Mandarin pop king Jay Chou (周杰倫) sees himself as a chef designing the menu for his restaurant.
His latest album, Opus 12, serves up the love ballads for which he’s known and that his fans want. But he’s trying new styles, too.
“There is a continuation of the Chou-styled ballads, R&B songs,” he says, along with using styles he says he hadn’t tried before.
“It’s like a chef serving up dishes for customers. He needs to continue with what the customers like, while inserting some new ideas,” he said during an interview in Taipei.
Chou’s signature of mixing tradition Chinese sounds with hip hop and R&B shows on tracks like Gong Gong with a Headache and Hong Chen Ke Zhan.
“I’m very pleased to say that I’ve maintained my standard,” he said, adding that Hong Chen Ke Zhan could hold its own against Blue and White Porcelain and Chrysanthemum Terrace.
One of Mandarin pop’s biggest-selling artists, Chou also repeated a call for Chinese media to increase their focus on Mandarin pop rather than K-pop, which has reigned on Asian musical charts in recent years. His remarks were viewed as anti-Korean pop, but Chou clarified that he likes to hear other music and is simply competitive.
“I’m a part of Mandarin pop, so I feel like I have a mission,” he said. “I think it’s good to pay attention to each other’s films or music. Now K-pop is having its moment, but we can’t lose. So I want to call on Mandarin pop singers and say we need to work harder.”
Chou has also debuted a new look: bleached platinum blond hair and a muscular physique that have made him hardly recognizable to fans. He said the reason for the drastic change was that it externally symbolizes his musical reinvention.
“It shows that I can run even faster in my music, surpass my past achievements,” he said. “Because my physique has surpassed my old self, it represents that I’m going to do the same musically.”
Chou admits when people first saw the change they were a bit shocked. “Do musicians need to do that? No, but I wanted to give myself a challenge.”
Opus 12, his 12th album, was released in Asia on Dec. 28, and Chou is currently promoting it in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.