Cover Lin wears Harry Winston Zalium Variation Yellow Automatic 42.2mm watch in Zalium, Louis Vuitton technical taped velour windbreaker.

Singaporean pop star JJ Lin is at the top of his game. He gets candid about pushing boundaries, commemorating his 20th year in the industry in 2023 and of course, his loyal fanbase

JJ Lin is kind of a geek—and he’ll be the first to tell you so. Growing up, the pop star immersed himself in the world of comic books and sci‑fi novels by the genre’s greats, including Isaac Asimov and Ernest Cline. “I’ve always imagined a world where we’d be living like they do in [Cline’s 2011 novel] Ready Player One, where everything is seamless and connected,” says Lin. “It’s really coming to life now.”

He’s talking about the metaverse, of course. For Lin, the mainstream culture’s growing affinity for virtual realms offers sweet vindication. “You feel liberated because it’s something you’ve been passionate about for so long and now, everyone is paying attention,” he says. “You feel happy for the community; they’re finally being understood a little bit better.”

Last November, Lin made headlines when it was revealed that he had bought $123,000 worth of virtual real estate in Decentraland—hot on the heels of buying a rare Cryptopunk non-fungible token (NFT) for 125 Ethereum, which at the time was worth the equivalent of $761,000, earlier that same month. In July this year, it was announced that he had teamed up with Singaporean entrepreneurs Kiat Lim and Elroy Cheo to found ARC, a private digital community powered by NFTs and blockchain technology. Lim says that ARC’s ambition is “to be a bridge across the real and virtual worlds today, and, in the near future, the ARC metaverse”. So far, its impressive rolodex of members includes venture capitalists, Web3 developers and cryptocurrency experts.

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Lin sees potential for NFTs in the music world—as a way to bridge the gap between artistes and their fans—and is already looking into ways they can positively influence his official fan club, JJ Federation, which has been active for more than 10 years. “We’ve been building a community for some time and NFTs enable us to be more direct with that community. Ideally, we want to create an intimate space where we can attract like‑minded people; with a feeling of family, bonding and building together,” says the 41-year-old Singaporean singer, who is based in Taiwan. “NFTs really open that door. We can integrate them into our own ecosystem and empower fans directly. There’s potential to change the world and that excites me.”

Lin is also excited about the possibility that these virtual spaces could somehow bring music from our world to “other worlds, other universes to be discovered”, he shares. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed about: what if our music reached further than we’ve ever imagined, further than we’ve ever reached?”

Since his debut album Music Voyager was released in 2003, Lin has been slipping sci-fi references into his tracks. “I always played with themes of transcending and traversing different universes and planes,” he says. His third studio album No. 89757, released in 2005, was a conceptual album that followed the love story of a robot.

In 2020, Lin released his first English EP, Like You Do. “When writing the songs for it, I had the idea of parallel universes,” he enthuses. “I thought it would be interesting to put myself in this creative process where I’d write the album from [the perspective of] a parallel self. If there were a JJ Lin in a parallel universe, what would he be writing about? What life would he be living?”

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Born and raised in Singapore, and coming from a bilingual background, Lin started out writing songs in English as a young singer. “At the time, there was no know-how or industry for that in Singapore,” he says, adding that after two decades of writing and singing in Mandarin, Like You Do was a project that took him down a new path of exploration—this time of himself. “I wanted to experiment and challenge myself to break down my musical style, stripping myself of all the things I was used to as a writer and a producer,” he explains. “I’d been doing Mandarin songs for so long, I wanted to see if I could tap into a different realm of music making. Creatively, I was really just getting to know myself again.”

Going back to square one, especially after nearly 20 years of building a name for yourself, wouldn’t be an attractive prospect to most. But Lin invited the challenge and welcomed it with open arms. “I look back and I’m happy and grateful for what has happened, but there also comes a point in time where you have to ask yourself, ‘What’s next?’” he says, adding that there’s “no point staying in the past”.

