With all the Asian movies and other elements of Asian culture becoming mainstream in North America, some artists in the region have started to favorably judge their chances of breaking into that distant, Holy Grail of a market. This is despite the warning of precedent and more sober contemporary assessments that point to this being, in fact, a pipe dream.
Nevertheless, Jay Chou (周杰倫) is the latest star to be swept up in this enthusiasm, in large part because of the currently ongoing American leg of his Incomparable "world tour" where he played in Los Angeles last Saturday and will play in Connecticut tomorrow and Sunday. But his own reaction to the shows may help explain at least partly why the cultural divide will continue to keep most Asian stars from hitting it big in North America.
In a follow-up story to Jay's Los Angeles show, The Liberty Times (自由時報) quotes the singer as saying that he was especially excited to see black people in the crowd, adding that with them there he felt as though blessed by the cool stick. "Even though they didn't understand what I was singing, they still bought tickets to the show. That was awesome." So awesome, apparently, that before leaving Los Angeles for New York, he had his managers arrange for Jay to play a celebratory round of basketball with the black people in the crowd.
Back in Taiwan, instead of running a beeline toward cultural gaffes, Jay quite simply can do no wrong. An end-of-the-year roll call in Apple Daily (蘋果日報) of the highest grossing pop stars put the idol sitting atop the pile, having brought in NT$300 million in album sales, promotional deals and cameo TV and movie appearances. Not bad for a year's work. Girl band S.H.E trailed Jay with NT$230 million while Jay's rumored lover Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) clocked in at a distant third with NT$170 million.
Meanwhile in TV, the competitive field of variety shows revealed its top dogs for the year, with Hu Gua (胡瓜) reclaiming his top spot from two years ago with five shows on three channels raking in an average of about NT$500,000 in personal earnings per episode. Jacky Wu (吳宗憲), the TV personality now honored with a government public service announcement on TV lampooning him as a drunk driver, came in second, followed by Chang Fei (張菲) and finally Chang Hsiao-yen (張曉燕).
TV host Kevin Tsai (蔡康永) didn't make the list of top hosts, but was in the news anyway twice this week: one item featured photos of him on vacation with his boyfriend in the Sahara and the second time he was on the receiving end of pointed remarks by Momoko Tao (陶晶瑩), who appeared on his show to discuss her new book Little Eyes (小眼睛). After the show, Tao complained that judging from the questions asked her, Tsai didn't appear to have even read her book, to which Tsai, the author of best-selling books, responded that he had, in fact read the book -- while getting his makeup done before the show. Tao's book was "an easy read," Tsai said.
Another TV host, Peng Chia-chia (澎恰恰) has been in the news this week, but for far more somber reasons. An assistant on one of his shows fell to her death from a building after leaving three notes, one of which told him to "stop playing with fire." Media pressed Peng to clarify what the line in the letter meant, but he has so far said it was just parting words from a woman who liked to take care of everyone.