Today’s guest is my friend and fellow BoJack Horseman scholar, Alison Chang! I’m sure she’ll be back for that discussion but this time she’s here to talk about her definitive fangirl experience:
It was a random summer day and I was 15, maybe 16 years old. My cousin from Taiwan was visiting my family for a few weeks and he pulled up a movie to watch on his laptop. It was called “Initial D”, and it was a Chinese movie based on a Japanese manga about drift racing, and for whatever reason I was drawn to the actor who played the main character: quiet and brooding, yet fiercely protective of his onscreen love interest. “Oh, that guy? That’s Jay Chou. He’s a pop star in Taiwan. I have a few of his albums.” My cousin proceeded to download his first two albums onto my iTunes Library. Growing up a child of immigrant parents from Taiwan, I was proud of my culture but had never been exposed to its music until now. And I was hooked.
Jay was a pioneer of his time in that he was one of the first Asian artists to successfully fuse elements of Eastern and Western musical trends into his songs. A Chinese string instrument called an erhu might be mixed with an R&B melody. A sick rap verse might be played over Spanish guitar. Sometimes his experimentations turned out weird, but I appreciated an artist who was willing to push the limits on how he could innovate his art. Additionally, Jay Chou has self-composed almost every single one of his songs and since his debut in 2000, he has produced 14 albums and almost 150 songs in 18 years. And I probably know most or all the words to about 100 of them.
Jay Chou was the soundtrack as I mourned a teenage lost love in my childhood bedroom. Jay Chou was what I lip-synced to on long road trips when no one else was watching. Jay Chou was what I belted out at the top of my lungs when I celebrated New Year’s Eve 2012 at his concert San Francisco.
One of the happiest moments in my life was when I had the opportunity to meet Jay Chou in person in 2009. My brother happened to be good friends with one of the artists in Jay Chou’s record label, and during a visit to Taiwan we were given access to his recording room. He was in there recording a song, and I remember my heart pounding in my chest as I saw him in the recording booth merely feet away from me. Afterwards, we exchanged brief introductions and took a photo together. He put his arm around me, and I will never forget the feeling - or wash the shirt I was wearing.
Some people might think it’s silly to be that star struck over a certain person or boyband. However, more than just for his music, I credit Jay Chou with providing the catalyst for my love for my Taiwanese heritage. Because of him, I learned cultural idioms in Mandarin and unearthed aspects of Taiwanese history I might have never learned otherwise. Because of him, I maintained connections with my relatives as it gave us something to bond over. Jay Chou’s popularity spans not just Taiwan, but across the world, and I wonder how many of his fans are just like me - foreigners who fell in love with some songs, then an entire country.
Sadly, my obsession with him faded around the end of college, and I have not listened to much of his new music in over 6 years. A lot has happened since then. He still makes music and releases an album every couple years. He’s also been in a few Hollywood movies too - most notably in “The Green Hornet” and “Now You See Me 2”. He’s even gotten married and had a kid!
But no matter how much time has passed, I can always pull up a Spotify playlist of his greatest hits and find myself filled with a wave of nostalgia and pride, ready to belt out the next tune.
Corny Factor: An old Tumblr post of mine circa 2012 that lists my top 26 Jay Chou songs with careful analysis equivalent in depth and research to a PhD.