Monday, May 31, 2010

Jay Chou Makes Most Creative Business People List

Jay Chou in businessman pose

US business magazine, Fast Company's most recent editition put together a list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business 2010. The list was headed by the suddenly ubiquitous Lady Gaga, and includes filmmakers James Cameron and Spike Jonze, several company CEOs, CIOs and CTOs, a celebrity chef (Jamie Oliver) and, coming in at number 70, Taiwan's biggest-name entertainer Jay Chou (周杰伦, pinyin: Zhōu Jiélún).

Jay Chou was recognised for his skill in turning a singer-songwriting career into a multi-million dollar business that encompasses TV, films, theme restaurants and dessert shops selling Jay Chou memorabilia. Fast Company reports his earnings last year at US$17.5 million - and that was in a year when he didn't release an album. With a just released CD, upcoming world concert tour, and a starring role in the Hollywood blockbuster Green Hornet, he should more than match those earnings in 2010.

It's been quiet a month for Jay. Two weeks ago he released his new album, The Era, which promptly went straight to number one on the charts. Earlier Forbes China magazine had named him China's second most powerful celebrity behind Jackie Chan. However, the 31 year-old also experienced the flipside of fame this month when B-list celebrity Honey Chen claimed that Jay Chou tried to kiss her despite her refusals - accusations that the singer laughed off. The revelations were made on the aptly-named Gossip Queen TV show, and most observers felt it was more an exercise in self-promotion by the 20 year-old model.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jay Chou's The Era

No surprises when Jay Chou's (周杰伦, pinyin: Zhōu Jiélún) new album The Era (跨时代, pinyin: Kuà shí dài) went immediately to the number one position on the Taiwan charts. The album has been over 18 months in the making, with music having to share time with Jay Chou's other entertainment ventures like acting, directing and producing. The built-up anticipation amongst his legion of fans meant the album had more than 20 percent of all record sales in Taiwan for the week 14 to 20 May - especially impressive considering the album was only released on the 18th.

The Era is Jay Chou's tenth studio album in a career that began back in the late nineties. He actually began writing songs for others, before releasing his debut album, Jay, in 2000. Since then he has sold over 25 million records and won countless awards (Wikipedia estimates it's around 350), including four times Best Selling Chinese Artist at the World Music Awards.

As is characteristic of Jay's work, The Era mixes up the styles: pop, rap, blues and ballads, electronic rock, he even sings a bit of Peking Opera. The album opens with the title track, which has also been getting a lot of airplay on the music shows with its costly music video. It ends with the single, Superman Can't Fly (超人不会飞), and also includes the controversial Hip-Hop Stewardess (嘻哈空姐) which managed to get banned on the mainland for its risque lyrics. The Urban Wire website has a proper review of the album.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ip Man 2 Packs Box Office Punch

Ip Man 2 (叶问2:宗师传奇, pinyin: Yè Wèn 2: Zōng Shī Chuán Qí), the sequel to the 2008 biopic of one of China's most famous martial arts grandmasters, has proved a winner at the box office. Released at the end of April, the film grossed over 100 million yuan (or just under US$15 million) on the mainland in its first week. Box office figures were boosted by the timing of its release, during the profitable May Day holiday break. In its second week of release it went head-to-head against the Hollywood blockbuster Iron Man 2, with the Chinese press reporting that the local film more than held its own.

So far, mainland box office takings are over 200 million yuan (according to its producer Raymond Wong), which makes it the most profitable Chinese-language film so far in 2010. It has also more than doubled the earnings of the original Ip Man. Whether Ip Man 2 reaches the ambitious target of 300 million yuan set by director Wilson Yip remains to be seen. If it does, that could push it close to being the second biggest grossing Chinese film of all time, behind The Founding of a Republic (which earned more than 400 million yuan) but alongside Bodyguards and Assassins.

Ip Man 2 has also been a hit in both Hong Kong and Singapore. In Hong Kong, it was released at the same time as Iron Man 2 but surprisingly out-grossed it at the box office. In its first week, it took in HK$13 million (US$1.7 million), and so far has taken a total of HK$40 million. In Singapore, Ip Man 2 has become the highest-grossing Hong Kong film of all time. It has now taken in S$4.5 million (US$3.15 million), beating the previous record-holder, the Stephen Chow classic, Kung Fu Hustle.

