Jay Chou is easily one of the most famous superstars in Asia. The Taiwanese pop star, composer, singer and actor, known as Chou Dong (Boss Chou), is so popular that he would be mobbed by fans wherever he goes in Asia. But in The West, he remains a relative unknown except among the Chinese community.
The breakout star of The Green Hornet was on the streets of Hollywood on Thursday. As most don’t recognize him, the population is clueless on how wonderful he can perform on the keyboard.
In the skit of absolutely hysterical proportions, Jay Chou was sent out by Jimmy Kimmel to perform in front of Hollywood and Highlands Mall. Located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the entertainer had a keyboard, a backup singers and Chou even sang. The interesting crowd response was somewhat mild compared to an Asian type venue. There was a crowd and even a few cameras, but the tourists were singing Yankee Doodle Dandy with the celebrity.
Jay Chou won’t be unknown much longer. As Kato, the sidekick of ‘The Green Hornet’, he will be making an impression in theaters nationwide as the movie opened for the audiences yesterday.
The Green Hornet is directed by Michel Gondry and star Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz. The Green Hornet has seen many lives, but is most famous for introducing Bruce Lee to the world in the 1966 TV show. Chou plays Lee’s character, Kato, sidekick to Rogen’s main character.
For those in the West who are curious about Jay Chou, this post serves to give you a brief introduction to “Chairman Chou” or “Chou Dong” ( Boss Chou) as Jay Chou is widely known by that nickname in Asia.
Jay Chou (pinyin: Zh?u Jiélún) (born January 18, 1979) is a Taiwanese musician, singer, music and film producer, actor and director who has won the World Music Award four times. He is well-known for composing all his own songs and songs for other singers. In 1998 he was discovered in a talent contest where he displayed his piano and song-writing skills. Over the next two years, he was hired to compose for popular Chinese singers. Although he was trained in classical music, Chou combines Chinese and Western music styles to produce songs that fuse R&B, rock and pop genres, covering issues such as domestic violence, war, and urbanization.
In 2000 Chou released his first album, titled Jay, under the record company Alfa Music. Since then he has released one album per year except in 2009, selling several million copies each. His music has gained recognition throughout Asia, most notably in regions such as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and in overseas Asian communities, winning more than 20 awards each year. He has sold more than 28 million albums worldwide up to 2010.
He debuted his acting career in Initial D (2005), for which he won Best Newcomer Actor in 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 (2006). He produced the theme song for the film Ocean Heaven starring Jet Li. His career now extends into directing and running his own record company JVR Music.
Jay Chou grew up in Linkou, Taipei County (now New Taipei City), Taiwan. Both his parents were secondary school teachers: his mother Ye Hui Mei (pinyin: Yè Huìm?i) taught fine arts while his father Zhou Yao Zhong (pinyin: Zh?u Yàozh?ng) was a biomedical researcher. His mother noticed his sensitivity to music and took him to piano lessons at the age of three.
During his childhood, he was fascinated with capturing sounds and songs with his tape recorder, which he carried everywhere with him. In the third grade, he became interested in music theory and also started cello lessons. He is an only child and loved to play piano, imitate TV actors, and perform magic tricks. His favorite composer was, and still is to this day, Chopin.
His father left him when he was 14; as a result, he became reclusive and introverted. Although he had friends, he often preferred to be alone, listening to music, contemplating and daydreaming. At Tan Jiang Senior High School, he majored in piano and minored in cello. He showed talent for improvisation, became fond of pop music and began to write songs.
Chou graduated from high school with inadequate grades for university, so he prepared for military service, which was compulsory for all Taiwanese men at the age of 18. However, a sports injury triggered by an unexplainable and severe back pain eventually led to the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a hereditary spine inflammation disease; as a result, he was exempted from conscription.
Meanwhile, he found himself a job as a waiter. Without his knowing, his friend had entered both their names in a talent show called Super New Talent King. Chou played the piano accompaniment for his friend, whose singing was described as “lousy”. Although they did not win, the show’s host Jacky Wu—an influential character in Taiwan’s entertainment business—happened to glance at Chou’s music score and was impressed with its complexity. Wu hired him as a contract composer and paired him with the novice lyricist Vincent Fang.
Over the next two years he wrote songs for Mandarin pop artists, and also learned recording and sound mixing; his dedication was apparent as he even slept in the music studio. Wu’s music studio was later sold to Alfa Music, and the new manager Yang Jun Rong asked him to release his own album. Chou already had an arsenal of songs he wrote for others but had been rejected, so among those he chose 10 for his debut CD Jay that was released in 2000.
The album established his reputation as a musically gifted singer-songwriter whose style is a fusion of R&B, rap, classical music, and yet distinctly Chinese. His fame spread quickly in Chinese-speaking regions including countries throughout Southeast Asia.
Since 2000, Chou has released one album per year, except the year 2009, each selling several million copies. From the launch of his music career in 2000, he has won more than 350 singer, singer-songwriter, and producer awards in Asia.
In 2003, he was the cover story of Time magazine (Asia version), acknowledging his influence on popular culture. He has held four world tours, “The One” (2002), “Incomparable” (2004), “Jay Chou The World Tours” (2007–2008) and “The Era” (2010-2011) performing in cities such as Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Las Vegas, Toronto and Vancouver.
Unlike most singers, Chou has an enormous amount of creative control over his music. He is not only the songwriter but also the producer in all of his albums; since 2005 he is also the music director and also directs his own music videos.
His music’s distinct sound fuses classical/romantic, hip-hop and Chinese styles. While many of his works fall into contemporary R&B, rap, and rock genres, the term “Chou Style” (pinyin: zh?u shì f?ngé) has been popularized to describe his trademark cross-cultural music and his insistence on singing with relaxed enunciation.
He regularly fuses traditional Chinese instruments and styles with R&B or rock to form a new genre called “Zhongguo feng” (pinyin: Zh?ngguó f?ng), which literally means “China wind. Sound effects from everyday life are frequently woven into his music, such as bouncing ping pong balls, touch tone phone dialing, helicopter blades, dripping rain, and radio static noise.
Despite living under continual media scrutiny, Chou’s public image has changed little over the years as he emphasizes individuality as his “personal philosophy”. In his music, this is also evident as he fuses Chinese and Western styles and explores topics unconventional for a pop singer, which have been described as “authentic” and “revolutionary”.
There is a misunderstanding about his nickname “Chairman Chou” or “Chou Dong” (pinyin: Zh?u d?ng), used by both the press and fans to underscore his domineering personality and impact on Asian music, but also points at his musical talent. Yet the origin of this nickname emerges from his fever of collecting antiques as the word “dong” comes from “antique” in Chinese.
Outside of music, Chou is reported as shy, quiet,modest, and views filial piety as “the most important thing”. In-line with his aim to present a positive image, he is a non-smoker, non-drinker, and does not go to nightclubs. Government officials and educators in Asia have awarded him for his exemplary behaviour, designated him a spokesperson in the youth-empowerment project “Young Voice” in 2005 and an anti-depression campaign in 2007. His lyrics for two songs has been incorporated into the school syllabus to inspire motivational and filial attitudes.