Jane Zhang Reform: the real Jane
It was June of 2011 and Jane Zhang knew that some fans wouldn’t have approved her new album, but the former “Super Girl” was determined to be consistent with herself and she was publishing the album “Reform” (改變) who divided the audience and her fans.
The real Jane
Despite her fame, Jane, the diva par excellence, was struggling to choose between what she wanted to sing and what the audience wanted to hear. Many of her hits until then had been melancholy love songs. But Jane reports that this was not his own true self. Although sometimes she may have seemed shy, she claims to be an outgoing and passionate person and she has always wanted her albums not to be a mere commercial success but also an honest expression of her artistic streak.
Reform: the authors
“Reform” was released on June 1, 2011 and 7 of the 10 songs that compose it, actually 11 if we count the hidden-track “Beauty and Bravery” (美丽与勇敢), were composed of US musicians and an US team for audio post-production was involved in the project to ensure the work highest quality.
Two major names in the team:
Michael Jay composer and producer from Chicago for many years settled in Los Angeles. Winner of many Platinum records for the songs written for Céline Dion, Kylie Minogue, Lara Fabian, Eminem and others.
Gene Grimaldi sound engineer from Pennsylvania whose recording studio is a reference point for many artists, practically the only manager of Lady Gaga‘s incisions and maker of sound for many others including Jennifer Lopez.
But the collaborations with international authors for “Reform” don’t stop here. And here therefore, that in the album’s credits appear names like John Gordon, Tobias Jonsson, Anneli Axelsson, Lene Dissing, Keely Hawkes and David Abravanel. All this makes “Reform” a full-fledged “international” album with a range of songs that have been carefully worked on so that they aren’t a copy of the many pieces on the musical scene of those years.
The turning point album
The Reform‘s songs ranges between R&B, rock, hip pop and dance music and, on the other hand, as a good fan of Mariah Carey and Beyoncé, Jane was no stranger to these musical styles.
This work marks a significant turning point in the Dolphin Princess career. Each song contained therein soon after became a hit and the album, the second published by Universal Music under self-production by ShowCityTimes, breaks the patterns on the Chinese music market and added new charm to the China reference pop diva, that, although she had been singing until then mostly romantic songs, she realized that this was the right time to adopt more energetic rhythms, more sensual tones and a stunning look.
Every reform involves some discomfort …
Jane tells that during the photo shoot session for the album cover had felt uneasy about the fact of wearing a very high cut costume despite being convinced about the choice of the look, and adds that the discomfort increased when the album was distributed to the media and to a group of fans at the press conference for the launch. At the time she was still the kind of girl who, if she wore a short skirt during an interview she preferred to stay a long time standing up not to sit down.
I feel that the definition of artist they have awarded me is very restrictive. I want to go back to my oldself, like I was before I succeeded, to overcome my doubts and my inner conflicts. The important thing is to say what I want to say and do what I want to do, to be the real me.
These were his statements in an interview that year.
And that was precisely the attitude reflected in the new album. For it Jane wrote the lyrics of three songs and also composed the music of “Last Chapter” (上一章). One of these pieces, “Bold” (大胆), represented precisely the vision that Jane was beginning to have of herself as pop star:
Why should I limit myself ? I like to dance freely !
… and unavoidably a price to pay
But after having released four best-selling albums mainly based on romantic melodies, Jane knew that there would be a price to pay for having “liberated” her own style: in fact there were many fans who complained on the web for the lack of songs of the genre to which they were accustomed.
On baidu.com, a week after the album release, the most popular song “Reform”, had been heard only 320,000 times and the others pieces hadn’t even reached 100,000 plays. Instead, the songs (mainly love songs) by the young talents at that time spotlighted by Super Girl – the same format that six years earlier it had made famous Jane – they quickly had been achieving 10 million plays.
At that moment Jane understood that the real war to fight wasn’t her inner conflict but the clash with popular musical tastes in China.