In Ip Man 2, Donnie Yen (甄子丹, pinyin: Zhēn Zǐdān) returns in the title role, with Simon Yam (任达华, pinyin: Rén Dáhuá) and Lynn Hung (熊黛林, pinyin: Xióng Dàilín) also appearing again as his close friend and wife respectively. It also features Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明), recent winner of Most Popular Actor at the Beijing Student Film Festival, and Hong Kong kung fu film legend Sammo Hung (洪金宝, pinyin: Hóng Jīnbǎo). Set in post-war Hong Kong, Ip Man 2 continues where Ip Man left off, focusing on his struggles to establish a Wing Chun martial arts school in the then British colony.

The original Ip Man movie, besides doing well at the box office, was also a critical success. It won Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2009, while Donnie Yen's awards included Best Actor at last year's Beijing Student Film Festival.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Show Luo's Third Number 1 Album in Less than 18 Months

Show Luo (罗志祥) might have been ignored when nominations were announced for the Golden Melody Awards, but he'll still be laughing all the way to the bank. Taiwan's King of Dance has just released a new album of remixes, Remix Collection (舞者為王REMIX混音极选), and like so many of his records, it's gone straight to the top of the album charts. For the week 6-13 May, the album had 22 percent of album sales, knocking Jaycee Chan's Chaos from the number one position.

It's Show Luo's third number one selling album in the space of less than 18 months, following on from the mega-selling Rashomon earlier this year, and 2009's second-biggest selling album, Trendy Man. As the name says, Remix Collection is a collection of some of his best-known songs remixed in various styles. We get Hot Shot, the single from Trendy Man, in a "violent electro" remix, Rashomon gets a Euro techno make-over, while When We Are Together from the Show Your Dance album is given "Nu Jazz Downtempo" treatment.

Despite Show Luo's popularity and proven track record in selling albums, expect his stay at the top of the charts to be short. For this week, Jay Chou releases The Era, his much anticipated studio album.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A-Mei Is Most Nominated at Upcoming Golden Melody Awards

The Golden Melody Awards (金曲奖), the biggest music awards event in the Mandopop world, announced the nominations for the 21st edition of the award. Unlike many other awards shows that are little more than idol popularity contests, Taiwan's Golden Melody Awards actually reward artistic merit. This year's nominations, 124 in total competing in 14 categories, are headed by one of Taiwan's most respected singers, A-Mei (阿妹). She has 10 nominations, including Best Female Singer, Best Song and Best Album.

A-Mei's competitors for Best Female Singer are two-time previous winner Tanya Chua (蔡健雅, pinyin: Cài Jiànyǎ) from Singapore, another previous winner in Hong Kong's Karen Mok (莫文蔚, pinyin: Mò Wénwèi), Taiwan's Tiger Huang (黄小琥, pinyin: Huáng Xiǎohǔ) and Cheer Chen (陈绮贞, pinyin: Chén Qǐzhēn), also from Taiwan. All but Tiger Huang were also nominated for Best Album; the fifth Album nominee is Lala Hsu (徐佳莹, pinyin: Xú Jiayíng), making it an all-female affair. Lala Hsu is also a hot favourite for Best Newcomer.

In the Male Singer category, the contenders for the prize will be Singapore's JJ Lin (林俊杰, Lín Jùnjié), Hong Kong's Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yixùn), Hawaiian-born Khalil Fong (方大同, pinyin: Fāng Dàtóng), and Taiwan's David Tao (陶喆, pinyin: Táo Zhé) and Jam Hsiao (萧敬腾 pinyin: Xiāo Jìng Téng). Revealingly, neither of Taiwan's biggest-selling singers from last year, Jolin Tsai and Show Luo, were nominated for Best Singer.

