Beginner’s Guide to Jay Chou

So… you’re looking to get into Jay Chou after seeing The Green Hornet or what not? Maybe you’re planning to start your Mandarin lessons, and even plan into deeping your toes into some Chinese or overall Asian music? Well, what better way to get into Chinese/Asian music than starting with Jay Chou.

Jay Chou, or 周杰伦 Zhou Jie Lun, has popped many people’s Chinese music cherry. Chances are if you know someone who listens to pop music from China/Taiwan, they began with Chou himself. In fact, I did. It was probably 2003 or maybe early 2004 and my friend sent me an mp3 via MSN — I know, we’re ancient! — and it all began!

Jay plays the piano quite masterfully, and actually composes his music with the help of lyricist Vincent Fang (方文山). He also acted and directed a film called Secret, which he also composed the score for along with Therdsak Chanpan. He’s acted in other films, produced (a not so successful) TV drama, written books, and even hosts a talk show.

His discography spans ten studio albums, a few live albums, and even themes for films. With over 100 songs in his catalog, here are ten picks to get you started~

10. 簡單愛 (Jian Dan Ai) – Simple Love

Album: Fantasy (范特西)
Year: 2001

Simple Love popped my Cpop cherry. It’s pop, its melody is easy, the lyrics too… it’s aptly titled. The song is easy to get into, and the last hook of “Xiang / Jian! Jian! / Dan! Dan! / Ai~” is just so silly it’s dreamy, it’s impossible to not get into it.

Listen to it on Xiami.com | Want to sing it out? Head over to Jay Chou Studio for lyrics and translations.

9. 七里香 (Qi Li Xiang) – Common Jasmine Orange

Album: Common Jasmin Orange (七里香)
Year: 2004

It is in the Common Jasmin Orange album when Jay Chou shows his ability to combine easy to love pop with more Chinese-style infused sounds (Zhongguo feng), and it is with the single of the same name that he achieves it best.

The lyrics, penned by Vincent Fang, refer to a plant while talking of things such as a sparrow, sanma fish (Pacific saury), rain or ripe tomatoes. Yup, this is zhongguo feng indeed.

Listen to it on Xiami.com | Want to sing it out? Head over to Jay Chou Studio for lyrics and translations.

8. 髮如雪 (Fa Ru Xue) – Hair Like Snow

Album: November’s Chopin (十一月的蕭邦)
Year: 2005

Also penned by Vincent Fang, Hair Like Snow continues Chou’s Chinese-styled songs with a very pop flare, as he goes further and further away from R&B. The song, and the video, deal with a love that might — or not — go beyond incarnations.

Listen to it on Xiami.com | Want to sing it out? Head over to Jay Chou Studio for lyrics and translations.

7. 麥芽糖 (Mai Ya Tang) – Maltose

Album: November’s Chopin (十一月的蕭邦)
Year: 2005

Chou’s Mai Ya Tang escalates the zhongguo feng style to a whole new “country-ish” level musically and lyrically. In it, Vincent Fang writes about life in the rural country… hills, streams, windmills, and fields, alongside Chou’s happy and catchy tune.

They even use some simple Thai phrases~

Listen to it on Xiami.com | Want to sing it out? Head over to Jay Chou Studio for lyrics and translations.

6. 聽媽媽的話 (Ting Mama de Hua) – Listen To Mother’s Words

Album: Still Fantasy (依然范特西)
Year: 2006

I was a bit reluctant to add this song, but I figured this wasn’t about me. The reason why Ting Mama de Hua makes it to the list is because Jay Chou writes a rap/lullaby that talks about listening to what your mother says. How freaking positive is that?

With all the fuming over Amy Chua’s on Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, and her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Jay Chou writes a song where he wonders why he couldn’t watch cartoons or play video games, about his mother’s problems and how she puts on a strong front for him. He advises his young audience to listen to their mothers, and to never let them get hurt.

How’s that for a lullaby rap song?

Listen to it on Xiami.com | Want to sing it out? Head over to Jay Chou Studio for lyrics and translations.

amy

YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

14 Responses

  1. Julili says:

    Guh! Ttly loving the songs from the new album. Although song no.2 has some very awkward dancing…

    Oki, so what is zhongguo feng fusion? Yes, I did google me but enlighten me some more.

