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Mỹ Anh's Journey to Carve Her Own Space in the Music Scene Is Just Starting

You can feel Mỹ Anh’s eccentric bubbly energy right away; her free-spirited character is expressed through not only her music, but her '80s-inspired style and aura. Wearing her trademarked checkered top, oversized jeans, and a one-of-a-kind fuzzy tote, she sat down with me on a breezy afternoon to chat about the “real” Mỹ Anh versus the public persona.

“I don’t like trends,” she laughed. “I think this industry lacks authenticity sometimes, so that is what I’m trying to keep.”

Debuting at 18

Having known Mỹ Anh since we were in high school, I have watched her rise to the artist that she is today, breaking away from the shadows of her parents, beloved diva Mỹ Linh and producer Trương Anh Quân.

Mỹ Anh admits to having a very natural start to music, being born into a family that has a deep tradition in the industry. Grateful to be able to sing her parent’s songs, she shared the stage with her mother growing up, and always had a little something to hold onto when the spotlight got overwhelming. “It has always revolved around art, I don’t see myself doing anything that is not creative,” she shared when asked if she had ever considered a different career.

Mỹ Anh's debut single 'Got You' has a strong R&B influence.

In 2020, Mỹ Anh released a self-composed and -produced single called 'Got You.' Though this wasn’t the first project she launched as an artist, the song was the first leap in creating her identity as a singer and not just “the girl that occasionally sings with her mom on stage.” The Alternative/R&B/Soul single brought a breath of fresh air to the Vietnamese music scene, one that's dominated by pop and hip-hop. As a young artist, she pursued a style not yet popular locally. She experimented with different sounds, mixing and fast-flowing melodies to produce a colorful piece that beautifully illustrates her growth. “After I released my first single, I started getting [offers] and taking [music] more seriously. I decided that music would be my full-time job,” she recalled.

Being a fresh face in the industry, Mỹ Anh is unafraid to test herself in different waters. “My best performance so far was probably the one in which I lost my voice,” she laughs. “My mom’s manager picked the song, it was definitely challenging, but I think I did ok?” She was referring to her performance of 'Lovin’ You' by Minnie Ripperton at Chợ Gạo Bar earlier this month. She performs at intimate gigs, private parties, and on her first big stage at 1900 Le Theater alongside Jazz Glory. She sings jazzified covers of 'Got You' and R&B-fied her mother’s hit 'Hương Ngọc Lan.' The experience has an emotional effect on her: “It is a special thing to be able to sing your parent’s songs. I’ve always thought that it is something I’m very grateful for.”

Most recently, she made a guest appearance on the popular rap TV show King of Rap, and performed her latest song 'Lời Cảm Ơn,' a collaboration with rapper TLinh at Kenh14’s WeChoice Awards. Despite having a schedule packed with concerts small and large, she finds ways to reveal her down-to-earth nature either. This personal side comes out in the occasional videos of Bedroom Sessions — a series of short, vibrant jams inspired by Jacob Collier, produced and mixed in her bedroom. “Bedroom Sessions is actually my attempt to loosen up a little bit,” she said.

"Perhaps this series best portrays how I want to approach music; where I’d jot down all my ideas without having that pressure that usually comes in when you’re preparing an official project release," she writes in the project's description. "I believe that’s how music should be made - authentic and free."

Described by her colleagues as mature, independent, meticulous and creative, Mỹ Anh’s tireless efforts do not go unnoticed: she was nominated for the WeChoice "Rising Gen Z” award and was chosen by Đẹp Magazine as one of 15 outstanding young figures in the current creative industry.

Finding a place in the entertainment world

To Mỹ Anh, what came along with fame was the invisible responsibility to please the public: “[Music] definitely feels more like a responsibility now, after I released my first single, there were so many opinions on where I should go next and how I should change my music so I can ‘succeed.’”

Thus, for the longest time, she felt lost within the musical world. Torn between popular culture and her unorthodox style, My Anh was confused, overwhelmed, and caught between the whirlwind of criticisms — both toxic and constructive: “For a while, I felt like I was trying to make music that pleased other people. My brain has been going so fast all the time and at many points, I really want to just slow down.”

Music, she believes, is a universal language: “When you’re making music, you put a lot of your personal stories through these songs. Being able to perform them is like saying, ‘Hey, I feel the same way.’ That’s when people unite.” Referring to the toxicity of "showbiz," she shared: “Ironically, a lot of the human experiences are very similar, and yet we still judge each other, compare each other, and feel lonely.”

What she firmly understands, though, is that everybody has a different definition of success; and to her, it means being able to push the Vietnamese music industry forward while forging her own unique path.

"If you’re just going to walk the same path that everyone is already walking, then you have nothing to offer. If you have something new to offer, [then] people actually have something to look at and that’s when you actually push the Vietnamese industry forward," she explained. "[I] feel like some people are scared to go the new way because no one has ever done it and the risk is that there’s no guarantee of benefit, money, success. [But], if I didn’t do it my way then I wouldn’t do as well.”

Looking at the near and far future

In 2020, Mỹ Anh made the difficult decision to stay in Vietnam instead of beginning her studies at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. The debate between education and career is often difficult, and it wasn’t an exception for her, especially when it involves what some consider the best music school in the world. But in the end, she went with what her heart told her: to stay.

Currently, Mỹ Anh is debating whether she wants to become a live performer or work as a producer in the studio, supporting other artists. Success to her is not necessarily about money and fame; she seeks to deliver powerful messages to the masses. On her ultimate goal, she said: “I want to open a label. I want to be successful in terms of being able to connect with many people, because fame does not equal money, but more like having the ability to deliver messages that I find powerful to the masses. When more people know about you, you have the power to create such things as a label and you can find talents that you think are worth shedding a light onto and not just celebrity-worthy.”

What’s next?

Having barely dipped her toes into the industry, Mỹ Anh has so much more to offer, embodying unmistakable energy, unmatched style, and incredible talent, she represents the next generation of not only the music industry, but assertive young Vietnamese spreading powerful messages.

Later this year, Mỹ Anh will contribute her music to a documentary on children living with autism. And what more can we look forward to from her? “Hopefully more confidence?” she laughs. “As a singer, you have to have the ability to talk to your audience. It’s not just going up there and singing and then going down. If you have that power to hold the stage’s presence, to hold the audience’s attention, and you don’t do it right then they’re going to go on their phones right? I felt as though I didn’t have that talent; I was wondering whether I can communicate with the audience.”

Mỹ Anh performs 'Can't Hear A Thing' in a garden.

She acknowledges, though, that practice makes perfect: “I love being able to see the audience's reaction to my music, and the feeling of the lights and the sound of the crowd. It is definitely a bittersweet feeling but I know I will eventually learn to [become] comfortable and confident standing on a big stage.”

But for now, Mỹ Anh focuses on creating more music for her audience. When asked to give a hint on her next project, she cheekily pointed at a tiny tattoo in red ink on her forearm that says "pillars." She remained cryptic, however: “I got it in March last year, it's a song that means a lot to me. That’s all I can say.”

Quãng 8, which means "octave" in Vietnamese, is a series of articles on Vietnam's new generation of unique music personalities. Know an interesting musician and want to introduce them to our readers? Send us an email via contribute@saigoneer.com with your ideas.

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