Nominations for Best Song of the Year are Lala Hsu's Riding On a White Horse, Come If You Dare by A-Mei, Singing in the Trees by Taiwanese Mandopop star Claire Kuo, and Fish by Cheer Chen. Another Best Song nominee is Desperado by Superband. The Taiwanese super group, formed for a limited time by four veterans of the Taiwanese rock/pop scene, will be hoping they can finish on a high as winners.

The main nominees are as follows:

Best Mandarin Male Singer
JJ Lin
David Tao
Eason Chan
Khalil Fong
Jam Hsiao

Best Mandarin Female Singer
Tanya Chua
Karen Mok
Tiger Huang
Cheer Chen

Best Mandarin Band
Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤)
Superband (纵贯线)
Sodagreen (苏打绿)
Mavis Fan & 100% (范晓萱, 100%乐团)
Totem (图腾乐团)

Best Vocal Group
katncandix2 (棉花糖)
Come On! Bay Bay! (来吧! 焙焙!)
Da Xi Men (大囍门)
Super Junior M
Power Station (动力火车)

Best Mandarin Album
If You See Him (若你碰到他) - Tanya Chua
Hui Wei (回蔚) - Karen Mok
Lala Hsu (徐佳莹LALA创作专辑) - Lala Hsu
AMIT - A-Mei
Immortal (太阳) - Cheer Chen

Best Song of the Year
Riding a White Horse (身骑白马) - Lala Hsu
Come If You Dare (好胆你就来) - A-Mei
Singing in the Trees (在树上唱歌) - Claire Kuo
Desperado (亡命之徒) - Super Band
Fish (鱼) - Cheer Chen

The full list of nominations are here, but in Chinese. Winners will be announced on June 26.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chaos at the top of the Taiwan Album Charts

There's chaos in the Taiwan album charts this week. That's Chaos (乱), the new album by Jaycee Chan (房祖名, pinyin: Fáng Zǔmíng), which climbed to the number one spot on the G Music charts last week. It accounted for a massive 27 percent of all album sales in Taiwan for the week April 25 to May 1, and 41 percent of all Mandarin album sales. Chaos displaced Together by Rene Liu after two weeks in the top position.

It's been a big last couple of weeks for the Chan clan. First, father Jackie Chan was named by Forbes magazine China's most powerful celebrity, and now son Jaycee has a number one selling album with just his second studio album. It's been a long wait between albums: his debut record was back in 2004, although he released an EP in 2007. The light output is no doubt the result of dividing his time between singing and songwriting, acting, running a company and, I guess, enjoying a multi-millionaire's lifestyle.

Twenty-seven year old Chan was born in the United States, raised first in Hong Kong and then in the US, and, after dropping out of college there, is now based back in Hong Kong. His mother is the former actress from Taiwan, Joan Lin, hence his fluency in Mandarin. His show business career hasn't exactly set the world on fire, either in movies or music. He did receive critical acclaim, however, for his acting performance in the 2006 film The Sun Also Rises, and his first album Jaycee is seriously underrated.

Sales for Chaos have been helped by the strong title track and first single. Chaos includes some older tracks from his first album, and has a few English-language songs as well as in Mandarin. Here's an album review from the Let's Spread the LOVE for Chinese Music blog (a good source for album reviews, by the way).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Message Wins Best Film at Beijing Student Film Festival

The World War II spy thriller, The Message (风声, pinyin: Fēngshēng), was named Best Film at the 17th Beijing Student Film Festival on the weekend. The Message, an intriguing and suspenseful whodunnit set in 1942 during the Japanese occupation of the mainland, was both a critical and popular success when it was released back in September.

The Beijing Student Film Festival, which runs annually, culminates in an awards ceremony where winners are selected by a jury of film critics and academics. Students are also given the opportunity to select a handful of "most popular' awards. In total 39 films were shortlisted for the awards and a total of 21 awards were handed out.

Best Actor was won by Huang Bo (黄渤 - pictured right) for his performance in the comedy Cow. The 35 year old with the anti-idol looks, has already collected a Golden Horse Award for his role as a bumbling farmer. Bo made his film debut just four years ago in the black comedy/heist film Crazy Stone, followed it up with another popular comedy Crazy Racer and has become hot property. Cow was just one of six films he appeared in last year, and already this year has three movies to his credit.

