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#94 Jay Chou

Posted October 6th, 2008 by Shaun · 54 Comments

‘OMGGGGG”¦ I LOVE JAY CHOU! HE’S SO DREAMY!! I want his babies!!!” ““ Jay Chou fangirl who doesn’t understand the concept of procreation.

‘Who the heck’s this Jay Chou?” ““ someone not “˜Asian’ enough to be in the loop

‘I don’t like Jay Chou that much, or Asian music in general, but hey at least he’s better than that Rain guy” ““ anonymous”¦ oh who am I kidding, that’s my opinion., it took us this long”¦ but finally we arrive at something we can all agree upon ““ the fact that Asians love Jay Chou. In fact, there is a mathematical formula that dictates how Asian you are based on how much you love Jay Chou. Yours truly doesn’t rate highly on the Chou-A-Meter, but hey, that doesn’t stop me from trying to critically analyze the man in question! (Don’t worry guys, we’re all pro-Jay Chou here!)

The Brits had The Beatles, Americans had Elvis, Italians had Pavarotti, and even the Spanish had those guys who created the Macarena”¦ but what international musical talent have Asians produced? Short answer: not much. But that’s where Jay Chou comes in. Sure, musically he’s shouldn’t even be put in the same sentence as The Beatles, is barely recognizable outside Asia and just sings 90′s-styled love ballads all the time, but unknown to many, this man has produced a cult! Oh and a mop-top haircut, the likes of which we have not seen since”¦ well, yet again, The Beatles. Chou came about at that right time, and hit a chord with the Asian public ““ a sweet soothing chord that led to millions of record sales. But why? What makes him so special? It’s not because of his (supposed) great voice, his appearance, his songs or his all-round talent ““ every second Asian entertainer out there has that package. It’s what he stands for. He stands for everything that Asians hold in high regard. The man’s public image is pristine; he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink and doesn’t frequent nightclubs. He devotes himself to noble causes, is typically modest, respects his elders, and does pretty much everything that would make a girl want to take him home to meet her parents.

One other good thing about Mr. Chou is that his presence helps banish that awful stereotype that Asians cannot sing. We touched upon this stereotype in kvietgrl’s excellent ‘Busting the Stereotype” piece recently. Sadly in Western countries, the name ‘William Hung” elicits more of a response than ‘Jay Chou” every day of the week. Of course Asians can sing, Jay Chou is only but one example, and obviously William Hung is not representative of us as a whole, but to many Westerners he may as well be. Along with Jay Chou, there’s a whole group of Asian vocal talent such as Edison Chen, Se7en, Elva Hsiao and Jackie Chan that are unknown to Western audiences. After all, how many of you knew Jackie Chan had such a nice set of pipes? Even closer to ‘home”, talent like Michelle Branch, Enrique Iglesias, Norah Jones and that chick from The Pussycat Dolls have Asian blood in them. Yes, Enrique Iglesias is apparently part Asian”¦ who would’ve thought?

Modern Asian pop, which encompasses Jay Chou’s work by default, isn’t exactly what you’d label revolutionary music. Apart from being rooted in different languages; C-Pop, J-Pop, K-Pop & Y-Pop (okay, I made that last one up) have very few differences stylistically. Furthermore, they seem to be heavily influenced by Western musical genres, so much so that Asian music is now a bastion for 90′s R”˜n’B, dance and rap, long deemed out of style in the West. Jay Chou’s light, inoffensive brand of Mandopop (a subgenre of C-pop) is not life-altering music in any sense either. Let’s face it though, the man is best known for singing ballads that sound as if they were stolen from The Backstreet Boys’ back catalog and directly translated into Chinese. But still, Asians can’t get enough of his music ““ they just love songs about”¦ well, love! Jay Chou provides an outlet in that regard. For instance, guess what some of his songs like An Jing/ Silence (安靜), Wo Bu Pei/I’m Not Worthy (我不配 ) Jian Dan Ai/Simple Love (簡單愛) are about”¦ yup, you guessed it”¦

Asian discourse in relation to ‘love” and ‘relationships” has always been muted compared to Western discourse. Look at the vast number of dating programs on Asian television for evidence! People in Asia often tend to struggle with the process of going out and finding a true soulmate. Jay Chou’s ballad-centric music targets this gap in the hearts, minds and wallets of these people. Because ‘love” isn’t exactly the most accepted open topic in Asia, listening to Jay Chou ballads is an accepted substitute for vicariously participating in the act of love.  (That’s not a euphemism, I promise!)

