Rising singer Jikamarie is here to lend her voice to young women
Thanks to the endless clichés in media, women often get boxed into stereotypes. We have the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, the Mary Sue, the Pick Me Girl—you get it. Unfortunately, the oversaturation of these archetypes in media, along with the age-old gender expectations, continues to box women into two-dimensional tropes. You’re either the strong I-don’t-cry-at-all woman or the fragile and docile lady who can do no harm. But for rising R&B singer Jikamarie, she’s inspired to spotlight the different layers and voices women have and contain through her music.
“I believe that music is a powerful weapon that can spread one’s message,” shares Jikamarie in an exclusive interview with Wonder. “Everyone listens to music, and people on social media talk about music all the time. So as a songwriter who also wants to incorporate messages about the empowerment and multi-dimensionality of women, music is my partner,” she adds.
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As she continues to write music about the ins and outs of womanhood and the female experience, the singer touches different personalities and weaves stories through her lyrics. Case in point, her newest song, Kailangan ko ng… Here, she sings about the inherent human need for affection and the toxic head it rears when it comes in excess.
Ahead, our chat with Jikamarie about her music, vision and the Nasty Women who continue to inspire her.
Wonder: You’re part of a generation of musicians who got their breakthroughs during the pandemic. What did reaching so many people through your music feel like, especially at such a tricky time?
Jikamarie: The pandemic took a lot from everyone. A lot of resources and lives, even from our family. But it also gave us this opportunity to share the music that my Kuya (brother) and I make, and that's the one thing that we've always dreamt of our entire lives: [to] keep making music.
I want to keep encouraging fellow Filipino musicians to put out their stuff. Filipino listeners are smart, and they will listen to you if they like your stuff, regardless of how big or how small of a community you're coming from.
W: Can you give us a sneak peek into your songwriting process, specifically for Kailangan ko ng…? Were there any personal experiences that inspired you to write the track?
JM: When my debut song, Lutang (Afloat), came out, it gave me a lot of opportunities, but it also gave me a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of pressure because I have to write this, I have to write that. More people are waiting for me to see what upcoming material I have. I felt cornered and alone, [so much so] that I couldn't even turn to songwriting to get the comfort I had gotten from it. I thought, you know, “I could use a hug.” Incidentally, that's what also sparked my idea for the first line of this song, “Kailangan ko ng yakap.”
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W: In your music video for Kailangan ko ng…, you’re playing a cutthroat mafia boss with goons. What made you want to explore this concept, and how does it tie in with the song’s extremely needy message?
JM: In movies and books, the mafia boss is a trope of someone who’s so intimidating. It even turned into this meme because it’s so common in fanfiction. So I thought it would be fun to play around with that. I used [the mafia boss] to depict the image of someone desperate for attention and affection and took that to an extreme level to portray how toxic it is for people to chase things not meant for them.
In the music video, it seems like I'm chasing this criminal or target. But I'm just forcing him to go on a date with me. In the end, he still doesn't want me. I relate to that concept since I tend to do things or pursue things not meant for me, and how toxic that is for me and everyone else around me.
W: Dialing back to your music, you recently cemented your first feature with Eh Papaano with JRLDM. How was the experience like collaborating with him?
JM: Like many things that have happened recently, it was exciting and fun because it was a new experience. Hip hop isn't my genre, and exploring that was fun. It was also easy working on the song because Kuya Jerald was also very chill about it. At first, I was reluctant to work on my part because I was careful in doing anything either too extravagant or underwhelming with my verse. After all, it wasn't my song. But he reassured me just to relax, and overall, I had so much fun with my feature.
W: We heard that you have an EP in the works. What’s it like preparing for it in the thick of the pandemic?
JM: Creating concepts and storylines is very fun for me. Working on my EP doesn't feel like work to me. It's kind of embarrassing to mention the number of times I think about which tracks I’ll include, what kind of concepts I’ll explore and what kind of characters I am portraying. I'm also very excited since it’ll be my first body of work. Working on it was also like a distraction. It kept me occupied throughout the pandemic. Because even before I released any of my songs, I've always been planning and thinking about it. It's just so fun to me.
W: This March, Wonder celebrates the Nasty Woman who’s unapologetic, feisty and opinionated. Do you look up to any Nasty Women in your life and music?
JM: Zendaya and Doja Cat. They make bodies of work that explore how women are multi-faceted and not one-dimensional. They talk about female sexuality and help take the stigma away from it. And they use their platforms to talk about the female experience. The number of people watching them allows women like me to feel empowered and seen. They understand what we, as women, go through.
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W: Women often get criticized for being too much of anything: too expressive, too blunt, too straightforward—you get the picture. What would you say to young girls who still feel that they can’t fully be themselves?
JM: I’ve also experienced and continuously experience getting these comments all the time. When I talk about the oppression that women experience, I immediately get called a man-hater. I wear a lipstick color that’s a little darker than usual, [they say] I’m “trying too hard” or I’m promiscuous. And then I realized that whatever I do, I will get criticized about it regardless. I guess that’s just the female experience.
I can tell young girls who go through the same thing not to focus on the resentment you’ll receive for taking up your space. [Instead, focus on how] it would make fellow women feel. It’s easy to say but difficult to do because of the strains enforced upon us. But I feel like women can relate that when we see a woman take up her space, [we] also feel empowered and encouraged to do the same thing. So I know that I am not alone. Other women go through the same things that I do, they understand me, and I can understand them.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver