​Superstar Jay Chou breaks records with new music

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Pop icon Jay Chou posted an amusing video on social media, alone in Australia, showing his latest music video, "Greatest Works of Art," to a kangaroo and asking, "is it okay with you?"

​Superstar Jay Chou breaks records with new music
A promotional image for Jay Chou's latest music video, "Greatest Works of Art." [Photo courtesy of JVR Music]

Back in China, the scenes were much more lively. The music video went online at exact noon on Wednesday and stormed the online platforms with various unprecedented records created on many platforms. The video immediately shot to the No.1, while various relevant trending topics also got top ranks on the charts. On China's microblogging site Sina Weibo, the video garnered more than 140 million views by Friday. There are more than 1 billion views on multiple topics, discussions, and posts. On the QQ Music platform, the music video has more than 21 million views, while on another video streaming giant, Bilibili, it also has 20 million views. Meanwhile, on the short-video app Kuaishou, the video is a huge record-breaking hit, with 150 million views within 8 hours.

The video, most likely inspired by Woody Allen's movie "Midnight in Paris" (2011), shows Chou entering the La Samaritaine, a Parisian shopping mall with a 150-year history. Chou plays a melody on the piano that brings him back to the city of Paris in 1920 to meet and interact with the art and literature greats living at that time, including Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, and Chinese painter Chang Yu and Chinese poet Xu Zhimo. He pays homage to those masters and their "greatest works of art." In the video, Chou plays magic tricks on them like a time-traveling magician. The song's lyrics also pay tribute to masterpieces such as Van Gogh's "Starry Night," Edvard Munch's "The Scream," and Camille Monet's "Impression Sunrise."

Internationally renowned pianist Lang Lang makes a surprise cameo and performs with Chou for a piano battle in the video. "This music video is very creative, which features elements of pop music and even more classical music. Chou got this idea five years ago. He hopes more people can become interested in art and feel that art is everywhere," Lang revealed, calling the video a "milestone."

​Superstar Jay Chou breaks records with new music
A scene shows renowned pianist Lang Lang appearing in Jay Chou's latest music video, "Greatest Works of Art." [Photo courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment China]

The project also features violinist Ray Chen, lyricists Alang Huang and Xie Di. The video blends arts, literature, music, and visuals into a typical Chou-styled work with thoughtful and delicate details. "Nevertheless, this work has great musicians such as Lang Lang and Ray, as well as these great artists mentioned in the lyrics. For me, it is the Greatest Works of Art!" Chou said.

Fans reacted positively, though many say there's no significant innovation and surprise. "Chou just repeated himself," one music fan wrote on the Weibo microblogging site. 

Aidiren, a music critic, still believes that besides nostalgia effects, the song is a typical and quality work by Chou, who integrates vintage European elements with hip hop rhythms and Chou-style melodies. At the same time, Chou piled artistic materials and references in the song to make his work decent and exquisite. "He builds on his early and unique music style, but his style is almost too big and strong. On the one hand, he is the one and only; on the other hand, it's hard for him to outcompete himself."

Chou has been hailed as the king of Mandopop for the originality and diversity of his cross-over and fashionable pop songs, earning him numerous music awards and a juggernaut reputation and status in the Chinese-speaking music world. But it has been six years since the release of the pop superstar's last album, "Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories."

​Superstar Jay Chou breaks records with new music
A promotional image for Jay Chou's latest music video, "Greatest Works of Art." [Photo courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment China]

"Greatest Works of Art," the 15th album of the veteran singer-songwriter, is long-awaited by his fans and will be released on July 15. It will contain 12 tracks, including a piano intro, six new songs, and five previously digital-released songs during the past six album-absent years, including the smash hit "Mojito." Before the pre-sales began, nearly 8 million users made reservations on the pre-sale page, another platform record. The album started pre-sales for its digital version at midnight on Friday morning on QQ Music, Kugou, and Kuwo — three online streaming services run by Tencent Music Entertainment Group. By Monday morning, it had sold nearly 2.5 million copies. The price per copy is 30 yuan ($4.5). The platforms also offered merchandise and discounts to fans who had bought some of the already digitally released tracks.

Its physical CD version, and even vinyl LPs, will be released and distributed by Sony Music Entertainment China in the Chinese mainland market. Still, the company has not yet set the release date. 

From May 20 to 21, two concerts by Chou, taken from his 2012 Ferris Wheel tour and 2019 Strongest on the Surface tour, were re-screened through online platforms under Tencent, including QQ Music, Kugou and WeChat, attracting over 70 million viewers in total and pleasing nostalgic fans. This cemented his status in pop music history even before he announced a new album.

Chou's pride and ego are evident in his new song "Greatest Works of Art." For example, he describes himself as "the king of music" and declares that "all things must bow to my music."

But he also seemed to resonate with the loneliness of past great artists and reflect on being the king of the Chinese music world. "All the frantic bustling of the world comes from loneliness," he sings.

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