Back to Jay: Reviewing 2011 Release, “Mine Mine”
So Jay Chou decided to get in some super savvy points, releasing his 11th album on the 11th of this month (while neighbors in fellow East Asian countries were likely having a ball with Pocky/Peppero Day’s of epic proportions!). Here’s one of the tracks, Mine Mine:
Regarding music, Jay’s one of my old favorites since I got into him in high school; I always tend to like his songs. He’s a proficient pianist and composer, completing all the writing and arrangement of his music, and when he writes lyrics I often find them interesting and touching even in their relative simplicity (Jay’s longtime co-writer, lyricist Vincent Fang, is widely known for his crafted, poetic lyrics). With that control over his music, all of his songs seem to bear a stamp of his style, and I can usually identify a new song as his just from listening.
Maybe that’s why though I like his work, nothing from him has excited me very much since his fourth album. It’s not that I feel he needs to change or reinvent himself – it’s more that I feel like he’s gotten complacent being Mandopop’s reigning king for so long. In my opinion, that lack of being challenged and pushing himself reflects in the music. So, this new song still doesn’t make me super excited, but it’s okay. It would be pleasant enough if he hadn’t stuck in those mine mine’s and bye bye’s in.
However, after a year in Korea, there are some very refreshing aspects of this music video and song. First, I adore the fact that artists have a little longevity in the Mando-pop scene. Granted Jay’s at the top, so he has a little more leeway, but he’s been on top pretty much since his foray into Chinese pop music in 2000. So he’s able to try out dancing and autotuned music, not necessarily elements I’m relishing in and definitely a different turn from the way he started, taking part in the current trends like it’s any old thing. Second, I love the incorporation of Taiwanese. It appears in the second chorus around 2:30, and is, as one of my good friends put it, a “nice touch.” Those who aren’t familiar with a Chinese language might not pick up on it (and it’s hard enough with Jay’s notorious style of mumbling-singing), but it really exhibits a bit of local pride in showcasing a piece of local culture.
Other than that, I know it’s a little goofy. He’s not the sharpest dancer, there’s too much going on (why bust out the umbrellas??), and I’ll never understand the preoccupation with animal print. And I feel like Taiwanese production value will always be a little behind Korean. You can see it as well as feel it. Korean pop culture hits harder, they’re smoother and incorporate more of the dramatic touches. Taiwanese music tends to be softer and more relaxed. But I can appreciate the dorkiness, and it’s kind of endearing. Like it hasn’t quite yet reached the Korean levels of the necessity to be “cool” and the obssession with outer appearances.
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy pop music, love me some solid pop songs, and have taken part in my share of spazzing over music in both the Korean and the Taiwanese market. It’s just that the year I was in Seoul, the materialism and facade obsession really got to me. But the Taiwanese/Chinese market is by no means perfect either. As I said before, Jay seems to have gotten kind of lazy, and that means he hasn’t had to face much in terms of challengers; it could even be argued that he, as well as many other Mandopop artists, are actually imitating Korean pop styles. I would love to see more talented artists stepping up to the plate and giving him a run for his money.