When Jay Chou drops an album, he does it in style. And when this is Jay Chou’s bedtime stories, things get real.
Juxtaposed with Jay’s ridiculous jester alter-ego, the haunting Victorian-style promos provide a mysterious and fitting concept — both a fitting continuation of 2014’s Aiyo, Not Bad and an introduction to Jay as a fun role model for young children.
The physical album itself — a vivid storybook, told through the penned lyrics of each track and the stirring pop-ups — is truly nothing short of diaoness.
(Frick yes, me too.)
But past its mysterious and carefully crafted veneer, what of the music inside?
Granted, a large majority of Mandopop fans happen to enjoy listening to Jay, myself included. As overrated as we may all think he is (which may or may not be true), we still find ourselves bowing down to the ingenuity of, say, Fantasy or November’s Chopin.(Personally, I absolutely love Ye Hui Mei.)
But his newer releases, though undoubtedly popular, has often been viewed as disappointing, or, in general, not living up to his previous works. Despite being one of those fans, the fact that I still remain a listener speaks volumes about Jay Chou and the Chinese music industry.
With Jay Chou’s “Bedtime Stories”, Jay Chou’s Bedtime Stories opens on a strong note
The tranquil sounds of twilight, complete with owls and the slight howl of the wind, gives way to the vibrations of the melodious strings. Given that 1) this is Jay Chou, and that 2) this is 2016, the peace is naturally layered with a beat and drum loop. Jay’s soft rap, perhaps akin to that of a calming narration, begins to tell the bedtime story.
Rather effortlessly, the singer-rapper transitions fluidly between the soft singing and rapping — until, of course, it turns out to be a horror story with no escape. A horror story that results in insomnia. And yet this is supposed to be for his four-month-old daughter. Still, despite how eerily scary the track is as a children’s bedtime story, of all things, it’s incredibly fun.
For its serene yet mysterious opening, the chorus is, rather than creepy, catchy — as if the horror is all actually a facade and that it’s actually a whole lot of fun. Even Jay’s vocals jump all over the place, loudly and deliberately clearing his throat in the track prior to an attempt at bel canto singing for the bridge.
Though not Jay Chou’s best (our hearts still remain with his previous works), it’s a dynamic opening. And with the MV? Nailed it.
Let’s be real here — the MV was diao af.
What, with synchronized dancing —
Manipulation of art —
Glad to see he was birthed with clothing.
Just another day in the life of the King of Mandopop. *waves*
Maybe, just maybe, I am slightly slain. Yet all this — bound together in a mere storybook? Ridiculous!
You know how we tend to get nostalgic about Jay’s older music? Yeah? Well, he knows. “Let’s Go”, a whimsical pop-rock track pretty much whisks us back to the days of On the Run, when Jay was a cowboy who drank milk in bars.
The track, though not particularly inventive in any way, tugs on fans’ nostalgic heartstrings. Incorporating slight elements of country, it’s catchy yet may invoke some tears of the emotional.
As for the MV? Let’s just say that thank goodness Jay doesn’t promote in the Western world. 😂
“A Little Bit” is not just a little sad. It’s full-on Mandopop love ballad — what with the soft chords of a piano intro, accompanied with your typical flowing strings and emotional delivery. And of course the second round through, the bass is introduced, heightening the level of sentiment.
It also sounds like this song could’ve been released 10 years ago — what with its “Coral Sea” vibes and all that. To be fair, given the state of the Chinese music industry, this might as well be a release from 10 years in the future.
Here’s my consensus regarding generic love ballads: admittedly, they sound good. But I’m a C-pop listener. I hear them way too much.
My favorite singer is still JJ.
Should Jay ever release an MV, it would still be a chart-topper. But honestly, this was just filler.
In which Jay Chou’s infant daughter bangs a random tune onto the keyboard and Jay decides to turn it into a song.
“Lover From A Previous Life” is my favorite track off of “Jay Chou’s Bedtime Stories” partly because it was different. As the first pre-release track, it set my (comparatively high) expectations for Jay’s comeback. Though hinting at some similarities with the Gothic-inspired Still Fantasy, the song revealed that Jay could bring something new to the table — as he takes on a new role as a father, he could take on a new role in the C-music industry.