In a decision that came out of left field, the relatively unknown (at least outside China) Tao Hong (陶红) was awarded Best Actress. She won for her performance in a film called Fragrance of Rice (米香), of which I know absolutely nothing. Tao is known mainly as a TV actor; in fact I think Fragrance of Rice might be her film debut. Best Director was given to Wang Quan'an (王全安) for Apart Together which, like The Message and Cow, was also set during the Second World War. Wang is a two-time winner at the Berlin Film Festival, winning a Best Director prize in 2007 for Tuya's Marriage, and Best Screenplay this year for Apart Together.

In the student-voted awards Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明), who gave a scene-stealing performance as a sadistic interrogator in The Message, was voted Most Popular Actor. Vicki Zhao (赵薇, pinyin: Zhào Wéi) was named Most Popular Actress, the third time she has won this particular award.

For the second year in a row Hong Kong director Wilson Yip (叶伟信) has won Most Popular Director, although this year he had to share it with another Hong Kong native, Teddy Chen (陈德森, pinyin: Chén Désēn). Ye was recognised for Ip Man 2, the sequel to the martial arts drama that won him the award the previous year. Chen was the director of the multi-award winning Bodyguards and Assassins, and follow his success at the recent Hong Kong Film Awards.

The main award winners were:
Best Film: The Message (风声)
Best Director: Wang Quan'an (王全安), Apart Together (团圆)
Best Actor: Huang Bo (黄渤), Cow (斗牛)
Best Actress: Tao Hong (陶红), Fragrance of Rice (米香)
Best Newcomer: Jing Boran (井柏然)
Most Popular Actor: Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明)
Most Popular Actress: Vicky Zhao (赵薇)
Most Popular Directors: Wilson Yip (叶伟信), Ip Man 2 (叶问2); Teddy Chen (陈德森), Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城)
Jury Award: Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城), Labyrinth (迷城)
Outstanding Contribution Award: The Founding of a Republic (建国大业)
Best Television Movie: No Cicada Summer (无蝉的夏天)
Best Television Actor: Lu Yulai (吕聿来), No Cicada Summer
Best Television Actress: Dong Ling (董玲), The Camel Circle (骆驼圈)
Best Television Director: Jin Ge (金戈), The Camel Circle

Source (in Chinese) here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Music Radio TOP List Award Winners

Some Awards news from two weeks ago, but better late than never. Music Radio, one of the most popular syndicated radio stations in China, announced its annual awards on April 24 in Beijing. It attracted a host of big name performers, and awards were handed out to artists from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The dozens of awards were evenly distributed with no artist dominating.

Amongst the female singers, former Super Girl winner Li Yuchun (李宇春) took home two trophies. She was named Best Mainland Female Singer, and also the Mainland Record of the Year with her self-titled album, her third studio album. The Super Girl runner-up to Li Yuchun back in 2005, was Zhou Bichang (周笔畅), and she won two awards. She was awarded Most Popular Mainland Female Singer, and also Best All-round Mainland Entertainer.

In the Hong Kong/Taiwan categories, Best Female Singer went to Jolin Tsai (蔡依林, pinyin: Cài Yīlín - pictured left in eye-catching outfit), and Most Popular Female Singer went to Elva Hsiao (萧亚轩, pinyin: Xiāo Yǎxuān). Jolin also took out the Hong Kong/Taiwan Record of the Year with the top-selling Butterfly album, while Elva was Hong Kong/Taiwan's Best All-round Entertainer.

Twenty-five year-old Shanghai-born pop singer Anson Hu (胡彦斌, pinyin: Hú Yanbīn - pictured right) was named Best Mainland Male Singer, while the Most Popular award was given to another former TV talent show winner, Zhang Jie (张杰). Best Hong Kong/Taiwan Male Vocalist was won by Taiwan rocker Shin (信), former lead singer of the band of the same name. In the Most Popular category, Hong Kong's Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yìxùn) was the winner.

