Monday, 29 April 2013
Jay Chou's lecture at Beijing University 开讲啦！
Jay delivered a lecture at a university students conference in Beijing on 22 April 2013 with the theme "You can be extraordinary".
He spoke very comfortably and at length about his life and work, peppered with his characteristic wit and humour.
Which is a measure of how much he has grown and matured over the past 12 years that he has been in the entertainment industry.
I love how down-to-earth he was and would like to share this here, as he had many meaningful insights to impart.
I do not know how to subtitle a vid but will translate for you guys as best as I can. Apologies if I sound a little incoherent at times but I think you guys will understand most of it.
Playlist of three vids:
Jay makes his entrance to loud screams and cheers from the audience (naturally), and a standing ovation!
"How are you guys?" and of course more cheers from the audience.
Host then thanks the students for turning the event into a concert...lol!
"Standing here on this stage is not a simple matter; I can be considered to have succeeded, right? I'm actually here today to address you guys about having a can-do spirit. I feel that everyone has a dream and since this is a students event, I'll share some of my own student experiences with everyone.
Having 'face' is very important to me and I guess you all know that already. I like to win. Let me give you a simple example:
In a crowded bus, one often gets their arm caught in the door...you know what that feels like, right?
Well, I'm a person who will not express pain because sitting near the door would be many fellow students and I don't want to lose face in front of them. Also, the door should open automatically at the next stop, right? But the bus did not stop! I'd then have to quietly try and pass a message to the driver to open the door at the next stop because it was very painful!
But you can see that these characteristics have helped me survive in this industry because I keep telling myself that I cannot lose; I cannot let myself fall...and I think this deserves some applause...*audience laughs and claps accordingly*
Actually, I'm an ordinary guy, except that I learned some music, which now enables me to stand here addressing all of you, which is not easy as I did not go to university...do you think this is a little strange?
Vincent Fang also only completed primary school but the stuff he writes is now used as teaching materials in schools! (I'm not sure if he was serious about the primary school part, though)
Successful people have a strong will and also listen to their mother's words. It's important to keep striving and that's why I like to write songs like that. Eg Snail, which I wrote when I was working in the music production company, to encourage myself to keep climbing.
At that time, I was writing songs for other artistes. But, my first album (and others) consisted of songs which I had written for others and been rejected, like Nunchucks.
There's a song, Dream, in which I worked with Lang Lang and Kevin Lin, to encourage everyone to pursue their dreams and come back together to share.
I have no siblings and felt quite alone sometimes back then but I had a very good friend and companion. He was already a singer, we met in the recording studio; he shared his life with me, gave me clothes and food, brought me out in his car, introduced me to his friends...please welcome my good friend, Will Liu!
Will taught me many things and I would wonder why because I was not an artiste, but which has ultimately come in very useful.
"Actually, this is the first time I've ever heard him talk about all this. He used to sleep on the floor, and he also had his ankylosing spondylitis. I'd ask him to sleep on the sofa but he would decline, even though there were cockroaches on the floor! It was in that kind of environment that he composed many beautiful songs. Everyone found him a person of few words, head always down. My friends would ask me what was the matter with this guy. I'd tell them he can write songs and sing and should have his own album. And my friends would ask, disbelievingly whether his album would sell.
Jay would sing very softly in the karaoke so my friends could not believe he could be a singer.
But if you have a dream, you would work towards it regardless of what others say. So as a friend, I'm very proud of him,"
"Will also wrote lyrics for my songs and other artistes sometimes would only want the lyrics or only the music. But we would say they had to take the whole package. This was due to our brotherly bond."
"Jay did not have that many friends then but he treasured every one of them When he sold his first song, he was very happy and wanted to use his earnings to treat me to beef noodles since I had always treated him before. So I happily invited a few friends along. At the end of the meal, he apologised to me, saying that he did not have that much money after all! He really did not earn very much then but he's like that, which is why all his friends have always been very supportive of him...he wants to share whatever he has with friends even if it was not much and he has always been this way, very big-hearted, which is also partly why he has been so successful. As it turns out, now we are wearing HIS clothes!"
