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The 1st Vietnamese Song With 1bn Views on YouTube Is About Ducks

It’s not Hoàng Thùy Linh’s catchy dance track ‘See Tình’ or the crossover Mekong Delta hit ‘Con gái miền Tây,’ the first Vietnamese song to amass one billion — or bill-ion, if you will — on YouTube is a children’s song about ducks.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a music video for the children’s music classic ‘Một con vịt’ (A duck) has officially joined YouTube’s billion-view club, alongside prestigious earworms such as ‘Despacito,’ ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Humpty the train on a fruits ride.’ 

‘Một con vịt’ is written by composer Kim Duyên, and was first performed by Vietnamese children’s music icon Xuân Mai in 1998, when she was four. It is arguably the most well-known song in the country, thanks to its widespread popularity in kindergartens and during family meals as a propagandist tool to lull easily distracted children into opening their mouths for food — this writer included.

Lyrics-wise, Kim Duyên opted for a naturalist stance, depicting the anatomy and key behaviors of a domestic duck with hyper-realistic descriptions: “A duck spreads its two wings / ‘Quack quack quack quack,’ it says / When [it] sees a pond, it splish-splashes around / When on land again, [it] shakes the wings to dry out.” To most children growing up in urban areas, ducks are hard to come by in the flesh, unless that flesh is deliciously roasted with five-spice; so for generations of prepubescent city slickers, ‘Một con vịt’ has helped reveal the simple joys in the life of rural poultry.

The ‘Một con vịt’ video that just went billion-certified on YouTube, however, is not Xuân Mai’s version that most Vietnamese born in the 1990s and 2000s grew up with, nor does it feature her vocals. It’s a 3D music video rendered in a style one can mean-spiritedly characterized as “we have Pixar at home,” featuring flat textures, animatronic-esque movements, and dubiously numbered ducklings. Why are the ducks numbered? What is this? Squid Game?

I suppose the overall video is cute enough, and the bright, sharp color palette has no doubt appealed to the developing sense of sight of children, but as a former child raised on Xuân Mai music, this newfangled 3D-schmeedee doesn’t even come close to the delights of the original video, which features cameos from actual ducks!

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