Since Jay Chou’s second album, this is what I do every time he releases a new work:
- Pre-order or buy it in a belated panic on the day of release.
- Hurry home.
- Slip the disc into the hi-fi.
- Switch off all the lights and close the door.
- Position myself at the ‘sweet spot’ between the speakers.
- Listen again while squinting at mostly arcane lyrics.
- 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:
- 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.
- If you’re supposed to be a vampire, why is there food on the banquet table?
- 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.