As I briefly mentioned in the ‘Retrospective’ episode of my blog, there is a heavy Korean influence in Vietnam amongst the teenage generation. The rebirth of the UK 90s Pop scene in the form of the fabulous K-Pop has changed the face of the Asian music scene. Many Westerners can’t seem to stand the cheesy tunes as it ignites horrid flashbacks to jumpsuits, trouser poppers and centre-parting curtains that we’d all rather keep repressed. But for me, K-Pop has figuratively lightened up my life.
What female in their mid-twenties wouldn’t want to be presented with 90s Justin Timberlakes, Nick Carters and Gary Barlows as part of their daily life all over again? All those familiar teenage urges come flooding back; constant butterflies in the stomach, imagining every detail of your wedding to Stephen Gately and scribbling your varying married names all over your notebooks; “Mrs Andre”, “Mrs Carter” and the like.
I think I first rediscovered my love for pop when I went to SoundFest last year, a music festival in the heart of HCMC. I went primarily to see the headliner Taio Cruz, not because I’m that much of a fan but just because no one famous actually ever comes to Vietnam (everyone’s still holding on to that Top Gear episode which was aired years ago).
Anyway, Taio’s warm up act was the Korean band Big Bang. Oooof, they were just so blummin’ good. So good that they had to pause their performance to tell all the screaming fans (mainly me) to stop pushing against the barriers as there’d been too many injuries. They are, arguably, the biggest band on the K-Pop scene (some may put them second to Super Junior but their music doesn’t really do it for me to be honest), and if you ask any young Vietnamese girl about their lead singer: G-Dragon (yes, really) they turn into a giggling mush of infatuation on the floor. Personally, G-Dragon isn’t my cup of tea but T.O.P on the other hand, wow. He’s like Kevin from the Backstreet Boys, a bit of a backgrounder, but is nonetheless some fabulous eye candy. He also has tendencies to dye his hair bright blue which appeals to my experimental side. My favourite Big Bang single has to be Fantastic Baby – there really are no words to describe this song, or its video for that matter, so just trust me… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAbokV76tkU (keep an eye out for T.O.P)
Other male bands that have caught my attention are MBLAQ with their song This is War which has an unnecessarily violent video, but is certainly a core shaker. Also worth a mention is a band who I can only assume were a bit of a one hit wonder, Shinee. The wonder in question is called Sherlock (so mysterious), the video isn’t quite up to Benedict Cumberbatch’s standard, but it’s very entertaining nonetheless. I also think due credit should be made to their Jacko style moves. For those of you who know me well, you know that I’m a little bit obsessed with Matthew Lewis’ novel, The Monk. You may be wondering why I feel the need to mention this now, but all will become clear when you see Exo-K’s music video for Mama (it’s got a little bit of Labrinth’s Earthquake about it don’t you think?). This song is a strong contestant for the number one spot in my favours. Finally, I feel compelled to mention PSY here too, but he’s become a bit too mainstream for my ghetto music tastes (ha).
There are also a few girl bands worth a mention too, but you’ll be sorely mistaken if you imagine them to be anything like the Spice Girls or Atomic Kitten. Oh no. These girls are sexy provocateurs, and not in a Baby Spice cutesy way, but in a more Secret Diary of a Call Girl way. I guess the most widely known are Girls Generation who have about a million members. But personally I’m all about the Wonder Girls; their song Like This could be a strong candidate for the Eurovision. Finally, and perhaps the sexiest of the lot, are Sistar. These girls have the sexy secretary look down to a T (and their vocals aren’t too bad either).
Simon Cowell has also extended his hand to the Asian market. The winner of Vietnam Idol wasn’t really anything to write home about (but what am I to know, I’m no Mr Cowell), but other similar shows such as Project Lotus and Vietnam’s Got Talent were quite an enjoyable watch. The former of which formed a band called Blush, who is most definitely the Asian equivalent of The Saturdays. And they’ve even duetted with Snoop ‘Lion’ so they must be successful …
In short, I think it’s fair to say that K-Pop has accrued (maybe its first) number 1 Western fan. My good friend Stu, who lives and works in South Korea, may strongly contest this considering it’s through his blog, ‘Kimchi Monster’, that I find out about new releases before they even reach Vietnam. One thing is to be said though, and that’s that my song and dance abilities have significantly improved since moving out here.