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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Music in the age of Covid-19

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HCMC – After hibernating during the Covid-19 lockdown, Vietnam’s entertainment industry is lumbering back to life. Sky Tour Movie starring Son Tung M-TP, the country’s hottest star, will be released on June 12. Music venue Dong Dao at 164 Pasteur reopens with a performance by Dam Vinh Hung, 48, yesteryear’s heartthrob, on June 12.

Sky Tour interviews Tung and documents three concerts at which he performed at last year. It is modeled on a film about Korean boy band BTS that came out last year. It is the third Vietnamese film to be released since the end of the lockdown.

The life of Tung, 25 is certainly well documented. Born as Nguyen Thanh Tung in the northern city of Thai Binh, Tung graduated from the Conservatory of HCMC in 2012. The singing competition show  Vietnam Idol made him a star later that year. His breakthrough song is “Em cua ngay hom qua” (You of Yesterday). He wrote his biography, Reaching the Dream, at the age 23. What do you do after you’ve reached your dream at such a heartbreakingly young age? In Tung’s case, he produced “Hay Trao Cho Anh” (Give It to Me), his latest single.

Tung’s style borrows heavily from the pretty boys of K-pop. The preview clip for Sky Tour shows a business meeting with a group of eight remarkably good looking participants. Not one is old enough to know what works in show business and what doesn’t.

There is a history of heartthrobs who burn brightly, but briefly, according to Popular Music in Vietnam (2008) by Dale Olsen. Lam Truong was king of V-pop until the My Tam phenomenon swept him aside in 2001. By 2005, he was a restaurant manager, his musical glories a memory.

The real stars of today’s music scene are the female leads, divas who churn out hits year after year. The best known of these is My Tam herself. My Tam, 39, was born in Danang and graduated from the Conservatory of HCMC. Her throaty voice has been making hits since the duet “Toc nau moi tram” (Brown Hair, Dark Lips). This song gives unfortunate beauty advice and triggered a hair-dying fad.

My Tam was a judge for Vietnam Idol in 2012-13. Her 2017 album Tam 9 reached No. 9 on the Billboard chart, the all-time best charting Vietnamese album. Her current hit is “Anh cho em duoc khong?” (Can you wait for me?).

Min, or Nguyen Minh Hang, 32, is the singer behind the handwashing superhit “Ghen Co Vy” (Jealous Coronavirus), known internationally from John Oliver, YouTube, and TikTok. The coronavirus song is a remake of her 2017 song “Ghen” (Jealous) with the lyrics rewritten. The female in the music video is a cartoon version of Min.

Min’s other big hit is “Co em cho” (I wait), a falling in love song. She was born in Hanoi and danced with the group St.319 before striking out on her own in 2016.

The Health Department is responsible for rewriting a series of pop tunes as covid fighting hits. Less known internationally, but equally popular domestically is “Viet Nam oi!” (Dear Vietnam). This song includes the lyrics “Don’t share the wrong story on Facebook.” Examples of such “wrong stories” include the headlines “Curing corona at home without doctors” and “Preventing corona with garlic and eggs.”

With the release of “Bad Boy” in 2014, Dong Nhi, 31, gained a reputation as the nation’s hot, sexy female dancer. She got married last year and her freshly released music video “Khi con la me” (When I become a mother) focuses on the joys of motherhood. That Dong Nhi can turn penance for her sultry past into a money maker shows that the Vietnamese market is still conservative and family oriented, even by Asian standards. Dong Nhi was born in Hanoi and went to high school in HCMC. She competed unsuccessfully in Vietnam Idol.

By Peter Kauffner

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