During an interview, they asked her if she was worried about losing her fans and she honestly had admitted the thing:
Of course, I’m worried, but I don’t want to be. I’ll not carry on my shoulders too many expectations of my audience. I have my goals, and I’ll be the kind of singer I want to be.
Here’s another complete interview given on June 7 of that year by Jane at Han Bingbin & Qin Zhongwei for China Daily:
How much do you think this album represents your true self ?
Why ? Is it because there are more fast-tempo songs this time ?
I think I am actually a more outgoing person. But before (this album), I tended to sing slower or sad songs, and I was somewhat reserved when I did interviews. So it was easy to give people the impression that I was melancholy every day. I just wanted to throw that impression away and be myself on stage.
So you want your album to express yourself ? Or show that an album is not just a piece of merchandise, but can be something by which you identify yourself.
It should have the things I want to express, yes. If it doesn’t have them, I don’t think it would mean a lot to me. Otherwise, it is much easier to release singles or hit songs, and it wouldn’t be energy consuming for me to do that.
The new album is called Reform. What price a singer needs to pay for making such reform or change to her style ? As you said, you don’t like those sad love songs. But how do you persuade your company to allow you to do something different, as it must consider the needs of the market ?
I don’t need to persuade. I just don’t sing them. I have been saying that, really, from Huayi (Zhang’s first record company, e.d.) until now, nobody has forced me to sing those songs that I resist.
I don’t mean that I hate sad love songs. I just don’t want to do them over and over again. It is too hypocritical.
It is not me, and I just cannot stand it. Everyone is multi-faceted. I have a quiet or silent side as well, but most of the time I’m not like that. So I hate other people putting me into a certain group.
You just mentioned that foreign songwriters contributed about 70 percent of the songs on Reform. So is the huge network of musicians and resources worldwide the most attractive reason for you to sign with Universal, a world-famous record company ?
I think the most important thing was that it allowed me to get to know Adia, (the Taiwan producer of this and Zhang’s previous album), that I found someone who was “on the same beat” as me.
It is so important to work with someone who helps you express what you want to say in your heart but you struggle to find the words to say it.
He helps you find the right word. That feeling is terrific. And maybe because both of us are outgoing and straightforward, the communication between us is very comfortable and easy. I think we will continue to work together in the long term.
You wrote on your micro blog recently: “I feel blessed that I have been making changes in recent years, but fortunately I was not changed.” So what do you think is the most important quality that can help an entertainer like you be themselves ?
Be happy and follow your bliss, as you will resist things that don’t make you happy.
It has been almost 7 years since those words and a few weeks ago we heard Jane in the last episode of Sound of My Dreams 2 to sing an awesome rap with these other words:
Don’t stop baby
You get a dream
This sound of dream will always with me
You just gonna believe !
You’re right Jane! The time, effort and passion have given you reason and the better way to chase happiness is to pursue your dreams. Wherever you’re headed, your happiness isn’t in your destination but is in your journey.
Bon voyage Jane Zhang !
Reform: the tracklist
1. Personal Look (我的模样 – Wo De Muyang)
2. Chasing Love (追爱 – Zhui Ai)
3. In and Out of the Country (出境入境 – Chujing Rujing)
4. Mistake Is a Mistake (错就错 – Cuo Jiu Cuo)
5. Crazy for Love (为爱疯狂 – Wei Ai Fengkuang)
6. Bold (大胆 – Dadan)
7. Just Love (爱就爱 – Ai Jiu Ai)
8. Sometimes (有时候 – You Shihou)
9. Last Chapter (上一章 – Shang Yizhang)
10. Reform (改变 – Gaibian)
11. Beauty and Bravery (美丽与勇敢 – Meili Yu Yonggan) [hidden track]
For the album “Reform” were made 6 music videos, one more beautiful than the other. I propose them to you below. Good vision.
(aka “In and Out of the Country” or “Playful with a bit of Sexy“)