The Straits Times
6 July 2016
Fourteen albums in, Mandopop king Jay Chou can still put out catchy and chart-scaling songs.
But the inventiveness which marked his early output seems to have been largely spent.
The propulsive beats, the rapid- fire rhythms, the sunny ukulele strumming - they are familiar from earlier works.
On the title track, Bedtime Stories, what starts off as a music- box melody soon gets its tempo tightened and there are even snatches of falsetto singing as the mood grows increasingly frenetic: "You still don't want to sleep, but I want to sleep".
Welcome to fatherhood, Chou. His daughter, Hathaway, with model Hannah Quinlivan, was born last July.
Now, finally, he has a reason to play the jester; previously, his inclination towards kiddy-sounding pop, on discs such as Exclamation Mark (2011), was puzzling.
At the mere age of four months, Hathaway inspired Chou to come up with Past Life's Lover.
Her random tinkling gets her credited as co-composer, which has to be a record of sorts, though you have to wonder how much of that is down to parental pride.
Some of the material - including the radio-friendly A Little and Shouldn't Be, the attention-grabbing ballad with A-mei - seem to be here merely to tick a box, though.
The duet itself is pretty decent, but their voices simply do not go together.
Among his collaborations, the best remains the unexpected pairing of Chou's unmistakably contemporary pipes with Fei Yu-ching's smooth, evergreen croon in Faraway from 2006's Still Fantasy.
Commercial considerations lie behind other numbers.
Now You See Me is Chou's contribution to the thriller movie, Now You See Me 2, in which he has a small role. With its inclusion of gaming lingo, Hero points to his entry into that world as the leader of an e-sport team.
Ahead of his sold-out The Invincible concert in Singapore on Sept 3, the release of Bedtime Stories is a timely and canny move.
But it would be nice if the whole thing did not feel so calculated.
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This article was first published on July 6, 2016.
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