P.S. It has come to my attention that women do not find Jay Chou at all attractive… wow, there isn’t much hope for Asian men now, is there?  Yes, this may be a controversial topic, and people may thoroughly disagree with it, but please try to look at it as an opinion piece, just like the majority of the other pieces here on SAPL, nothing more.

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54 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ridona // Oct 6, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    OMG, I can’t believe you lumped Jay Chou with Edison and Jackie. Those two should stick to acting. And Jay should stick to singing (Did you see Curse of the Golden Flower??). Yeah his songs aren’t too deep. His music is pretty boy-bandish, lots of songs about heartache (reference to Backstreet Boys was spot on!), but he does play piano and cello and composes his own music. Should’ve put that on your list of admirable Asian qualities too, playing instruments!

  • 2 HGB // Oct 7, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Sorry, I have to respectfully disagree – I think your assessment of Jay is way off the mark.

    First of all, you didn’t mention the most important thing that sets apart Jay from the likes of Edison and Elva – he writes all his own music. To understand this more, you should consider his history -

    Jay got his start writing music for other artists. For a time though, he never had a chance to release his own album. Why? At the time, it was widely assumed that people just wanted more of the same bland music sung by good looking pop stars, and conventional wisdom was that Jay just wasn’t good looking enough to be releasing his own music.

    Fortunately though, he got his break, and his success proves that people do want good music, something different produced by a real talent. To say that his songs are just the same old love ballads is completely off – his compositions are much more complex than the average Asian pop song, he created the whole concept of ZhongGuo Feng, mixing in traditional Chinese instruments and styles that other artists are now copying, and he writes songs about a whole range of different topics that other people just don’t think of, from domestic violence (ba, wo hui lai le) to martial arts (shuang jie gun) to family and tea (ye ye pao de cha) to paparazzi (si mian chu ge) to environmentalism (ti tian).

    Another thing you failed to mention is the depth of the lyrics in Jay’s songs, most of which have been written by Vincent Fang Wen Shan, who is famous in his own right. Check out the lyrics to songs like si mian chu ge or qing hua chi or dong feng po, and tell me that it’s just the same as every other song out there.

    Jay’s popularity can certainly be attributed to a number of different factors, including his clean image, but to dismiss his actual music, which I think is the core reason of his success, as just being Backstreet Boys songs translated into Chinese, is really off, and misses both the rich texture with classical influence in his songs and the deepness of the lyrics.

  • 3 All_Class_Zero // Oct 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    that dudes a douche

  • 4 deanne // Oct 9, 2008 at 3:00 am

    I think jay chou’s music is definitely far from the backstreet boys genre. His musicality ranges from classical to hip hop to rock to… everything else.

    Quite shallow review if i may say.

  • 5 Auyreon // Oct 9, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    This article does not seem to be particularly well-researched nor accurate. Although labelled as an “opinion”, this evaluation of the singer is biased and misleading as it is not even supported by the correct facts.

    For instance, to label the content of Jay Chou’s music to only be about love and the typical boy-girl relationship is completely ridiculous, as he is/ was defintely more well-known for tackling more controversial themes in his music such as domestic abuse, drug addiction and urbanisation to name a few.

    I wouldn’t have cared if you had presented the complete facts and began your critique from there, but it’s unacceptable that you are just picking and choosing random facts to obfuscate the uninformed reader.

  • 6 Shaun // Oct 10, 2008 at 4:52 am

    Auyreon – I think it’s ironic that you have to use the word “obfuscate” to well… obfuscate your true intention. A bit pretentious when you could’ve just used the word “conceal” or something…

    As for the deal with Jay Chou’s music, you gotta realise 2 things: 1) I actually quite like it & 2) it’s supposed to be a narrow-minded view on the matter, as that creates for better satire (look at your Satire 101 guides, people)

    Look at it this way: My comprehension of Mandarin isn’t perfect and often I don’t fully understand what his songs are about. Jay Chou’s music transcends often China and Chinese-speaking countries into non-Chinese speaking countries like Korea, Japan, Vietnam etc. The same deal often occurs here. Koreans may not understand his music, but they like it all the same… and my POINT is that stylistically his music sounds like what I have previously described. Yes, I know his songs do tackle serious issues sometimes, but to non-Chinese speakers, it may sound just like another love ballad. Perhaps some you fervent critics have to realise this… oh and the fact that it’s SATIRE people!!!

    Or how about another example with a modern Western band… U2 is a good example. There’s layers upon layers of social commentary in their songs – and people recognise this. However, many people listen to U2 simply because they like the sound of their music, rather than the fact that Bono may be referring to a war in Bosnia or something. With Jay Chou I’m just picking on the fact that people love the slow sensual sound of his music – which tends to resemble love ballads.