It gave an inkling of freshness — of the maturity of a father. Though he still does his usual rap and whatnot, his vocal delivery gave off the sentiment of an experienced, proud mentor. It hints that Jay has ultimately become truly happy and looks forward to the next stages of his life. Through listening to this track I felt personal emotion — something not really experienced in any other part of the album.
Though vocally not particularly impressive, Jay has always been adept at the emotional aspects of his song’s delivery. Yet his voice seems to sound more flourished than usual as he proudly sings of an unspoken yet undeniable love.
“Lover From A Past Life” might be the start of something here.
Unfortunately, the latter half of the album did not hold up to my expectations from Jay’s two pre-release tracks — the relevant promotional singles, so to speak.
“Hero”, the theme song of League of Legends, was released awhile back. Though hardcore rock, the song itself doesn’t really hold up all that well, “lol”. Amongst the noise of the slurred rap and flatted melody — with maybe a hint of ZGF? — little stood out. Except — gasp! — placed references to ex-girlfriend Jolin Tsai via certain song lyrics. That always does the trick.
“Shouldn’t Be”, the theme song of C-drama “Ice Fantasy”, was indeed a surprise. Initially shocked that A-lister A-Mei had agreed to collaborate, I then remembered that this was Jay Chou’s album we were listening to.
It’s a nice ballad. It’s only Mandopop’s most mainstream acts. Their voices blended quite nicely together but A-Mei’s vocals still overpowered Jay’s. It’s extremely popular.
“Dondurma” is apparently loud nightclub music ensued by a hardcore beat-infused rap accompanied with light, jazzy piano. Then the synthesizers come screeching back into the mix as Jay sings of Turkish ice cream (basically the only lyrics I discerned? D:).
Within the interesting cacophony, Jay incorporated various instruments, acknowledging in the lyrics that “Changing a musical instrument is like changing your weapon”. So . . . might as well mix them all in? Maybe if he released a cool MV down the line I might try to appreciate this more. For now, electronic synthesizers make my head heart. But I guess if you want something different, this may appeal.
“Confessing Balloons” has your typical Jay Chou beat, your typical Jay Chou harmonization and all that — it’s the expected upbeat and lighthearted Jay-pop track of the album (think: “Simple Love”, “Give Me The Time Of A Song”). It’s simple and catchy — yet another track of nostalgia for all the 杰迷s out there.
(You can watch the full version of the MV on Chinese platform YinYueTai. Except, of course, you can’t access that here in the U.S. 54 seconds isn’t that much.)
Now you see me cuz I let it be~
“Now You See Me”, the theme song for Hollywood movie “Now You See Me 2” (which Jay himself featured in) once again features heavy electronic synthesizers. Actually quite catchy (and dat MV doe), but unsubstantial as a contributing track for the album.
This almost feels like a Christmas release.
“Failure at Love”, or “Scrapped Love”, is yet another super sad and emotional ballad, accompanied with your typical “Jay Chou walking” MV. Accompanied with a whimsical band sound, it’s really nice to listen to. Now I’m sad.
“Jay Chou’s Bedtime Stories” was technically good. But it was also disappointing. While the heavily promoted pre-release tracks “Bedtime Stories” and “Lover From A Past Life” hinted at a great possibility, the rest of the album — along with all the nostalgia and the dope MVs — felt like, well, filler.
Overall, the production value and the songs were of high quality. Most of it sounded great to the ears, give or take a few WTF tracks and arrangements. But aside from the two pre-release tracks, these weren’t bedtime stories — the songs were just general stuff. Or maybe I’m just really stingy and judgmental and should chill because it’s just an album.
But as catchy or nostalgic as they were, the theme songs and the ballads just didn’t really fit into the general concept that I thought the album would be about. Instead, a lot of it seemed, if not out of place, unnecessary.
(OK, considering how crushed I was by The Era I’m really not disappointed in Jay Chou or anything. But seriously.)
Overall Rating: 6.2/10
It’s Jay Chou. Of course, this album is available, like, everywhere.