Jay Chou likes to think big. His latest music release, “Greatest Works of Art,” is not just the Mando-pop king’s first full-length album after a six-year hiatus. The album’s elaborate, international production of its eponymous first single and the accompanying music video, features the “cameos” of some of the biggest names in art history.
It sets Chou up nicely for the his next creative chapter: an art film.
“This music video has received a lot of good feedback, including from the French Tourist Office, so I will consider preparing a film project that tells a story revolving around an artist. I might direct it too,” Chou told Variety. Despite having appeared in Hollywood films such as “The Green Hornet” as Kato, superhero blockbusters no longer appeal.
“If I were to make a film, I would create my own style of art film. Of course, it’s also necessary to take the commercial market into consideration,” he said.
The newfound ambition of the mega pop star—also a music composer, producer, actor, and film and music video director—should not come as a surprise. Chou demonstrated his storytelling and film directing potential with his acclaimed 2007 debut “Secret,” and more recently by curating a contemporary art auction with Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.
Sales of the 12-track Mandarin album “Greatest Works of Art” have already reported great success since its release in mid-July. It sold 5 million copies in mainland China during its first week, beating the single-region sales record set by Adele’s “25,” which sold 3.38 million copies in the U.S. in 2015. Chou’s album also sold more than 200,000 copies in the star’s native Taiwan.
The music video of single has accumulated more than 17 million views on YouTube in three weeks, while second single “Still Wandering” totaled more than 9.8 million views in two weeks. The latest single, “You Are The Firework I Missed” has recorded nearly 3.2 million views just two days after it was released on July 27. Media forecasts estimate that sales of the album could challenge the annual sales record of 10 million copies, and put it on track to be the best-selling album in the world this year.
The production of this new album also reveals Chou’s ambition to take his creative career further on to the global stage. It sees Chou singing in Mandarin in his signature soulful R&B groove, which often incorporates classical music, blues, rock ’n’ roll, contemporary pop, and Chinese sensibility as has been his style since sensational 2000 debut album “Jay.” But the production of the new album and its videos involved more international collaborations. Some were shot in the U.S.
Chou has teamed up with internationally renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang and award-winning Taiwanese American violinist Ray Chen for the title song “Greatest Works of Art,” which is intended to pay tribute to some of the most important artists in history. Chen plays the violin solo composed by Chou. “I hope to make classical listeners feel that pop and classical can be a perfect combination,” the star said.
“When I first heard of this piece, I thought it was really interesting because there are elements of classical music combined with the pop world,” Chen said in a video interview. “It’s a fun project to be involved in.”
Chou directed the time travel music video of “Greatest Works of Art,” which is essentially a short film with a complete plot, and which may have given Chou the confidence to now pitch for a feature film about art.
Shot in Paris at the Samaritaine department store, the Mando-pop king disguises himself as a security guard in order to sneak himself into the historic building and play a magic piano that transports him and his partner in crime from present times to the 1920s French capital. There he meets some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, including the Surrealists Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, Claude Monet, Chinese-French painter Sanyu, and Chinese poet Xu Zhimo.
In Chou’s imagination, these artists are enchanted by his magic tricks and were inspired to create the classical works that have left a mark in the history of art – everything from Dali’s melting clocks in “The Persistence of Memory” (1931), to Magritte’s “The Son of Man” (1964), and Monet’s paintings of waterlilies.
“In this wild era, as the king of music, I think I do not need a picture frame,” he sings. “My musical notes are all the future of art.” He also encounters a mysterious pianist played by Lang, who challenges Chou in a music battle.
The plot of the music video involves considerable research into the history of art, artists, Paris, and magic, the star noted. He also fills in the gaps in the story with pieces of his own imagination, and he invents connection between the artists. “You can imagine if the literati and artists gathered together in that era, what would they be like, drawing something for each other?” he asked.
Before embedding himself in the film, Chou is poised to take his music on the road, as the post-pandemic world opens up. He is set to take his Carnival World Tour to Singapore in December, followed by a show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that has been rescheduled to January, 2023, due to COVID delays.