After six years Mando-pop icon Jay Chou finally released a new album last Friday. Greatest Work of Art has 12 tracks, including a piano intro, six new releases and five previously digitally published songs that come with new arrangements.
Cue the celebratory tweets. “I haven’t been this excited in a long time,” one fan proclaimed.
“Please don’t stop making music. We want to grow old with you,” another urged.
The week before the 43 year-old teed up his new album by releasing the first single, also titled Greatest Work of Art, on Chinese social media. The music video quickly became the most trending topic. On short video site Kuaishou, the video surpassed 150 million views in eight hours. There were also more than a billion views across multiple topics related to the album on Sina Weibo.
Still, despite Chou’s lasting popularity, not all fans were fully on board with his new album. Even though it has now become common practice in the music industry, the inclusion of previously released songs annoyed some fans, with many saying that maybe he has run out of ideas.
“Half the album are old songs. My verdict is, Chou’s talent has reached its limits,” one declared.
“I probably expected too much. All the songs sound the same,” another wrote.
By July 10, Greatest Work of Art was rated 5.3 out of 10 at the review site Douban, although the rating page in question was soon closed, with Douban apologising for allowing users to review an unreleased album.
But no matter, Chou can politely ignore the grumblings of critics. According to 36kr, his new album has already sold over 5.2 million copies, raking in over Rmb157 million ($23 million) for the artist.
On his livestream, the Taiwanese star, married to actress Hannah Quinlivan, claims that he cares more about quality than quantity: “If I have to write 20 songs, the quickest will have to be next year and it’s hard to say when the [next] new album will come out,” he said on the livestream. As he modestly told fans of his current 12-track offering: “I think whether it is a new song or old, I wrote all of them so they are all good.”
Chou has been working exclusively with Kuaishou since 2020, choosing the short video platform as his only social media presence in mainland China (he also operates a personal Instagram account, which is blocked by the Great Firewall). When it was inked, the partnership caught the industry by surprise because Kuaishou lagged behind Bytedance’s Douyin in user count (in 2021, Douyin had more than 600 million DAU – daily active users – while Kuaishou reported a lower 345.5 million DAU in the first quarter of 2022).
It didn’t take long before Chou’s tie-up with Kuaishou paid off. His first broadcast, not long after he started the account with the handle “Classmate Chou”, attracted as many as 68 million viewers. Like most other livestreaming platforms, Kuaishou allows fans to send virtual gifts to the hosts which they can then redeem for real money. Chou’s richest superfans did not disappoint. The top contributor singlehandedly donated Rmb7 million ($1.04 million), while those in second and third place gave Rmb5 million and Rmb3 million, respectively.
The Taiwanese singer has drastically cut down his output in recent years. But the popularity of his new album proves that the father of three is still the biggest name in Mandopop. He also dominates the internet video market. Tencent’s QQ Music lists Chou as the most popular artist on the platform, with as many as 70 million people having streamed his music while Hong Kong’s Eason Chan is a distant second with nine million.
This time round, Kuaishou is pulling out all the stops to push Chou’s new album. After the release of the video for the title song, the platform hosted what it calls a ‘wishing well’ so fans could cast votes on what they were most excited to see from Chou.
Over three million voted, and in the end, the most popular ‘wish’ was for the singer to personally host a livestreaming session.
So on Monday evening, Chou took time off from vacationing in Sydney to go live on Kuaishou. During the show, where the Sydney Opera House was clearly visible in almost every frame, Chou talked about the inspirations behind his music and the new album. Of course, he also performed the piano version to the title song. Over 110 million viewers rushed to watch the live broadcast.
“In the past, Kuaishou has continuously demonstrated the ability to churn out exclusive content surrounding Chou. That strengthens users’ stickiness and their likeability for the platform. This time is no different. This promotional tactic for Chou’s new album has been extremely effective and also enhanced interaction between him and his fans,” wrote financial news commentator Yidian Caijing.
Kuaishou has also had recent success with other celebrities such as action star Jackie Chan. In late June, Chan hosted his first broadcast featuring cameos from other household names like Nicholas Tse. There were more than 220 million views as Chan talked about his life story and sang songs.
Kuaishou’s deals with Chan and Chou are attempts to move the platform beyond amateur-generated video clips to professionally-produced content.
Its archrival was in the news this week as well. On Wednesday, Bytedance-controlled Douyin announced that it had reached an agreement with iQiyi to give its 600 million DAUs the right to edit some of iQiyi’s TV and movie content and repost it.
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