    But hey, that’s only responding to one criticism… as I’m loathed to say it… keep ‘em coming!

  • 7 Auyreon // Oct 11, 2008 at 9:30 am

    My true intention?
    And what would that be?

    I appreciate that you are writing a satrical piece and I have enjoyed many of your articles, however, the issue I had with this one was the fact that the information you had given was just completely inaccurate.

    If you want to trivialise my opinion and criticise my word choice as just more rumblings from another rabid fan, that fine, but I do wish that there will be more integrity in your next work.

  • 8 Ngan // Oct 12, 2008 at 3:17 am

    You know how I feel about Jay Chou, Shaun ;)

  • 9 Shaun // Oct 12, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Auyreon – it’s just interesting… because in most of our pieces we often misdirect readers by giving inaccurate information, and there doesn’t seem to be much problem there. But when in relation to a sensitive topic like Jay Chou, it’s suddenly an issue. Double standard much?

    Ngan – Yeah I know… and I’m sorry ;)

  • 10 Erick // Oct 13, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    ok this is definitely not true. I’m asian and i don’t who the hell this guy is and all my asian friends never even heard of this guy before. And also i’m pretty sure Rain is a lot more well known then this Jay guy. Rain actually featured in a few American films.

  • 11 HGB // Oct 14, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Shaun -

    The problem isn’t the satire or exaggeration, it’s the fact that the central theme of your satire – that people enjoy Jay’s music because it is primarily light, inoffensive love ballads – rings false, so it’s just not that funny.

    Poking fun at Jay Chou is nothing new, but it’s funny when it’s actually grounded in something that has some truth – for instance, Jay’s habit of mumbling through his lyrics, or for having lyrics so complicated that he often forgets them in concerts.

    In that respect, I think you had something with Jay’s super-clean image, and it would have been more humorous if you had followed up that line of thought more. For example, you can’t beat Jay when it comes to filial piety – he’s got a song about his grandma, a song about grandpa’s tea, and a song literally titled Listen To Your Mom.

  • 12 buttercup // Oct 20, 2008 at 3:09 am

    hey there Erick! Some asians who might NOT have heard of jay chou may either be, a)not residing in asia, or b)residing in asia but in a country with a not-so-big chinese community.

    I, myself, discovered jay chou only a couple of years ago (and i am very asian, in blood and geography), but since then have discovered how BIG he actually is in asia!

    That Rain guy is actually ok, he may have had some hollywood exposure, but search the net for jay chou. This guy has got talent.

  • 13 tracy // Oct 21, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    You should add

    “Faithfully depending your idol against all evil” as #97.

    Sheesh! People!

  • 14 Laur // Oct 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    meh, from a white girl perspective, rain’s better looking.

  • 15 Shaun // Oct 27, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    ““Faithfully depending your idol against all evil” as #97.”

    Thank you Tracy… I was waiting for someone like you to show up! The Jay Chou fans can be quite rabid sometimes…

    Laur – umm ok, from an Asian male’s perspective I don’t really care, but it’s been duly noted… :D

  • 16 HGB // Oct 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Let’s see, 3 people gave you valid criticism about what you wrote, all in fairly polite terms.

    In return, we get snarky sarcasm and ad hominem attacks accusing us of being overly sensitive, having double standards, and being rabid.


  • 17 Sarah // Oct 29, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Who thinks Asians can’t sing? Since when is that a stereotype? Chinese people are on the whole way better singers than Westerners. Tonal language and all. Doesn’t anyone here listen to Radiolab? At least I think I heard about the study there…

  • 18 kc // Nov 1, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I love the music he writes and stuff, but I have to say his singing is kinda hard to understand and not as great as his music. To tell the truth, I’m not really that into Jay Chou, but still tho.. gotta respect him

  • 19 kc // Nov 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    rain’s definitely better looking but hey.. it’s true Jay Chou’s got talent

  • 20 LT // Nov 4, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I freaking hate Jay Chou, though everyone I grew up with is in love with him.

    But everyone’s entitled to their own opinion

    I, on the other hand, am more partial to J-rock.

  • 21 kris // Nov 23, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Though genetically i am asian, i think i really am not asian… I don’t know who the heck Jay Chou is! Shame on me for not being aware of my culture :D

  • 22 Skawt // Dec 2, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    i’m a westerner – no asian blood in me whatsoever, and i have to admit that i dig jay chou’s music. having said that, i don’t really understand much of what he says, but i still like his music.

    ugh, and there’s one of his songs that is like this intense piece (sounds kind of like ratatat), but i don’t know what it’s called :-(

  • 23 moe // Dec 6, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Lol, this is spot on – as big as the Beatles in modern-day Asia, but without that transcendent quality of true musical genius.

