Looking Back at Jay Chou in 2023

Posted at 2023-07-29

Translated by AI.

It’s 2023, and as a devoted fan of Jay Chou for over a decade, I’ve gone from being that elementary school student humming “Hair Like Snow” during morning reading sessions to being a working adult with earphones in my office, listening to his songs.

He’s quite the exceptional idol, with his rebellious and charismatic demeanor that influenced me in many ways, even though it didn’t change my introverted nature.

Crescent Moon, Fading Beauty

It must have been around 2006 when JJ Lin’s song “A Thousand Years Later” from the Spring Festival Gala became my introduction to pop music. After that, I fell in love with “Freeze” from my cousin’s cassette tapes. JJ Lin was probably the first pop singer I became a fan of.

Later, during a summer break, my cousin brought some CDs from the city. They seemed like pirated copies, but from those CDs, I discovered “Hair Like Snow” and “East Wind Breaks,” along with “Nocturne.” That’s when I became an unwavering fan of Jay Chou.

Since I discovered him “late,” those early albums became my treasures. During that time, my MP3 player (which I borrowed from my dad) was filled only with Jay Chou’s songs. I organized each album meticulously and listened to them on repeat. It’s not an exaggeration to say that during that period, I could identify a song from the first note and recite the lyrics fluently.

Fading Fireworks, Changing Relationships

This is the first album I remember eagerly anticipating. To be precise, it wasn’t the first album I liked from Jay Chou, but it was during this time that I gained some internet skills (basically, knowing how to find resources), so it left a strong impression on me.

Back then, we didn’t have apps like karaoke platforms, so I used a recording software to play around with singing. To be honest, I didn’t have much singing talent; I couldn’t hit the high notes and struggled with the low ones. Looking back, it was more about the sense of accomplishment in using technology. I remember uploading music to my QQ Space, and it could be found on QQ Music. I doubt that’s possible now (bittersweet smile).

I was at a school sports event one noon, and while my friends were gaming at the internet cafe, I had “Fading Fireworks” on loop. I must say, even during that era, Jay Chou still had that impact. Though looking from today’s perspective, his style had subtly evolved. Songs like “Director’s Self-Performance” and “Emotions in Fragments” might not resonate with me as much now.

Your Reflection is a Landscape I Can’t Return To

Entering the 21st century’s second decade, both Jay Chou and society had undergone significant changes.

Jay Chou got married, wrote songs for his daughter, made music videos with his son, and his focus shifted from releasing new songs and albums. He was no longer the young man wielding nunchucks and declaring “I’m not worthy.” After all, I too had grown into adulthood.

However, this sense of detachment isn’t just about us both growing up.

Praising Jay’s Chinese-style songs seems redundant: “From songs like ‘Nunchucks’ to ‘Hair Like Snow,’ from ‘Chrysanthemum Terrace’ to ‘Drizzle,’ throughout the journey, he remained consistent with diverse musical styles, but his heart stayed true to the essence of Chinese culture.”

Chinese elements were dreams crafted by Jay and lyricist Vincent Fang. Exquisite lyrics, ingenious melodies, meticulously polished compositions—these aspects seemed to lift people off the ground, immersing them in a romanticized history.

Yet, his other “raw” and “sincere” songs have no less appeal to me than the Chinese-style ones. The distribution and completion of songs in this category seemed to indirectly contribute to this sense of detachment.

To validate this emotionally driven understanding, I briefly looked up a list of songs Jay had written lyrics for. What are the songs with lyrics written by Jay Chou himself? [2019-10-04]

Here are some lyrics I remembered just by looking at the song titles (for a few lines, I confirmed with the original lyrics):

Sitting on the bus going to school, looking at cows grazing outside the window, a feeling of indescribable freedom. “Terraced Fields”

Listening to this song, I recall the wheat fields across from my house turning into tall buildings over the years, the tree groves filled with cicada songs in the summer.

