A (Very Late) Review of Jay Chou's "The Era" Album

[note: This review only reflects the opinions of the writer and does not represent the views of any other staff member or CpopAccess in general. You are welcome and even encouraged to have different opinions.]

I know Jay Chou's 10th album, The Era, was released a long time ago (May 14th) and by now everyone's probably gotten their copy/listened to it on the Internet. However, since Jay Chou is one of the few artists I am still willing to purchase an album for, I refrained from listening to as many songs as possible before I got my copy so I could get a fresh perspective on it. Well this week my brother finally mailed the album to me! And after listening to the entire thing, I thought it'd be nice to share my opinions on it. I'm in no way a musical expert, just a diehard Jay fan :)

Track 1: The Era (跨時代) - It’s one of his typical “epic” openers of Jay albums, such as “Dragon Rider” from the Capricorn album. The first time I listened to this, unfortunately, was watching the MV. The whole vampire thing has been a little overused and also Jay looks very creepy and not too attractive(even if he did spend a fortune on that piano). The main aspect of this song is the (overusage) of autotune. Although worldwide we’ve pretty much used autotune to death, Jay's autotune is a “breakthrough” in the Taiwanese industry as not a lot of artists there use it. It’s really annoying at first, but eventually you get used to it and then it’s kind of catchy.

One thing I don’t really like are the lyrics, especially the part about “I don’t need to be worshipped”. In the song it’s referred to how he doesn’t need to be pitied that he’s a vampire but can easily be mistaken as Jay being egotistic and saying he doesn’t need to be praised. Eh, Jay’s confidence is in general a touchy subject especially as he’s already talked about his ego in “Superman Can’t Fly”.

Track 2: Said Goodbye (說了再見) - If The Era is the equivalent of Capricorn’s “Dragon Rider”, then “Say Goodbye” reminds me of “Where Is The Promised Happiness” and it’s even got a similar lyrical theme going. One of those typical ballads of Jay’s, but luckily, his ballads are always pleasing to listen to. I like the bridge part the best, the lyrics “ 妳的笑,妳的好,腦海裡,一直在繞 (Your smile, your goodness, keeps spinning in my head)"
juxtaposed with the rapid violin makes me feel the pangs of regret that Jay tries to convey in this song.

Track 3: Fireworks Cool Easily (煙花易冷) - For some reason, this is one of my favorite songs on the album. The simplicity of the piano and guitar and Jay’s voice makes the song sound very haunting. One of the great things about Jay’s music is that you find yourself enjoying immensely just the melody and music composition even if you can’t understand a single word. After reading the translation, (old monk reminisces over his lost love), it just adds even more depth to the song. But mostly, I really just enjoy Jay’s voice in here and the way he sings in this song.

Track 4: Free Instructional Videotape (免費教學錄影帶) - Typical Jay vs. Old guy dialogue in the beginning, then off we go to learn how to be a rocker! Once again, my first taste of this song was the MV, and conversely to “The Era”, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this song as much if I hadn’t seen the video first. Some people might be turned off by another attempt by Jay to “experiment” with music but I actually enjoy this bluesy mix of his, maybe because I’m a southerner, I don’t know haha. It’s one of his more successful “experiments”. The lyrics are amusing as Jay essentially is “teaching” you how to be a rock star and throws in a humorous amount of puns (and makes a shout out to his previous western experiment, “Cowboy is Busy”). This song definitely reflects the influence he’s gotten from being in Hollywood. However, is that also the reason for the flashy cheerleaders in the MV?

Track 5: Long Time No See (好久不見) - A cutesy, lighthearted song that I don't get tired of listening to. The lyrics are also very sweet as Jay longs to see someone (Jolin?) again. This time, Jay throws in some Taiwanese, and even though I don’t understand Taiwanese, I think it’s a perfect addition to the song and it adds an even more bouncy feeling. In the MV, Jay actually performs (also very cute) choreography, and shamelessly promotes his Mr. J Restaurant. I do want to take a moment here to comment that I think in comparison to his other MV’s, this MV seems less developed in terms of storyline. I know the song is supposed to be the theme song for the Taiwan Flower Expo but that doesn’t mean you have to spend less time making a good MV for it right? Maybe I’m just so used to his angsty dramatic storylines that he squishes in 3 minutes that I forgot that his MV’s could be cute and simple hehe.

