Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 5, 2020

Jay Chou’s "Mojito" suggests that sometimes, it’s okay to be happy

By SHIZHENG TIE | July 1, 2020

International pop star Jay Chou dropped his newest single, “Mojito,” on June 12. Released alongside a vibrant music video in which he wanders through Cuban streets with his band, it was a much-anticipated release for ardent fans of Chou, whose last album Jay Chou’s Bedtime Stories came out in 2016. He has only released four singles since, including “Mojito.” 

“Mojito” was well-received by the general public from the international community; Cuban sunshine, tropical shirts, antique cars and lively beats make the song not only a catchy earworm but also a great visual delight.

Happiness exudes from the lyrics and melody of “Mojito.” In addition to the piano, trumpet and trombone, there is also a clear percussion accompanying the main jumpy beat. The lyrics take a mojito as a starting point, zooming out to the elegant, ethereal hostess. Then the point of focus changes from close-up to wide-angle, from a specific cup, to a specific woman, to the vibrance of the entire city. In the end, the lyrics lead the focus again to a zoomed-in, blurry contour of two lovers dancing together. The mojito montages the memories of a lover, portraying a tranquil yet effervescent, chaotic yet succinct, affectionate yet delicate Cuban city.

One important reason for the happy theme is that Chou today, different from his younger rebellious self who was angry about society, paparazzi and haters, seems to be genuinely happy. The singer was famous for his heartfelt and heartbreaking love songs like “Tornado,” “Black Humor,” “Silence,” “Nocturne” and “Rainbow.” But in recent albums, especially since he started a relationship with actress and model Hannah Quinlivan, whom he married in 2015, his sad songs have actually felt more forced, like his recent single “Won’t Cry.”

Therefore, “Mojito,” with its cheerful, jubilant tune, Latin-inspired beats and affectionate flow in the rap verse, is only a natural outlet for Chou’s pleasant personal life. Instead of the nobody who struggled through turned-down opportunities, break-ups and clashes with paparazzi, Chou writes and produces songs like the successful superstar and playful performer that he is. 

Putting the song on repeat puts an involuntary smile on my face, even though it feels wrong to be happy in such a tumultuous time.

Amidst a global pandemic, political turmoil, international tension and a growing awareness of racial inequality, I feel a need to stay angry, as if that is necessary to effect any real change. Especially when those around me are always speaking up on social media and criticizing those who stay silent, it feels like I need to do more, starting with an active dissatisfaction toward the status quo. 

Maybe it’s the so-called compassion fatigue, “the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events.” Or maybe it’s just the peer pressure from the constantly passionate fighters around me.

But one thing I learned from “Mojito” is that you don’t have to be angry to do the right thing. Chou has addressed many societal issues in his songs. “End of the World” admonishes against exploitation of the natural world; “Wounds of War” and “The Last Battle” portray the atrocities of war; “Dad, I’m Home” tells the story of how domestic violence damages the child involved as well as the romantic partners.

However, “Mojito” is aggressively happy in an aggressively difficult time. Instead of pointing out what is wrong, it envisions a world of what’s right, and those visions bring unambiguous joy.

Cuba is a country known for its turbulent history, from seeking independence from Spain to seeking independence from U.S. influence, from one dictator to another dictator. 

However, “Mojito” portrays a version of Cuba of music, classic cars, historical streets and dancing crowds where people celebrate life despite the turmoil, which is a mental strength we all need in 2020.

That is what I learned from “Mojito”: It's okay to feel joy, even when life suggests it’s necessary to stay angry to make a change. Mental strength and care for oneself are also essential, as one needs to secure their own oxygen mask before helping others. 

“Mojito,” without a doubt, is my oxygen mask.

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