“I’m not changing because the past was no good,” he clarifies. “I’m changing because of who I am now, and who I was 10, 20 years ago. Those were very different times, and very different versions of me.”

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The Other Side

So who is this version of JJ Lin now? Well, he’s a man having his moment. Outside of singing, Lin has a number of ventures, including his music production company JFJ Productions and Miracle Coffee, a brand of cafés serving artisanal coffee. When the Shanghai branch of the latter opened in 2019, some fans queued up to 14 hours. He also has an esports organisation, Team SMG, which stands for “still moving under gunfire”. He shares: “Growing up, I played games such as World of Warcraft, which were so immersive that you would imagine becoming an avatar.” His apparel brand, under the SMG label, has over the years released exclusive collections with the likes of Gore-Tex, G-Shock and Reebok. In June, SMG announced a collaboration with the Singaporean start-up, Graycraft for the Web3 generation.

His musical collaborations have been similarly impressive, with Like You Do featuring notable names that placed Lin on a larger, global stage. The song Bedroom features British singer Anne-Marie, and Japanese American DJ Steve Aoki remixed the track Not Tonight—which he and Lin performed live this March at Wisdome LA, an immersive art and music park in Los Angeles, as part of the inaugural NFT LA conference.

Entering the mainstream entertainment industry has always been a challenge. And for an Asian artist from Asia, there has always been a barrier that has been near impossible to break—until recently. From the global K-pop hysteria to the steadily growing number of Asian leads in major Hollywood movies—it’s the kind of representation Lin says he has been “hoping for from day one”.

“The world is paying more attention to Asian culture. It’s time to no longer be humble about being Asian. It’s time to shine, to represent; to be loud and proud about it,” he says, adding that for those wanting to break out onto the scene, “it’s now or never. Please fight for your dream and reach for it, believe that it can happen for you. Take steps to realise that dream, and [don’t] let anyone tell you that you can’t or that you’re not good enough, or that it’s not time yet.”

All of that said, Lin has not forgotten his home team. Next year marks 20 years since he dropped his first album and he plans to celebrate with a world tour, which he has been teasing on social media with the hashtag #roadtojj20. “It’ll be a lot of everything. Especially for my older fans, it’ll be [about] remembering the journey we’ve been on. A lot of memories and nostalgia,” he reveals. “Life is hard, but those who’ve stuck by you through thick and thin, that’s gold. That’s something I really cherish.”

Lin’s face and voice soften as he speaks about his career-long fans. It has been a long day in front of the camera for this photo shoot with Tatler, but he has been nothing but calm, kind and collaborative. Upon arriving on set, he made a point of greeting every person in the room and learning their name.

We’re sitting in the dressing room for this interview; and Lin is refreshingly unguarded and unapologetically himself. A man who dances to his own tune—and that of some favourite fellow artists: between takes, he moves enthusiastically to whatever song is playing in the studio. I Feel It Coming by The Weeknd, in particular, seems to get him into the zone.

He seems relaxed and, perhaps, being home has some part to play in that. Having lived and worked in Taipei for most, if not all, of his career, Lin is making the most of some quality time in Singapore, playing golf with his friends, go-karting with his dad on Father’s Day, and getting his fix of local favourites such as bak chor mee.

But as you would have probably gathered by now, Lin is not one to sit still for too long. “Friends, media, fans and especially my family always ask when I’m going to take a break or retire,” he says with a laugh. “But even after so many years, life continues to surprise you. There’s always something to reach out for, to discover. There’s still so much energy within, so much to give, and it’s not about to end.”

  • PhotographyReuben Foong
  • StylingJoshua Cheung
  • HairKen Hong at Evolve Salon
  • GroomingClarence Lee Using Hermes Plein Air
  • Photographer's AssistantQuinn Lum, Ghufran Jasni, Antoine Iskander
  • Stylist's AssistantKelly Hsu
  • Prop StylingDriade Nemo armchair by Fabio Novembre, from P5 Studio
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