I have to climb step by step. “Snail”

Although this song only has a live version, whenever I hear it, I envision a young person of that era, full of ambition and determination.

What she wants is companionship, not 600 yuan. “Grandmother”

My grandmother is over 90 years old now. It’s been nearly a decade since I left home for college, and my visits have become increasingly rare. There’s a piece I wrote earlier, titled She’s Getting Older. Since writing that, two more years have passed. These three years have slipped by, and my life seems unchanged, but my grandmother’s health has deteriorated rapidly. She spends most of her time in bed now due to common elderly ailments, and she can no longer recognize me. Thinking about it saddens me, but there’s not much I can do.

That’s not my tone at all; I want the audience to enjoy the show. “Siege”

Just smile; achieving fame and success isn’t the goal. “Rice Fragrance”

At first glance, the lyrics of this song might not stand out, but they hold a lot of depth.

Why listen to your mother’s words? You’ll understand when you grow up. “Listen to Mother’s Words”

At my age now, I’ve long understood my mother’s strictness and the discipline that I once thought was excessive. The ABCs I memorized are mostly applied to life now.

If you fear the future, and everything seems foggy, it’s because you haven’t wiped your glasses clean. “Red Imitation”

The song starts with mockery and arrogance but ends with care and advice.

These songs, compared to recent songs like “City Under Siege,” how do they fare?

And others are about a young person’s first experience with heartbreak, connecting the youthfulness of Jay at the time with my own adolescence:

You’re already far away, and I will slowly move away too. “Silence”

Flipping through our photos, memories appearing and disappearing. “Excuse”

Can’t see your smile; how can I sleep? “Rainbow”

Most of these songs are from before 2008; I can’t seem to recall lyrics from the ones that followed.

Life is everlasting; music endures.

During his youth, Jay Chou’s creativity knew no bounds, pouring all he had into his music. He left behind a musical perception of both the sweetness and bitterness of love, shared with the world. Such generosity is truly commendable, and I am grateful for it.

As the “Little King,” his music and film career faced obstacles, but he consistently remained at the pinnacle. His comfortable life makes it difficult for him to connect with the majority of society through music.

In his early MV narratives, he played the role of an ordinary person, pursuing another ordinary person as his partner. He portrayed a young individual breaking free from constraints and challenging authority.

In terms of national sentiment, he carried the legacy of the dragon, using Chinese kung fu to reclaim his place in foreign lands—an extension of Bruce Lee’s spirit, a narrative of the nation.

As time went on, he transitioned from songs like “mine mine” to using English for the first time as in the song title.

His MV roles gradually merged with foreign environments. On one hand, he shed the awkwardness of a newcomer; on the other, he exuded confidence, transforming from a novice to a figure cruising through the city in luxury cars.

So, the difficulty in empathizing isn’t his fault but mine—it’s a matter of class. Furthermore, being on opposite shores naturally leads to differences in worldviews, though these pale in comparison to the vast class disparities.

Therefore, expecting one person (an idol) to fulfill all-encompassing emotional needs—musical, cultural, ideological—is unrealistic. Young me didn’t understand this, and I even exhibited exclusivity in my music tastes.

Later on, I started listening to Tang Dynasty, Cui Jian, and those who carried the atmosphere of the turn of the century. They rekindled something in me. Sometimes I wonder, what would China’s rock scene be without Jay Chou?

Now, in my middle age, I might not get to experience a new Jay Chou from the 2020s, delivering emotions of breaking free and resistance. I find myself digging through the corners of two decades ago.

Recently, I stumbled upon a song, “Individual,” by Yin Wu in 2000.

You and I each hold our own cups

Drinking our own tea separately

We smile, nod at each other

Very refined, we’re very hygienic

You and I each discuss our own matters

Counting our own fingers

Voicing our own opinions

In the end, we each go our own way

This sentiment of individualism (as I understand it) is something only those who’ve experienced life here can feel and pass on.

Jay Chou belongs to youth, but it seems he also remains in that youth.

Last modified at 2024-04-18