周杰倫 (Simplified: 周杰伦; Pinyin: Zhōu Jiélún; English: Jay Chou) is a popular Taiwanese musician whose music focuses primarily on R&B, rap, and ballads. He was born January 18, 1979 in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in Linkou, Taiwan. He is known for his innovative combination of both Western and Chinese music styles in order to produce a fresh sound that is quite unlike what is produced in mainstream Chinese pop, and also unique lyrics which touch on various issues. His unique sound has gained enormous recognition throughout Asia, most notably Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan, as well as amongst the Chinese diaspora in the West. Apparently showing sensitivity to music even as a baby, his mother took him to piano lessons at the age of 4. During his childhood, he became fascinated with capturing sounds and songs with his tape recorder which he carried everywhere with him. In the third grade, he became interested in music theory and also started cello lessons. As an only child, he enjoyed being the family's center of attention; he loved to play piano, impersonate TV actors, and perform magic tricks. His parents divorced when he was 14; as a result, he became reclusive and introverted. Although he had friends, he often preferred to be alone listening to music, contemplating and daydreaming. At Danjiang Senior High School, he majored in piano and minored in cello. He showed talent for improvisation, became fond of pop music and began to write songs. He graduated from high school with inadequate grades for university, so he prepared for military service, which is compulsory for all Taiwanese men at the age of 18. However, a sports injury triggered by unexplainable and severe back pain eventually led to the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a hereditary spine inflammation disease; as a result, he was exempted from conscription. Meanwhile, he found himself a job as a waiter. Without his knowing, his friend had entered both their names in a talent show called "Super New Talent King". Chou played the piano accompaniment for his friend, whose singing was described as "lousy". Although they did not win, the show's host Jacky Wu - an influential character in Taiwan's entertainment business - happened to glance at Chou's music score and was impressed with the complexity. Wu hired him as a contract composer, paired him with the novice lyricist Vincent Fang. Over the next two years he wrote songs for Chinese pop artists, learned recording and sound mixing; his dedication was apparent as he even slept in the music studio. There were no plans to make him a singer because his mentor Wu thought he was too shy and not good-looking. Wu's music studio was later sold to Alfa Music, and the new manager Yang Jun Rong asked Chou to release his own album. Chou already had an arsenal of songs he wrote for others but had been rejected, so among those he chose 10 for his debut CD Jay which was released in 2000. The album established his reputation as a musically gifted singer-songwriter whose style is a fusion of R&B, hip-hop, classical music, and yet distinctly Chinese. His fame spread quickly not only in Chinese-speaking regions as well as non-Chinese countries in Southeast Asia. Since 2000, Chou has released one album per year, each selling several million copies and recognized with hundreds of awards. In 2003, he was the cover story of Time Magazine (Asia version), acknowledging his influence on popular culture. He has held two world tours, "The One" (2002) and "Incomparable" (2004), performing in cities such as Taipei, Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Las Vegas, and Vancouver. Few singers have the creative control that Chou is given, who is not only the songwriter but also the producer in all of his albums; since 2005 he is also the music director and also directs his own music videos. While continuing to release an album yearly, he also entered the movie business with his debut role as the lead actor in "Initial D", for which he won Best Newcomer. In the following year 2006, he was a supporting actor in the internationally released "Curse of the Golden Flower", giving Chou his first formal introduction to North American audiences. In February 2007, he finally fulfilled his childhood dream of being a director in "The Secret That Cannot Be Told", for which he is also the main character. In March 2007, his 8-year contract with Alfa Music ended, and Chou, his manager Yang Jun Rong, and lyricist Vincent Fang will be the co-founders of a new record company "JVR Music" through which Chou will continue his music career and fulfill his goal of fostering new singing talent. Lyrics Strictly speaking, Chou is more often a singer-composer than a lyricist. Several "regulars" write the lyrics for most of his music, but the content and style is unified with Chou's personality and image, covering a diverse range of topics and ideas. Vincent Fang (方文山) accounts for more than half of the lyrics in his albums, helping to establish an important element in Chou's music: the use of meaningful, imagery- and emotionally-rich lyrics, sometimes written in the form of ancient Chinese poetry with reference to Chinese history or folklore. In addition to writing romantic hits, he also broaches on war, the Bible, sports, and martial arts. Vivian Hsu (徐若瑄) is a singer herself and has helped with Chou's earlier hits, while Huang Jun Lang (黄俊郎) is noted for his work surrounding unusual themes (such as a detective story and chess game). Jay Chou himself has written lyrics for many love ballads, but has also discussed societal ills such as drug addiction in "Coward" (懦夫) and loss of the rural countryside to urbanization in "Terraced Fields" (梯田). Domestic violence discussed in "Dad, I'm Back" (爸，我回來了) received a great deal of commotion since Chou was the first to bring up this taboo subject in Chinese music, which helped solidify his status as a pioneer and a unique pop singer capable of approaching serious issues. In the songs "Grandmother" (外婆) and "Listen to Your Mother" (聽媽媽的話), he voiced his high regard for family values. He addressed personal issues about his failure to enter university in "Split" (分裂), his resentment towards the paparazzi in "Besieged From All Sides" (四面楚歌), and preached the importance of individuality in "Red Imitation" (紅模仿).