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5 International Artists of Vietnamese Descent to Add to Your Playlist Now

Although both V-pop and Vietnam's independent scene are on the rise, leading to many interesting conversations about where Vietnamese music is heading, on this playlist we want to instead focus on some international artists who happen to be of Vietnamese ancestry.

A few of these musicians might already be familiar figures in your Spotify playlists, while others may be complete strangers. Ranging from R&B and trap to the likes of bedroom pop and electronica, here are five artists of Vietnamese descent currently setting off our music radar.

 

1. Vinh Khuat

When he first appeared on The Voice of Germany in 2012, multi-instrumentalist Vinh Khuat was a clear standout. Despite not winning the show, he left an indelible impression by putting a twist on the Stevie Wonder classic 'Superstition' using a looper and piano to handle the arrangement. Fast-forward to 2019, and Vinh has captured the attention of Vietnamese listeners with two originals: 'Quá Lâu' ('So Long') and 'Lẽ Ra' ('Should’ve'), both composed and arranged solely by Vinh himself.

Singing about the usual topics like love and the "friend zone," Vinh avoids musical clichés with his smart blend of modern and traditional instrumentation (notably the Vietnamese zither). He drives these songs forward with focused songwriting, dynamic arrangements and a killer instinct for pop hooks. Sure, the lyrics could benefit from some rewording, but this flaw, likely a result of the forced translation from English to Vietnamese, is more than compensated for by his utter earnestness and conviction as a singer. As the saying goes: “When in doubt, belt it out.” And boy can this guy belt.

Find Vinh Khuat's music on Soundcloud.

 

2. Saint Linh (formerly known as Linh TNX)

When Vietnamese songs aim for the adult, enticing angle, the result is rarely erotic and too often comical (take the controversial 'Như Cái Lò (NCL)' for example). That is why it is refreshing to come across Saint Linh, a German-Vietnamese artist who understands the aesthetics and nails them in 'Tại Sao' ('Why'), a lament on love that recalls both Aaliyah and Ciara at their smoothest.

Hailing from Hamburg, Linh first faced opposition from her family when she decided to pursue singing as a profession. But with the encouragement from her music teacher and her own growing interest in her parents’ homeland, Linh finally made the move to Saigon, familiarized herself with the scene and put out the brilliant trap hit 'S.O.S (Skin on Skin)' in 2018. With the release of 'Tại Sao,' arranged by one of Vietnam’s rising producers, Jsdrmns, Linh proves she is no mere fluke, and V-pop might just have scored itself a frightfully excellent R&B talent.

Read Saigoneer's feature on Linh TNX here and find her music on YouTube.

 

3. Monét Ngo

As someone who once shared the same ZIP code with Monét, I will not pretend I am unbiased when it comes to his music. With inspiration ranging from James Blake to Frank Ocean, Monét brings a dream-like, impressionistic approach to his brand of R&B, immersing the melody in evocative atmosphere with a mix of organic instruments and electronic touches. What sets Monét apart from his peers is the restraint he and his collaborators exert. While there is room for songs like 'Cherry' or 'Cold' to flourish dynamically, they are structurally simple, arranged in such a way that the songs are a cornucopia of romantic feelings, even when words remain unsaid. Such an act is tricky balance to get right, and Monét just does it effortlessly. 

Find Monét's music on Spotify and Soundcloud.

 

4. Tuimi

Born and raised in the city of Dresden, Tuimi is another German-Vietnamese artist who has been making waves in Vietnam’s independent music scene with her single 'Purpose,' a collaboration with Hanoi-based rapper Gizmo. When speaking to the online publication Born Musicin April, Tuimi emphasized the conscious decision to incorporate “some flavors from Vietnam/South East Asian culture” and ultimately connected influences from both her east and west background.

With 'Purpose,' she shows a confident grasp of showmanship, sailing formidably from verse to verse about self-empowerment and taking control of your life on a beat reminiscent of both trap and circa-2000s urban pop music. While the western influence is undeniable, the Vietnamese rap verse as the supposed eastern component doesn’t quite land. But as Tuimi has a long way to go musically, she also has bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam to focus on finding her own artistry. And we, as listeners, can hardly wait for her next work.

Find Tuimi's music on Spotify and YouTube.

 

5. Hana Vu

Much has been said about Vu as a prodigious talent whose music reflects vigorous maturity, and at the same time still sounds relatable, notably on the gorgeous 'Crying on the Subway.' On her recently released EP 'How Many Times Have You Driven By,' Vu sings about universal moments of vulnerability, loneliness and longing; each subsequent song is further evidence of an intriguing artist who still has plenty to say. However, the secret weapon is neither her songwriting nor her production. Rather, it is that magnificent voice, a unique instrument capable of being both confrontational and deeply moving. It pierces through the dreamy production, adding complexity to the composition, as well as helping the messages feel grounded, as they should be. Vu’s brand of bedroom pop might just be the least accessible in this playlist, but once the unfamiliarity passes, it is also the most rewarding.

Find Hana Vu's music on Spotify and YouTube.

Ted Dang is the founder and writer of VNNTB, a blog dedicated to discussion and reviews on Vietnamese music and occasionally K-pop.


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