A host of bands/groups took home awards. Soft rock duo and perennial winners Yu Quan (羽泉) won Best Mainland Group, and Most Popular Mainland Group was given to the Chinese franchise of Korean boy band Super Junior, Super Junior M. In the Hong Kong/Taiwan categories, Most Popular Group was another boy band, Taiwan's Fahrenheit (飞轮海, pinyin: Fēilúnhǎi), while the Best Group award went to Taiwanese hip hop outfit, Da Mouth (大嘴巴, pinyin: Dà Zuǐ Bā). The group, who formed in 2007, is comprised of four performers, three men and a women.

Best Mainland Band was given to a three-piece group who I admit to knowing next to nothing about: 橘红色乐团, which I'll translate as The Orange Red Band. Most Popular Mainland Band went to the Brit-pop influenced Beijing rock band Future Bicycle (未来脚踏车, pinyin: Wèi Lái Jiâo Tà Che - pictured left). Best Hong Kong/Taiwan Band was won by Taiwan's pop-rock group Mayday (五月天, pinyin: Wǔ Yuè Tiān). In the Most Popular category, it was another Taiwanese group, F.I.R (飞儿乐团, pinyin: Fēiér Yuètuán). The trio , two men and a women, formed back in 2004 and had an immediate hit with the theme song to a popular Taiwanese idol drama that year, The Outsiders.

A more comprehensive list of winners can be found at this site, but in Chinese only.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jackie Chan Rated China's Most Powerful Star by Forbes

Forbes China Magazine released its annual 100 Chinese Celebrities List, which aims to measure China's most powerful stars. It uses a formula based on annual income, number of search engine hits, press coverage and magazine cover appearances. For the first time, the List has been extended to cover not just the mainland but Hong Kong and Taiwan as well. Which has meant a new number one, Hong Kong's action star Jackie Chan (成龙, pinyin: Chéng Lóng) muscling NBA basketballer Yao Ming (姚明) from the top position.

Jackie Chan earned his top position through his consistently high ranking across all four categories Forbes used to measure celebrity status. Chan was the second highest earning Chinese celebrity, and also number two in terms of press coverage. He was the fifth ranked for search engine hits, and seventh for magazine and TV appearances. Despite this, 2009 was a relatively quiet year for the actor: Shinjuku Incident was a moderate success, while The Spy Next Door, released at the beginning of 2010, was critically panned. However, his latest release, the historical action film Little Big Soldier, has been a big earner at the box office.

At number two on the List is Taiwan's superstar singer, actor, director and producer Jay Chou (周杰伦, pinyin: Zhōu Jiélún). The past twelve months haven't been a great period for Jay, with the much hyped TV series Panda Men failing to win an audience. There were also no record releases in that period, though his latest album, The Era, will be out this month. Despite the barren run, Forbes estimated he was China's third highest earner, and he also rated highly for internet searches and press coverage.

Another Hong Kong star, actor-singer Andy Lau (刘德华, pinyin: Liú Déhuá), was at number three. He was the sixth highest earning celebrity, but ranked number 2 and number 3 in terms of internet searches and press coverage. Unfortunately for Lau, most of that coverage was of the negative kind, when it was revealed that Andy was secretly married , after years of strenuous denials.

Yao Ming, at number four, was the highest ranking mainlander, as well as the highest earning celebrity (255 million yuan, or about US$37 million). Yao was also the number one in terms of newspaper coverage. Number one in magazine and TV coverage was mainland actress Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), although again not all of it would have been positive as she too endured a rocky past twelve months. Overall Forbes rated her number five on their list of powerful celebrities. The number ranked for internet searches was popular mainland comedian Xiao Shenyang (小沈阳), though overall he was well down on the list at number 30.

Another comedian, veteran performer Zhao Benshan (赵本山), was number 6 on the list, while Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai (蔡依林, pinyin: Cài Yīlín) made number 7. Two actors, Donnie Yen (甄子丹, pinyin: Zhēn Zǐdān) and Fan Bingbing (范冰冰) were number 8 and 10 respectively, while track star Liu Xiang (刘翔) came in at number 9.

The full list of all 100 celebrities can be found at the Forbes China website, but in Chinese.
Site Meter