With a head full of curly hair and an oversized coat, 9m88 is a jazz singer who has risen to fame in the Taiwanese music scene in recent times. Her fashion sense often radiates a stylish retro vibe, sprinkled with offbeat, comical touches in the detail. From head to toe, the way she dresses is reminiscent of someone from straight out of an 80s discotheque. Her unique, idiosyncratic style is what’s most striking about her, after her voice.
9m88’s unexpected rise to fame came about following a successful collaboration with rapper Leo Wang on “Weekends with You.” She has a deep, sultry, alluring sound, the kind that feels more fitting for the age of cassette tapes than our Spotify generation. With nothing to go on but a voice alone, it’d be easy to attribute her voice to a soul singer with a few decades under her belt. But in reality, 9m88 is a millennial whose music career is just taking off.
My name is 9m, sounds like Joanne
Perhaps like me, you were mystified the first time you saw the name 9m88 – it almost looks like the name of a radio station. In reality, 9m (“jiu em”) is an approximation the English name Joanne, while 88 (“ba ba”) comes from her childhood nickname, Xiaoba.
Ever since she was a child, 9m88 dreamed of becoming a star, she confesses with a laugh. And that always meant through music. She often had intricate fantasies about being on stage with backup dancers performing behind her. “At some point, I’ll have to shoot a few music videos with singing and dancing – definitely!” she laughs. “But now that my artistic career is becoming serious, I’m looking at things more from the perspective of 9m88, figuring out what I want to bring to this world as an artist.”
我的名字 9m，是 Joanne 的諧音
第一次听说这号人物时，连名字都让人有点摸不着头绪，容易联想到某个广播电台。9m 其实是英文名 Joanne 的谐音，88 则取自中文小名‘小芭’。9m 笑说自己从小就有明星梦，音乐是一直不变的梦想，常常幻想有舞者在后面帮忙伴舞那种大排场的演出。“ 未来拍几支唱跳歌手的 MV 还是必须的！但现在当创作者的使命变大了，我会更以 9m88 的身份去做考量，思考自己作为一个创作者，要带给这个世界的是什么。”
While she may not have a group of glamorous backup dancers or tens of thousands of fans at her concerts yet, it doesn’t matter much to her. She just wants to live her life honestly and simply. Even without the resources of a mega-celebrity, she’s still able to create meaningful work when inspiration strikes.
The song “Nine Head Hinano” is a great example of this – it’s a theme song she wrote for a key ring designed by her friends Sid and Geri. The key ring is made up of nine heads, with each representing a different woman. The lyrics describe each woman with a single short line, revealing a little secret about their lives, such as “Joanne sang jazz but didn’t make it, had to work selling juice on the side of the road” (in Taiwan roadside juice stalls are often staffed by attractive women), or “Janet just wanted a little love, went on Tinder but got no likes.”
With this song, the message she hopes to communicate is that people come in different shapes and sizes – there’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all model. In 9m’s opinion, in a society with an increasingly unified standard of beauty, everyone’s gotten so used to striving for so-called perfection that they’ve forgotten that having flaws is healthy and perfectly normal. It’s an intriguing song that sounds casual but is layered with meaning.
即使没有华丽舞群和万人演唱会，只要诚实、简简单单的过好日子，灵感来时不犹豫的把握住，就算没有大明星级的资源，也一样能做出好的作品。这首《九头身日奈》 是她帮朋友 Sid and Geri 设计的钥匙圈所写的主题曲，钥匙圈上面九个头代表九种女生，歌词里每个女生都只用短短一句话形容，揭幕她们生命中不经掩饰的小秘密。“Joanne 她唱爵士乐却没有红，只好去卖大脚桶”（大脚桶是台湾路边常见的果汁摊贩，店员通常是很漂亮的女生）、或“Janet 只想要一点爱，上 Tinder 却没人 Like”。
I don’t care who wants to be a jazz singer
9m went from being a bedroom musician to an artist now under the limelight – after such an abrupt change in status, how does she perceive herself? “I’ve actually never stopped creating, and as a female creator, femininity has long been a concern of mine,” she says. “As for jazz music, that’s just one part of what I’ve studied. Today my main creative focus is searching for the value of being ‘myself.’ It’s hard to say what I’ll want to talk about in a few years.”
从一个埋头写歌的女孩，到舞台上迎着众人目光的歌手，面对状态的转换，9m 是如何定位自己？ “我其实一直都在创作，身为一个女性创作者，‘女性’ 这个表述本来就长在我身上。至于爵士乐，它就是我学习的一部分而已。目前的创作主轴主要还是放在探索身为 ‘我’ 的价值，很难说过几年后我会想要讨论什么。”
As more and more people are beginning to hear her work, her shows in Taiwan have begun to sell out, and with this success, she’s even scheduled tour dates abroad. It might still be too early to say her childhood musical dreams have come true, but this is definitely a promising beginning. At this point in time, planning for a full-time career as a jazz singer might be jumping the gun. But she says it doesn’t matter where life takes her – what’s important is the music. “I think music is music. It doesn’t need a hard definition. Having a style is good, but the spirit of music is not making distinctions,” she says. “‘Jazz performer’ is a label other people put on me when they were trying to help me out. I just want audiences to get to know 9m88 better. I don’t care who wants to be a jazz singer. None of that matters. The main thing is to do what you like.”
作品被越来越多人听见，在台湾的表演场场完售，还巡演到了海外。说从小的音乐梦实现了，还太早，但这一切依然是个美好的开始。9m88 在音乐界引起了一阵小小的炫风，现在就问未来生涯是严肃了点，对 9m 来说，怎么走无所谓，一切重要的只关乎音乐。“我觉得音乐就是音乐，是不需要硬去定义的。有风格很好，但不分家才是音乐的精神。爵士女伶这个称号是别人为了帮我放一个注解，我只想让观众更认识 9m88。至于爵士女伶谁想当，我没关系，都不重要。给你或妳当吧，人生欢喜就好！”