Track 6: It Rained All Night (雨下一整晚) - Another sad ballad that is composed with eastern elements to it. A very simply sung first verse goes into a beautiful instrumental break. Towards the second half of the song Jay decides starts to sing more “eastern” which I think improved the song as I was a little bored during the first half. It’s a good song but kind of forgettable for me as Jay’s done countless number of East-West fusion songs. The MV is no original either as it does the whole reincarnation thing similar to “Hair Like Snow” but Darren from The Drifters does a good job acting in it.

Track 7: Hip Hop Stewardess (嘻哈空姐) - His typical hip-hop dance track. If you are already tired of Jay using autotune from “The Era”, you probably should skip this song because this entire song is full blast autotune. The beat is really catchy but because of the autotune I couldn’t understand anything until I read the lyrics. Then I learned that Jay was basically singing about an attraction to a sexy flight attendant. Apparently this song is even banned in China for being too “explicit”. Hey, don’t blame Jay; Vincent Fang wrote the lyrics. I did enjoy the line in the chorus “coffee, tea, or me” from Cyndi Wang’s “Happy Loving”. Hmm, maybe this song is a response to that song because the “Happy Loving" MV has Cyndi playing a stewardess…a new “J” girl, anyone? Nonetheless, I like this song.

Track 8: I Weep, My Emotions are in Bits and Pieces (我落淚。情緒零碎) - The beginning reminds me of “Flower Sea” from his Capricorn album. It’s kind of a mid-tempo track with light-rock elements that are reminiscent of “Can’t Open Mouth” from his album. This song is not particularly memorable to me but I like the chorus. If you’re a fan of Jay’s ballads you might like this.

Track 9: Love’s Travel Diary (愛的飛行日記) - A duet with Gary Yang with kind of an alternative rock feeling. You can really tell the difference between Gary and Jay’s voices as Gary definitely enunciates more and has a sharper tone, but of course they up Jay’s volume in the chorus so you can barely hear Gary xD. However, the two voices work well together and they certainly don’t clash. This could’ve just as easily been a solo song for Jay but personally I’m glad they made it a duet or else it probably would’ve been kind of forgettable. At least making it a duet shakes things up.

Track 10: Self-Directed and Acted (自導自演) - An R&B track that reminds me of “Sorry” from his Fantasy album. This is another one of my favorite songs on the album. Jay once against employs fast rapping and a catchy beat to sing about a girl who would *gasp* dare to cheat on him. I also really like his background vocals, they sound kind of sexy. The MV reflects the song’s message although one thing that really sticks out is that it looks like Jay gettin’ it on with the scantily clad female lead. Ah, don’t we miss the days when Jay would barely even hold hands with the female leads in his MV’s? He must have gotten a LOT of influence in America is all I can say. Also he borrows a Citroen GT sports car for the MV, apparently there's only like 6 in the whole world.

Track 11: Superman Can’t Fly (超人不會飛) - Whuzzat? An eleventh track? Just consider it a present from Jay not releasing an album last year. This was his first single and is probably the best song on the album. I call this the “Fragrant Rice” of this album because it’s lighthearted musically but the lyrics hit you like a brick. Jay reveals all his frustration he’s felt from entertainment industry, especially his recent flops in action movies and directing idol dramas. Hopefully that won’t happen to “The Green Hornet” though! Also, whoever styled Jay in the MV needs a pay raise because he simply looks amazing!

To sum it up, this is in my opinion one of the best albums Jay’s released in years, since maybe Still Fantasy in 2006. surprising, as he’s had a lot of projects to juggle since 2008. I bet a lot of these songs were written on a whim, which can be a good thing, since what comes out most naturally usually sounds the best. My top three recommended songs are "Superman Can't Fly", "Fireworks Cool Easily", and "Self Directed and Acted".

So what did you think of The Era? Will it "跨越過時代" (transcend through the centuries) or will this album "一幕幕紛飛" (simply flutter away)?

Image Source: Chinese Album Art Website, FyeahJayChou@Tumblr

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