    If you spend any time on rabid Jay fans message boards, you discover legions of sighing fan girls who love him for his love ballads (in spite of the fact that neither Jay, Edison Chen, or Jackie Chan represent anywhere near the best voices in C-pop). The that they are are usually the least original or interesting of his compositions does not seem to matter.

  • 24 Lisa // Dec 17, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I fail the Asian test. Lol – no idea who Jay Chou was until Curse of the Golden Flower was mentioned.

  • 25 Shaun // Dec 18, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Okay, a little note from the author here…

    I’m in China at the moment, and have been for almost a month as of now (this is my 1st time in fact)… and it’s just as I suspected, Jay Chou/周杰轮/zhou jie lun really is the MAN over here.

    And I would redact my previous statement that he is mainly known for his love ballads… except for the fact that it’s somewhat true. Okay here’s my opinion on the matter… a friend of mine put his latest album on my iTunes. He’s got that “Mister Magic” song and that “Snake Dance” song, which are upbeat little ditties, he even raps in the latter (something he has been doing for a while now apparently, but I wasn’t aware of).

    These upbeat songs are perfect fodder for Chinese pop music outlets like Chinese MTV (which is compulsory viewing while you’re here btw). However, outside Asia, they would be sneered upon as poor imitations of Western trends. “Mr. Magic” and “Snake Dance” are not totally original ideas for songs, and I have to admit that I’ve heard something similar to them in the past.

    On the other hand his other “big song” from his latest album, “Where Is Our Promised Happiness”? is a typical ballad, and it just so happens it’s the one I can appreciate the most. Let’s face it, a ballad is a ballad is a ballad. It may sound like other ballad-y stuff around, but that works for him and it is his bread and butter. On that front Jay Chou can deliver – so that was the point I was trying to get across. Just one person’s opinion though.

    Oh btw has anyone heard that song by MC Hotdog – “差不多先生/Mr. Almost”? Wow, that must be the most unintentionally hilarious and therefore entertaining song ever made. He pretty much attempts to add the word “差不多/Almost” every 3 words orMas so, which results in hilarious consequences. We had a blast trying to “sing” it at karaoke =D

  • 26 king jay // Dec 25, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    jay chou isn’t a douche bag… ur an effin douche bag u ho
    jay is the best and everyone loves him…
    whoever doesn’t is just effin gay and stupid… btw he’s sitting next to me right now … so STFU all u haters!

  • 27 kaii // Jan 9, 2009 at 7:09 am

    from what ive heard, mr.magic is based on batmans’ joker character and is sort of a tribute to what happend.

    as for originality, i doubt you can find anything thats even close to original in the 21st century. even so, in genre of c-pop, most of jay chou’s work is much more original, than if you compare that of the work of western artists like Norah Jones.

    and ballads? every asian artist uses ballads. im pretty sure every western artist has used ballads before too and its not like jay chou uses ballads more than every other artist nor does he write more love lyrics than other artists either. more than half his songs

  • 28 anson // Jan 15, 2009 at 7:27 am

    I actually won’t openly admit to liking jay’s music becos of the now wide fan base of teens and preteens who just happen to like the catchy love ballads you mentioned.

    Its a shame that’s what it comes down to.

  • 29 Jinsic // Jan 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    lol, this back and forth flaming and dissing a singer or artists’ credentials all boils down to one thing. if you have a celebrity you truly believe in the integrity of and feel bad when someone insults him with things you yourself overlook, how would you feel?

    obviously some of us may react stronger than others. and there are those of us that think that that celebrity is not such a big deal and then there’s the ppl who just have too much time and may either suffer from a hate of what ppl around them like that they consider baseless.

  • 30 Anonymous // Feb 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t even know who he is and I’m Chinese.

  • 31 Helena // Feb 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    really? did you just said Jackie Chan has talent in singing? Jay Chou is not a good singer and his music might not be as revolutionary, but dude, Jackie Chan isn’t any better, let alone the ‘talented people’ you mentioned such as Elva and Edison. i understand this is your opinion but i really hope non-asian people are going to take your word for it.

    and you certainly picked one of his worst song (in my opinion) as an example. sigh. and it’s pop. half of the pop ‘sensations’ are merely ‘performers’ and not real deal to begin with. and you didn’t mention people like Jay’s music also has to do with the guy who write the lyrics to alot of his songs. it just feel as though you didn’t really do alot of research about this guy and kind of assumed stuff about his stuff…

    just saying

  • 32 anon // Apr 16, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I am Indian and even I love jay chou!!! The man is AWESOME.

