Back in the beginning, music producers advertised him as so-and-so's successor. Now, dwarfed by his popularity, it's other stars who must adapt to his style to avoid being forgotten.
Jay Chou (Zhou Jielun), the Taiwan pop sensation, has grown from star to idol. He's influencing a generation, who has embraced hip hop's free-spirited expression.
One million copies of Chou's fifth album November's Chopin were pre-ordered before it was released this month. The 26-year-old is even gracing the big screen. His cinematic debut, Initial D, won at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards on Sunday.
"Jay embodied his experiences, feeling and personality into the music and that attracted a generation who have similar thoughts," said Zhou Yaguang, alias Guang Yin, 25, a musician in Beijing.
According to Zhou, unlike some pop stars who have borrowed heavily from the West Chou's music combines R&B and hip hop with a distinctive Chinese flavor.
His lyrics take on topics close to Chinese young people, like domestic violence, the old educational system and the loss of an ancient civilization.
Despite now being China's biggest music star, Chou had humble beginnings.
Brought up in suburban Taipei by his single mother, Chou failed his college entrance exam and had thought about becoming a piano teacher.
Rather than adopt the look of a rebellious rock star, Chou has hung onto his boy-next-door image. He loves his mother, famously using her name as one of his albums. He doesn't even smoke and drink.
Despite his good-boy style, Chou's songs aren't sugar coated.
"His songs are challenges to social unfairness and old ideas," said Wu Meng, 21, founder of Jaycn.com, Chou's biggest fan club on the mainland. "We love him because he's speaking for our generation who like to do things different."
This is also Chou's personal philosophy. "I feel I must take my own, different path, not to follow the paths already taken by other people," Chou told Reuters recently.
Despite his cult-like following, Chou's music isn't perfect. "He doesn't yet to have the vocal ability to freely manipulate music", said Zeng Pengyu, 30, a culture editor at Beijing Youth Daily.
Zeng advises the often-imitated Chou to learn from Faye Wong's adaptable pleasing voice.
(21st Century November 23, 2005)