    I’m quite happy u didn’t add any of his rnb songs. I tried to listen to them but Jay Chou is just so meh when he is trying to be cocky. He is better when it comes to ballads.

    I got in to Chinese music thanks 2 u Amy!

    I think that Jay Chou has some amazing song titles and some interesting sounds.

    I think the list should include why u chose the songs u did. By the way, are they in order from which one u like most to least?

    • amy says:

      @Julili, I refer to zhongguo feng as Chinese sounding… I label Jay as fusion because he is a lot more pop… than say 12 Girls Band, who do a lot of new pop rock songs (like Coldplay’s Clocks or El Condor Pasa) in a super Chinese style.

      For the record, I really HATE Jay’s R&B. If he had gotten stuck with R&B, I would’ve preferred going the way of Lee Hom Wang. But then again, both of them branched out in different directions, so it’s all good.

      The order of the list is chronological, because it made sense to listen to the songs as they were released. So it’s logical to listen to #10 a simple pop love song to #1 a completely different Chinese-style pop ballad.

    • amy says:

      @Julili, my favorite songs here are Hair Like Snow, Maltose, Faraway, and Common Jasmine Orange xD

      And some of them include the info why they were added. Marking things like Pop sounds to Chinese style, to Country-ish themes… and especially Ting Mama de Hua. xD

  2. TK says:

    Hey, I’d just like to point out that Youtbe link on song No. 4 is Chrysanthemum Flower Bed (菊花台), not Golden Armour. (Both songs are from the movie, but Golden Armour is a more rockish song).

  3. Nayeli says:

    Loved this article/guide/review whatever, gonna share it with my asian-lovers friend hehe. I’m definitely gonna check out frequentely this website <3 ^^

  4. Timea says:

    I think I would have started with some of his more – how to say – western songs of his, something that is more catchy for foreign people, and then go on to his zhongguo feng songs, which are for people who already understand his music. I would have definitely excluded his country style and the childish songs. People might get an idea Jay is a big child (he is indeed) but in fact he is a genius musician and composer, and I would have chosen songs that display this musical superiorness.

    My list would be like (without numbering)
    * Huo Yuan Jia – perfect to showcase his hiphop-rap-yet-so-chinese style
    * Bencao Gangmu – perfect dance song
    * An Jing – my alltime fave slow song from Jay
    * Wo bu pei
    * The Era
    * Checkmate – the perfect rap song
    * yi fu zhi ming (in the name of the father) – I think this is his best song EVER, the whole music is just mind bogglingly perfect and his relaxed rapping …. it just perfectly reflects the theme and the Italian gangster style. Incomparable.
    * Piao Yi – the theme song of the movie Initial D – unbelievable
    * Nunchucks – how could you leave out nunchuks?? :D I grew to love this song for some reason.
    * Double blade
    * hei se you mo – this song perfectly shows that the guy CAN SING and has a beautiful voice that he usually hides with his rapping…
    * hair like snow
    * golden armour
    * Rosemary – I like the Latino style he perfectly captures in this wonderful song
    * Waipo – such a sweet song written for his beloved grandma.

    • amy says:

      @Timea, I have to admit that I never really actually liked his most “western” influenced stuff. And I actually like his country-style Chinese stuff — I do love country and folk all in itself though. I think the list I made was more to show the variety of music… not so much as to say “listen to this pop song”.

      And as for my including Ting Mama de Hua – I actually explain it:
      “I was a bit reluctant to add this song, but I figured this wasn’t about me. The reason why Ting Mama de Hua makes it to the list is because Jay Chou writes a rap/lullaby that talks about listening to what your mother says. How freaking positive is that?”

      LOL, but I get why people wouldn’t xD

      I almost included Golden Armor as well as Rosemary – I also like the Latino flavor in it. I did try to add something out of every album xD

      Thanks for the comment – and the guys on the Jay Chou forum ;D I just spied.

      How did you guys liked The Green Hornet?

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