (arrangment too) like Dui4 Bu4 Qi3 of the 2nd album. It has merely been updated to the style of today. This is kind of like the filler song of the album.

    Actually if you look at the lyrics more closely, you can also see that Fang Wen Shan is getting exhausted lyrically and I see repetitions of phrases and themes. In this sense, he is less talented than Lin Xi (in the Lin Xi-Faye Wong collaborations). But granted Fang Wen Shan deals with fantasy themes which get exhausted much faster.

    The 11th song is his typical I-am-just-a-human-being-so-don’t-treat-me-like-a-god-cos-I-can’t-take-the-pressure-yet-might-be-secretly-wanting-the-attention lament. There must be at least one of these – like the paparazzi song in one of his previous albums.

    So there you have it, my review. I have every one of his albums by the way. I am looking forward to karaoke-ing his new album. Sydney Chinatown’s karaoke parlours can be surprisingly up-to-date.

    JQ

  2. Err… No analysis, but i have been having 2nd, 3rd and 6th song on repeat. Song no3 was the song that caught my attention when i speed through my first hearing. Unlike u, my first hearing is usually very fast. I listen to a verse and a chorus before deciding whether I like it or not. Some songs don’t even get me to the chorus before i skip to the next song. So a particularly good album will take me a longer time during the first hearing, if not, i’m done in 10mins.

    And the CNN interview which i found. http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNjI0NjU0ODQ=.html

  3. Hey JQ, you played a big part in igniting my devotion, you know — don’t know if you remember, but the long phone conversation we had about his 1st album truly made me realise just how awesome it (and he) was. So, what I’m trying to say is … you have to bear responsibility! :p Anyway, I agree that no. 11 is yet another paparazzi-moaning song (no. 3 if you count the one he wrote with Vivian Hsu for one of her albums), but it’s much more effective than the one with the camera sounds, I think.

    MY, thanks for the link … actually I went and found the interview right after I blogged about it — the interviewer is kinda weird, man! And the thing I remember most is his car …!

  4. I have yet to watch the CNN video but if it has anything to do with his English then I’ll have to brace myself before watching. I saw the TIME cover though and agree with you.

    I didn’t know I influenced your Jay-adoration. Long phone conversation? Can’t believe we did that over an album. Oh I remember, we were young then.

    I still think that his first album is the best. And my all-time favourite was Niang Zi – that sealed the deal ie. made me decide to have every one of his albums. That song was like nothing else in the entire market at that time (and I suspect even now).

    And I think in this new album, if you scrutinise the lyrics of the 1st song, it can be intepreted as him as a (flying) vampire who lives through the ages via his music. So the vampire album cover image is kind of (tenuously) justified.

  5. very tenuously justified! will see what happens during the concert … i will poke my eyes out if he does another ‘sexy’ dance though.

    yeah, still remember you enthusing over 娘子! i think my ears weren’t sophisticated enough to understand then, so you definitely pointed the way forward. (Limin also.)

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