Vietnam’s popular music scene emerged in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in the 1970s. Influenced by US rock and pop, and the glitzy aesthetics of K-pop and J-pop, V-pop gained traction in the 2000s.
Already a market leader in the Southeast Asian music industry, V-pop stars are making their way into the international sphere. In 2019, Sơn Tùng M-TP collaborated with Snoop Dogg on Hãy Trao Cho Anh (Give It to Me) and he became the first Vietnamese artist to enter the Billboard chart. Not to mention the viral wave of V-pop stars making the rounds on TikTok.
Stay ahead of the curve and check out these five V-pop stars you need on your radar.
Less inclined towards the hyper-pop found in Japan and South Korea, the music scene in Vietnam is dominated by ballads. For rising singer and rapper CODYNAMVO, his 2022 debut EP takes the energy up a level. Originally part of the boy group UNI5, CODYNAMVO’s foray into becoming a solo artist has seen the 26-year-old steer towards a grittier, more urban sound. His music is more akin to Stray Kids or Kenshi Yonezu but retains his signature sound. The Halloween-themed music video for Ảo Thật Đếi is proof enough that he is an all-in-one superstar in the making; flawless dance moves, charisma, and good looks. Basically, what I’m saying is, I want to be his zombie bride.
Nguyễn Thảo Linh, better known by the artist moniker tlinh, is part of a cohort of Gen-Z Vietnamese artists shaking up the V-pop scene. tlinh’s music harbours an RnB sensibility and she embraces her femininity through her performances and heartfelt songwriting. “Femininity doesn’t mean weakness.” She asserted in a recent interview with Paper Magazine. Last year, she was one of Spotify’s most listened-to artists in Vietnam and in March this year, she was invited on COLORSXSTUDIOS for a performance of her song Sleeping Beauty. Although fluent in English, tlinh chooses to write in her native language. She explains “Vietnamese people… we’re not used to expressing them [our emotions]. They don’t know how to name it yet. And I am here to convey it in Vietnamese. It’s very easy to convey those messages in English, but I want all of my fellow Vietnamese to have this voice.”
Praised for her versatile singing and high-energy shows, Hòa Minzy first got her break when she won Vietnam’s talent competition Star Academy. The singer and actress draws on traditional Vietnamese folk and literary characters in her music. Her 2023 single Thị Mầu blends electronic beats with chèo performance and singing style (traditional Vietnamese opera.) Thị Mầu is a lively young girl and the central character in the centuries-old folk story Quan Am Thi Kinh (Our Benevolent Buddha Thị Kính).
Since the start, Trúc Nhân has always pushed a bold and creative approach to music-making. His break-out hit Bốn Chữ Lắm (Too Much Love, Affection, Distance, Pain) was filmed only using a smartphone (this is 2014, people, the iPhone 6 had only just come out) and it won Vietnamese Song of the Year Award. In 2019 he released Sáng mắt chưa (Open Your Eyes). It’s about him attending the wedding of his gay lover who is marrying a woman to appease his conservative family. “Chẳng hiểu em cứ níu kéo vô vọng làm chi?” (“Why do you cling to a relationship which is hopeless?”) Trúc Nhân, who is openly gay, deplores. The song was a huge success in Asia, partly thanks to its witty lyrics, a light take on a serious matter, and the MV featuring Thailand’s Got Talent finalists dance crew Angel Turbo during a bridge written in Thai.
Search V-pop on TikTok and you’ll quickly come across MIN’s viral hits. The glossy productions and earworm hooks of tracks such as Cà Phê and trên tình bạn, dưới tình yêu have contributed to making her one of the most successful artists in Vietnam. In 2020, MIN (real name Nguyễn Minh Hằng) joined forces with fellow V-pop star ERIK on Ghen Cô Vy which attracted worldwide acclaim for raising awareness about COVID-19 and prevention. She released her debut album, 50/50, last year.