Forever young

Updated: 2011-12-16 07:35

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Forever young

Asia's most popular star over the past 10 years, 32-year-old Jay Chou, released his debut album Jay in 2000 and has 11 albums under his belt. Zou Hong / China Daily

Jay Chou's latest album appears to be aimed at youth, and the man himself believes he will always be 18 at heart. Chen Nan reports.

Jay Chou's 11th album, Exclamation Mark (also known as Wow) is a departure from the 32-year-old's old style and seems to be aimed at young fans.

The 11 songs are fast-paced and electronic. In the music videos, Chou raps, dances, does his hip-hop moves with hot girls and drives super cool racecars.

On the cover of the new album, he dresses like a fishing captain while a huge octopus, bigger than the ship, looks down on Chou.

Chou claims he is forever 18 at heart.

Forever young

"I don't worry about the generation gap because the new album is made for young listeners," he says. "I hope that I can sing shuang jie kun (nunchaku) when I am 60 or 70 years old."

More than 60,000 copies were sold within the first week after the album was released in Taiwan on Nov 14, featuring songs like Mine Mine, Shadow Play and the title song, Wow.

The album topped the downloads chart of China Mobile Wireless Music, but some music critics say the singer tries too hard to cater to the youth.

Previously, Chou's albums were criticized for repeating the 2005 album, November's Chopin, and it appears some fans miss the old Chou style. On the largest Chinese website devoted to movies, books and music reviews,, Chou's new album didn't enter the Top 10 new album chart and only scored a 5.2.

His combination of traditional Chinese instruments and Western styles helped usher in the zhongguo feng - literally "Chinese-style" music.

Most of his hit songs, including Chrysanthemum Terrace and Faraway, have featured lyrics written by Vincent Fang and music composed by Chou.

Though the new songs have all been all written and composed by the pair, some listeners say there is a change and are disappointed.

Among the comments on are: "Chou is not serious about this album," and, "We are getting old and can't understand Chou's ideas".

Chou, who has been Asia's most reliable and popular star over the past 10 years, says he is confident enough to walk his own path.

"I am getting used to criticism and suspicion. I think that they just don't get my music," he says.

"I have been experimenting and trying something new. For example, I hated electronic music before but I have it on this album because I wanted to have some fun with it. I also tried Peking Opera singing on the album, which was fun as well."

"People always say that I am running out of inspiration, but I can't agree. I wrote nearly 30 songs for the new album and I can write more," he continues.

"Like my old friend, Fang, who absorbs everything in the universe to get inspiration, writing music is like drinking water, which is a necessity for me."

From an unknown songwriter who slept on the floor of the studio to superstar who set the trends, Chou has set the pace over the past 10 years.

His debut album, Jay, in 2000, had 10 soulful, sensual ballads that transformed the Asian pop universe. Even his way of singing, mumbling the lyrics, has been imitated by his fans. Though he sings and raps only in Mandarin, his albums usually go double or triple platinum across Asia.

His confidence also comes from his business empire, ranging from music to movies, a record company and restaurant.

He made his acting debut in Initial D (2005), for which he won Best Newcomer Actor at 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, directed by Zhang Yimou.

He also went to Hollywood and starred with Seth Rogen in the action movie, The Green Hornet, in 2010. Secret, a romantic movie in 2007, saw his directorial debut.

With the new album, Chou also launched his piano brand, J, which will be on sale in January 2012. He is even considering being a real estate developer.

"I wear many hats, and now what I want to do is to be a DJ - a critical one," he says. "For those who say I am pandering to youth, I will shoot a music video for the new song on my 12th album and be a 60-year-old man, telling the story of 2012. Of course, I make a lot of effort for my fans. I have proved that my music actually matters."

Looking back at his career, Chou says music is everything to him. Brought up by a single mom, Chou lacked confidence before he was discovered by TV host Jacky Wu in a singing contest. He worked at Wu's record company, knowing he was not one of the pretty boys, but he played piano well.

"I believe fans were attracted by my music rather than my looks. It's a good thing, isn't it? The face will grow old but my musical mind will not," he says.

Jacky Wu, a Taiwan TV show host and entertainment guru, says, "my first impression about Jay was that he was shy and quiet. I thought he was retarded. But I was amazed by his musical score, which was well done. Now looking at him, you would say that he is very diao (Taiwan slang, meaning cool and outrageous)."

Chou says he has become more confident with success and adds that he turns into another person when he is on the stage or in front of the camera.

Being different and cool is his philosophy. For example, he used his mother's name for the name of one of his albums, which sold millions. He also wrote a song for the paparazzi, abusing them for interfering in his life, using the sound of ping-pong balls to accompany his song.

"I want to bring surprises. For example, when I shot the music video for Shadow Play, I knew that people would expect to see the real shadow play. Then I intentionally avoided doing that and interpreted it with a different story," he says.

Chou says he has a lot of dreams left but is traditional when it comes to his mom managing his money and keeping his relationships private.

"People say that you are Jay Chou and you have everything. Actually, I am a control freak. My girlfriend must say 'perfect' when she listens to my new songs. I want to control everything about my music and other businesses," he says.

"But here is one thing that gives me a headache.I am still under my mother's thumb. When I say that I want to buy a car, she will shake her head. If I insist and ask, 'Why not?' she will answer, 'Because I said so'."

Forever young