  • 33 Mochi Blog | A Look Into “Stuff Asian People Like” // Sep 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    [...] of course, there are the posts that make you laugh. Asian people like Jay Chou — need I say [...]

  • 34 Jian // Jan 14, 2010 at 5:23 am

    yay Chou! just about everyone in my family likes Jay Chou lol

  • 35 KR // Feb 11, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    to you r point that asians have produced none musicians of note until Jay Chou i would like to say. Thats because why pple dont like to listen to asian. Anyway, with the massive populations in china it is safe to assume many of those unkown (to the west) artists probably have more listeners than western artists like the beetles or something.

  • 36 jon // Mar 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Jay Chou is awesome

  • 37 Ganji // Jul 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Apple pineda from the black eyed peas is pure Filipino and Filipino=Asian so asians can sing!

  • 38 Danzigirl // Aug 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Jay Chou is the 2nd hottest man on the planet………2nd only to Lee Byung Hun *sigh*

  • 39 Lafille // Aug 6, 2010 at 7:32 am

    You know, if Asians love him so much, is it really smart to talk somewhat poorly about him on a blog that I’m pretty sure ASIANS and others read?

  • 40 Lan // Aug 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I’ve heard of the guy before. But I listen only to kpop musics.

  • 41 Quis // Sep 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Actually, I think Jay Chou’s a really good lyricist. I don’t listen to a lot of C-Pop, but I definitely listen to Jay Chou, and his songs touch on many ‘taboo’ subjects in Asian culture, in my opinion.

  • 42 Zhang Ming // Jan 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Some points to consider:

    1. Jay’s surname is Zhou, not Chou. Chou means ugly and smelly in Chinese.

    2. Yes, he is a composer, but he is, in fact, a very bad singer, and most will acknowledge this. Most Asian male singers, like Michael Wong and Jacky Cheung are much, much better vocalists.

    3. Edison Chen is one of the most negligible singers. Why even mention him? Besides, he’s a “colour wolf”. And…he’s Canadian, not Asian. Why not mention singers that are more popular, like BoA, S.H.E., JJ Lin, Lee Hom, Jolin, and Fish Leong?

    4. You mention him as if, he’s the first huge Asian superstar. Um, No! Has no-one ever heard of Teresa Deng, Faye Wong, Beyond, Leslie Cheung, A-Mei, Jacky Cheung, not to mention all the huge Japanese stars!

  • 43 Steve // Jan 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm


    Thanks for acknowledging that Jay is not a good singer. So true!

  • 44 gourmande // Jan 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Hey, non-asian here! I love Jay Chou! And I don’t think he’s a stereotypically good singer, but his voice is interesting enough to do the job of making girls like me swoon a little ^.^

    Also, not understanding Mandarin, the first thing I noticed is the music; classy and traditional yet modern, you can tell he’s a real composer. I could tell the mood and story without knowing the lyrics.

    I think language is the biggest reason more Asian artists aren’t more popular. I’m lucky to like listening to other languages even if I don’t understand, but it can be frustrating to have no idea what’s going on. Jay Chou is one of the better at using the actual music to put across the story.

    I just wish Jay Chou could come to England. I would pay good money. I hope to see more Western fame come to Jay since his role in The Green Hornet (even if it ends up being a bad film).

    Also: other loves – Vanness Wu, Crystal Kay, m-flo, Fong Da Tong.

  • 45 mbe // Jan 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    @Zhang Ming, it’s chou.. that’s how the taiwanese people write it..

  • 46 issabella // Feb 23, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Jay chou is beautiful. i love him. he is so………….
    kkkk he makes me crazy. ooohhh god!!!!!!!!! Zaya_devilish

  • 47 issabella // Feb 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    His voice ………….i love you jay chou

  • 48 issabella // Feb 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Please understand me………….. i love you so much ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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  • 50 trulyasian // Apr 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

    if you’re into chinese culture, ypu’ll be screaming for jay chou but if you’re into korean culture, you’ll be screaming for Rain (the singer not the weather).. i mean asia is pretty big… these days i think the asian world is screaming for super junior :P

  • 51 Ivy // Jul 16, 2011 at 10:29 am


  • 52 Aurora // Aug 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Okay, I’m an Eastern European female and I loved Jay Chou’s earlier music, (albums 1-7 I think…) and I find him attractive and handsome. (If I was rich, I’d personally pay money just to kiss him on a cheek…) To those who don’t find him attractive, well their loss is all I can say.

  • 53 ilovehorseyrides // Apr 25, 2018 at 9:58 am

    I like his songs

  • 54 ilovehorseyrides // May 4, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    I’m actually listening to Jay Chou right now as I’m typing this!!! XDDDD

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