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With Ariana Grande, International Pop Culture Comes to Vietnam

When Ariana Grande takes the stage at Saigon’s Quan Khu 7 Stadium on August 23, it will be one of the many nights she’s done so during her Dangerous Woman tour. The American pop star will sing her chart-topping hits surrounded by towering speakers and Jumbotrons, spotlights and an army of background dancers – and for Vietnam’s young, tech-savvy, pop culture fanatics, that’s exactly the appeal.

While Saigon has welcomed a handful of well-known international acts in recent years – from the Backstreet Boys to Demi Lovato to DJs like Diplo, Fatman Scoop and Grandmaster Flash – the southern hub is seldom a destination for touring musicians. Instead, the Southeast Asian leg of a global tour might include dates in Singapore or Bangkok, forcing Vietnamese fans to make a trip abroad to catch their favorite musical acts in person. Now, however, with the fastest-growing middle class in the region and a staggering number of young, switched-on social media users, Vietnam is primed to become an attractive destination for international acts making the trip to Southeast Asia.

Grande is the first pop singer to come to Vietnam at the height of her star power, the result of a partnership between Philippine concert promoter MMI Live and local firm Pulse Active, an outfit best known for organizing sports-related events like the Color Me Run, the Prisma Night Run and the Da Nang International Marathon.

At last night's press conference for the upcoming performance, Pulse Active cofounder Phillip Nguyen made frequent mention of Vietnam’s readiness to host such a high-profile event, pointing not only to the country’s pop-loving younger generations but also the tourism potential of music concerts and other large-scale events.

“It is not just the Vietnamese that are buying the tickets,” Nguyen told reporters. “We have [people] from Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea that are buying the tickets.”

As one of only four Southeast Asian tour stops – Bangkok, Manila, and Singapore are the others – Saigon has managed to draw foreign visitors in addition to local fans, giving rise to another benefit of hosting international artists. With the Vietnamese government making a concerted effort to boost tourism to the country, big name stars like Grande could help to bring in visitors who come for the concert but also wind up spending tourist dollars in Vietnam.

While Grande’s performance will be a test of the country's ability to deliver on such a big event, Nguyen is already optimistic about its success. In addition to promoting the pop star's upcoming concert, Pulse Active also used yesterday’s press event to announce the arrival of another high-profile act, The Chainsmokers, who will perform in Vietnam on September 14.

“The market is ready,” Nguyen told reporters. “The impact is not only one day, two days, three days. I have to say that it’s not about commercialization, it’s about what the public wants.”

Rounding out Wednesday's press event was a clear representation of the public's enthusiasm from members of the Ariana Grande Vietnam Facebook fanpage. After Nguyen's Q&A session, the trio of young fans spoke about their excitement ahead of the concert, including 17-year-old Pham Sawa Enuol, who earned a ticket to the show as a part of a fanpage competition.

The high school student took the mic, her voice wavering as she addressed the room. Surrounded by posters of her favorite singer, Enuol could have been any fangirl in any country, gushing over her idol.

“We never thought that one day Ariana would come to Vietnam,” she said through tears. “Sorry, but I’m very happy. I just want to say thank you so, so, so much.”

[Photo via Ticketbox]

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