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Spreading Vietnamese music across borders
Jenna Duong - Minh An 17:06, 2023/03/01
According to musician Quoc Trung, collaboration with foreign composers and singers is still a long way to go for Vietnamese music to gain a foothold in the international market.

With attractive and vibrant recordings, young Vietnamese musicians and singers are gradually winning over foreign audiences.

The song “See Tinh” by Hanoi singer Hoang Thuy Linh and the DTAP production team has currently made social media fever. Some Vietnamese artists have also achieved media effects by collaborating with foreign producers, namely Son Tung M-TP, Soobin, or Duc Phuc.

The poster of the MV entitled “See Tinh” by singer Hoang Thuy Linh

The formula for success

Since its release in February 2022, Hoang Thuy Linh’s “See Tinh” (meaning “See Love”, while also sounding similar to “si tinh” in Vietnamese, which means “madly in love”) has appealed to music lovers around the world. As of late, the hit has got 42 million views on YouTube and hundreds of millions of streams on other music streaming platforms.

The made-in-Vietnam single is continuing to spread widely in Thailand, South Korea, China, and India, among other countries. Many celebrities have covered or danced to the song, such as WINNER’s Seunghoon, Super Junior’s Shindong, Bambi Zhu, Angelababy, David Wang, Dylan Wang, He Jiong, and Lay Zhang.

In recent years, several Vietnamese songs have gained acceptance in Europe, South America, and especially China and Thailand. Some prominent representatives are Quang Hung MasterD's “De Den De Di” (Easy Come Easy Go), Phong Max and Tang Duy Tan's “Ngay Tho” (Naive), producer Hoaprox's “Ngau Hung” (With You) and rapper Phao’s “Hai Phut Hon” (Over Two Minutes).

Musician Nguyen Quang Long commented: “I was surprised by how well-known the products of young Vietnamese composers have become. They are gradually keeping up with the world and starting to produce noteworthy songs. Rather than overthinking, we should first be glad about news like this in the current entertainment landscape, as our music exports have begun to be approved by the international audience. Further discussion should revolve around when we do shows and sell tickets abroad.”

 South Korean volleyball player Da-Hyeon Lee skillfully dancing to the tune of Hoang Thuy Linh's 'See Tinh' went viral. Photo: Screenshot 

Analyzing the recent hot trending songs, some music experts pointed out that previous generations of musicians in Vietnam often composed sophisticated melodies and metaphorical lyrics with multiple layers of meanings and stories.

For that reason, no matter how popular the songs got among the local audience, listeners in other markets could barely feel and get into them on first listens.

In contrast, the younger producers constantly get updated on global music trends, while also thoroughly studying popular songs. As a result, their products better satisfy the tastes of foreign music lovers.

On the other hand, it is a fact that when they listen to the full version of viral music clips on social networks, users in Vietnam often get disappointed by the quality, which discourages them from searching for the original videos. This is also the weakness of composers who create short-lived music - trendy and catchy melodies for social media posts.

The poster of MV “Hai Phut Hon” (Over Two Minutes) by Rapper Phao. 

As the author of the hit “Hai Phut Hon” (Over Two Minutes), which has some success in the overseas market, rapper Phao said: "50% of the success of songs having gone viral abroad comes from the distinctive musical style of each artist. Unique Vietnamese nuances are exotic in the global market. Artists are also getting more and more meticulous in building their personal brands as well as their product quality in order to be globally competitive. The remaining 50% comes from the investments and professionalism of music companies. They have dedicated a lot to promotional campaigns on streaming platforms, which helps bring Vietnamese music closer to a larger audience worldwide.”

For Vietnamese music to reach further

In the last few years, many music hits have been released by Vietnamese artists in collaboration with foreign names: Son Tung M-TP with rapper Snoop Dogg, K-ICM with Plastik Funk, Polmoya and 9tySlac, Soobin with T-ara’s Ji Yeon, Thanh Bui with Tata Young, Hoang Duyen with Calum Scott, Vu with Lukas Graham, and most recently Duc Phuc with the legendary 911 boy band.

However, these collaborations, despite some local media effects, have yet to appeal to the global audience. According to musician Quoc Trung, it’s still a long way to go for Vietnamese music to gain a foothold in the international market. 

 Singer Duc Phuc and the 911 band sang together in the remix “Em Dong Y” or “I Do”

“We always think that we have a long-standing, identity-rich culture, but it’s only the resource that we have yet to exploit or turn into world-class products. I believe the first steps include having the aspiration for a global reach, making detailed plans, as well as developing our music industry and a rich Vietnamese musical life,” Hanoi musician Quoc Trung noted.

In its cultural export strategy, the South Korean government decided to liberalize its fashion, cosmetics, music, and cinema industries, which turned the nation into the shopping and audiovisual center of Asia and even the world.

As for the S-shaped land, the effects of several locally-made hits have drawn more people to learn about Vietnamese music and, more broadly, natural landscapes and culture. Still, for the ‘heartbeats’ of Vietnam to be felt by the rest of the globe, there is a need for a long-term vision and strategy on the parts of both administrators and the artistic staff.

“With the advent of TikTok, a lot of Vietnamese songs have gone viral worldwide, yet Vietnamese artists haven’t become famous or succeeded in building a fandom. A song itself is not enough, as images and stories behind are also important. When a music product reaches listeners, they will search for more info to see if the artist is interesting and worth following,” said Dong Nguyen, founder of Hot Panda Media.

The MV titled “See Tinh” by singer Hoang Thuy Linh
Source: Hoang Thuy Linh's YouTube   

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