"Jacky Wu wanted me to write more than ten songs over three days to choose for other singers. I would hope that someone would choose to use my songs, beacause only then would I earn any money and bring it home to may parents. It was important to me that I could earn enough to let my family live well so this was a strong motivating factor for me to compose. I also wanted to repay my parents for all they had done for me, paying for my music lessons. My Mum also told me since Will lent you one shirt, you must then repay him by lending him two shirts!
My mum wanted me to go to university; I took the entrance exams twice but I did not like to study and preferred to play basketball. I'm not sure why I was like that; perhaps it is in my genes?
But what I'm telling you about now are possibly some of the reasons for my then-future endeavours.
I'll tell you now.
I was quite good at basketball but just that I could not jump high enough!
But if I had been a 'good' boy and not played more basketball or if I had not practised piano hard enough, how could I have filmed Kungfu Dunk and Secret?
All these are linked.
If I did not enjoy martial arts movies, how could I have done The Green Hornet?
These are stuff that one has a passion for and then there are the things your parents want you to do.
Parents always want your future to be something they envision or to fulfill their own ambitions.
Eg my father wanted to be a singer, so he was very supportive of my pop music career,
My mother was a teacher of fine arts so music was also acceptable to her. But she wanted even more that I could go to university.
Then I wrote the song for her and she did not say anything more...lol!
I can work with Lang Lang now; there should not be any divide between pop and classical music. I've kind of fulfilled a dream. These two genres can work together. Many pop songs have a basis in the classics. I always remember my roots in classical music and this makes my piano teachers very happy, which is why I like to use classical music in my songs.
I will not stop; I will keep moving forward...all for my fans to assure you that you are following the right person.
Jacky Wu said my songs were not bad but nobody could sing them. Then a new manager, Yang Junrong joined the company. I was wondering, what is wrong with this company...another new person? But he heard my songs and asked me to sing them myself. I did not think it would work but tried it anyway. There was a meeting with other bosses with other singers for them to decide whether to sign me on as a singer and Will suggested I sing Black Humour, which had strange lyrics (脑袋有问题=something wrong with your brain) but a good melody and was quite characteristic of my own style and besides, they wouldn't understand what I was singing anyway! Which I agreed with.
After I had sung, there was not much reaction from the audience. I was wondering why.
Will told me I sang too softly and only later did I realise that he had asked them to let me have a second chance to sing, for which I sang much better....and I'm very grateful to Will for doing that for me.
Thus my first album was born...with Loveable Woman.
I also shot my first MV with Vivian Hsu who was also in the same company and I could not believe it, because she was like a goddess! She then asked me to teach her piano, and I realised that learning the piano was the right thing to do! ;)
Winning awards was important to me and I really wanted to go up on stage to thank my grandma but when I did not win anything at one ceremony, where I had many nominations, I was not happy and felt I had disappointed her. I was brought down to earth and wrote Wai Po to express my displeasure.
At that time, I was rather more angry and would also write 'angry' songs scolding the pappz.
Eventually, I felt I should change and write more real and uplifting songs.
I've also written about family...mother, grandpa, father.
Many Western songs are very strong in their rhythm and beats and tended to be critical of the world and society. I wanted to be different because the idol you're supporting cannot do stuff like that, right? So I decided to write songs with an anti-drugs message but with an equally strong rhythm and beat. And I'm only antagonistic towards the pappz. Towards everyone else, I feel only love. ;)
I also found my stride in Chinese-style, inspired by Fei Yuqing. I wondered if I could do that style and tried with East Wind Breaks. Every album will have one.
Zhang Yimou wanted me to write songs for Curse of the Golden Flower, as he had heard East Wind Breaks.
I wrote Golden Armour and Ju Hua Tai. He liked the latter more.
