China's hit summer song takes fans back through space and time

The World
Famed Taiwanese singer Jay Chou performs during his concert "The Invincible" in Taipei, Taiwan

The hit song this summer in the Chinese-speaking world may be an unlikely one, but it features magic and time travel. Artist Zhou Jie Lun — or "Jay Chou" as he’s known in English — is a Mandopop megastar, and he’s released his first album in six years. He’s been mixing R&B, rap and classical styles for more than 20 years, and has a huge fan base.

The hit song is called “The Greatest Works of Art.” In the music video, Jay Chou travels to Paris, finds an antique piano and travels back in time to pay his respects to great artists throughout history. He performs magic tricks for Claude Monet, René Magritte, Salvadore Dali and the Chinese artist Sanyu, and in his imagination, his magical illusions inspire their masterpieces.

And if that’s not enough, the song also features a cameo by Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang, in which the two face off in a piano battle. The track also features a violin solo by award-winning violinist Ray Chen.

Shanghai resident Lillian Zhang, who's been listening to the song, said that Jay Chou’s music has accompanied her throughout her life.

“When I was in middle school, he’d just come out and become a singer,” she said. “His songs were so unique and so edgy at that time, but everyone loved it, everyone was crazy about it. From middle school until college, I listened to his songs.”

Zhang said she’s pregnant now and her husband plays Jay Chou’s music for her and their unborn child every day, including the “Greatest Works of Art” song. She said it’s been very popular this summer, because fans were hungry for new music from Jay Chou, who doesn’t put out songs as much as he used to.

So, when the songs came out, everyone was [like ‘we] to have to listen to them,’” she said.

Han Jia is also a longtime fan of Jay Chou, although she admitted that the track isn’t in her top 10 list of his songs. She prefers his earlier songs. But she said that it doesn’t matter, because anything he puts out is going to be a hit.  

“[Jay Chou] is no longer a singer. He’s an icon.”

Han Jia, longtime fan of Jay Chou

“He’s no longer a singer,” she said, “he’s an icon.”

The music video has gotten 167 million views on Chinese social media and broken the record for album sales in China.

Hong Kong DJ Ocean Chen said the song has been on heavy rotation on RTHK radio since it was released last month. She said the music video has been popular, but the song still has its critics.

“The lyrics, the people are saying, are meaningless,” she said. “It’s just counting some of the greatest artists — just a breakdown list. People keep on asking, ‘what did he want to say?’”

She also said that opinions have been divided online.

Mandopop superstar Jay Chou gestures while talking about his latest Netflix show "J-Style Trip" and life with his children during an interview, Taipei, Taiwan

Mandopop superstar Jay Chou gestures while talking about his latest Netflix show "J-Style Trip" and life with his children during an interview, Taipei, Taiwan, April 26, 2020.


Chiang Ying-ying/AP/File photo

“The comments are very extreme,” she explained. “The bad comments are mostly thinking about this song: it sounds the same as 20 years ago. [On] the positive side they are thinking, Jay Chou is still hanging there, and is still doing the same thing of Jay Chou.”

So, basically the haters hate what the lovers love. Jay Chou is still Jay Chou. And this song is unmistakably his.

Related: 'It is pure magic': Pakistani song 'Pasoori' climbs the charts in India and beyond

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