Ju Hua Tai appealed to the older generation too which made me very happy; I sang clearly for them...or else they would not understand my song.
This made me realise as well that my fans encompassed a wide range of ages.
Thus I decided to write songs for kids.
And so, every album must have different genres.
I like to dabble in different styles...see it's so tiring and then I have to shoot MVs too, because I have my own vision of what the MV should look like, when I'm writing the song.
I tried out directing first with my friends as guinea pigs and found that I enjoyed it.
It's all an experience because I wanted to be a director, which is letting your own vision be realised on screen.
Some of my MVs are good with a huge budget; some not so good and need not necessarily involve a lot of money to be good. So which should it be?
I just wanted to do the best MV I could for every song.
And when I had my own company, I spent even more!
Yang Junrong eventually became my partner in our company, so it's interesting how things turn out.
My song lyrics from Ting Ma Ma De Hua which had Chow Yuen Fatt and Jacky Cheung were all about my dreams from young as I saw him in God Of Gamblers (Chow) and I was inspired by Goodby Kiss (Cheung).
And I eventually wrote a song for Jacky Cheung...and I felt very happy, also when he sang with me at my concert.
So in the field of music, I felt I had succeeded.
As for Secret, the budget was small and I wanted a love story with a difference.
Everyone thought I was thinking nonsensically and the movie crew were rather mystified by my idea of using the piano as a time machine but after it was done, the wow factor was there,
Our actual uniforms were not so nice, though.;)
Questions from audience:
Many Westerners like to use my songs to learn Chinese.
Chinese-style songs are clear.
Host asks him to sing Love In BC clearly...and Jay obliges. :)
Jay says he sings clearly but Vincent's lyrics are difficult to to handle.
He likes to sing 'lightly' and not emphasise the words too much.
An interesting observation from another student:
1. Most guests, when asked about their success will downplay it and say they have not succeeded. But not Jay, who does not deny anything and instead, explains all the reasons for his success.
2. Most guests, when told they're an 'idol', will try and downplay that modestly and say they are not idols. But not Jay, who conversely, tells his fans that since he is their idol, there will be things that he will not do, so as not to disappoint them.
(It sounds waay better in Chinese than my clumsy translation but I hope you get my drift.)
Jay was very happy.
He says when he first started out, he would wear his cap as he was rather shy. But things got better as he became more familiar with other people.
Other questions cover his multiple roles.
Mention is made of the star that was named after him; the number was: 257248 but Jay had forgotten the number...lol!
He likes being a director 'cos he likes to control others, like playing chess and they're the pieces.
But it is not an easy job, not just sitting in the chair and yelling instructions.
It's tougher than being a singer, because there are so many things to think about.
But I want to leave a legacy of something I can look back happily on when I'm older.
I wrote Tornado for Jacky Wu but he didn't want it.
Ninja was written for Amei.
When I meet them, I'll kid them about it.
Every song has its own suitable singer. Perhaps I did not really think about the individual singer's style when writing the songs and just wrote what I liked. But later, when I became a singer, I felt I should take all that into consideration, eg Eliminated which I wrote for Eason Chan,
Question about his ankylosing spondylitis, and Jay thanks her for her concern, says he's most worried that it'll flare upwhen he is performing in a concert.
Comment about his single-lid eyes and unclear singing, all of which are also very attractive.
He feels very happy when he sees his fans at autograph sessions 'cos they understand what he's doing. But he did sometimes get upset with criticisms initially, but decided that he would keep to his own way of doing things. Many singers would change their way for their own reasons, But he would not. And he would keep on doing Chinese style even when he is 70 or 80.
He writes songs for his fans who understand his music. There is no need to convince others who do not.
Next comment is about coincidences which led Jay to where he is now.
Jay says he might very well be the one playing piano like the fellow doing that in the hall.
It's important to grasp your chances, like when he was given the chance by Yang Junrong to sing.
If I were not a singer, I would be a piano teacher and go my own way.
Talent without chances is not enough.
He then gave another example eg the accompanist, who was obviously well-prepared so that he would play appropriate songs. The fact that Jay had noticed him was an opportunity and who knows? Jay might offer him a chance to perform at his concert one day.
Next was a question about society's expectations of him and how he deals with those.
Jay replied that he wrote Superman Can't Fly because he was tired of these expectations.
Regarding the pappz, he knows he has reacted badly to them previously. His mum always advises him to be careful about his behaviour as he is a public figure and he has decided to be nicer to the pappz and will not confront them anymore. Instead, he'll just wave to them. As such, it can be said that he has listened to his Mum and overcome this challenge.
Next question was about the friendships he has made in the industry.
Jay feels that he has enough old friends who are the ones who he has known from before he became a celebrity and it is difficult to make new friends as he does not really get to know many of the other stars he meets at events.
His most rewarding experiences are when he gets them involved in his movies. The movie company may ask for other actors but I'll disagree and say I want my friends to act in it.
Vice versa, I am most grateful to Will for that chance he gave me back then.
Will then talks about how frustrating it is playing basketball with Jay, sometimes because Jay does not seem to take the game seriously and is more concerned with style.
Another annoying aspect in movie-making with Jay is Jay's sudden flashes of inspiration which he would want to carry out but would interfere with the scheduled plans. However, no matter what, they would agree to Jay's ideas as in the end, they would find that his vision, when realised, was really a better one.
Jay, on the other hand, says that Will is too serious when playing basketball...lol!
Another question was about his song about Mum and family.
Jay says as an only child, he should not be rebellious. Mum was very happy with the song.
I think my musicality comes from my Dad.
He was a Biology teacher and he loved to sing;
Actually, it was difficult being a child of two teachers...lol!
But I just wanted people to appreciate their families more by writing these songs and use music to influence my fans in a more fun way.
Jay was asked about what would make his Mum happy, beyond him writing the song for her and his success so far. He replied that it would probably be when he finds a good wife. She and his grandma are always very happy when watching his concerts.
The most romantic thing he did for her was when he set off fireworks for her one Valentine's Day.
Next question was about fans who are fanatic to an extreme.
Jay said that when he sees news reports like that, he is pretty certain those are not his fans. His real fans would not behave badly.
About his failures, Jay talks about his television series (Pandamen), which was a surprising disappointment to him, as he had a lot of success up till then.
His fans advised him to do more music and less of other stuff; he eventually did The Green Hornet and picked himself up again and kept moving on.
Vincent Fang also likened Jay's music to a big tree with many other smaller trees beside it which fall. Those smaller trees are his other activities. His music would stay strong. He was thus encouraged and resolved to keep moving forward
He was then asked if he would change himself to fit his fans, who may not regard him as an idol after some time.
Jay said it depends on the circumstances.
You can still enjoy Dao Xiang, as an encouraging song.
He is happy if you enjoy his old songs; need not have to also like his new songs.
"In this life, people come and go; as long as you have been my fan previously, I am grateful."
And he can't tell how long his fans will keep supporting him but as long as there are fans who come to his concerts, he will keep singing.
In future, if he does not perform, he would look for new talents and they would sing his songs and his legacy will live on that way. I may not be able to sing and dance but they will carry on for me.
The host then sings Faraway with Jay. :)
Edited video from youtube, which is nice and clear, with nice close-ups of Jay. :)
Jay playing basketball with the host:
Isn't he just extraordinarily awesome???
My thoughts on this lecture
Omg...I love Jay even more now!
My respect for him has gone to a whole new level and I'm ever grateful that I watched The Green Hornet that fateful day on 30 January 2011.
He is so honest and level-headed, despite his Heavenly King status and so accessible to his fans.
Yet he has his principles which he sticks to and is as big-hearted as ever (if not more so).
I am indeed proud to be his fan and look forward to many years of Jay-mania. :)