Sensational TikTok faulted for fostering bad taste

By Linh Do   August 24, 2022 | 04:48 am PT
Sensational TikTok faulted for fostering bad taste
A still from "Chang Trai So Mi Hong" music video by Hoang Duyen and Dreams Entertainment
Six of the last top 10 Vietnamese songs on TikTok were remixes, a trend that has become popular but is repetitive, trite and uncreative to some.

With its short-clip format, people can use catchy tunes to create soundtracks for personal videos and slingshot an old or new song into virality overnight.

As a result, the Chinese video-sharing app is fast proving to be a vital promo channel for the international music industry, especially new, independent artists with low budgets.

Indeed, popular songs on TikTok often end up on Billboard and other coveted lists. For instance, last year 175 songs made it into the weekly Billboard Hot 100 which records sales, radio play and online streaming in the U.S.

A 2021 study done for TikTok by British music analytics company MRC Data found that 67% of users are also likely to seek out songs on music streaming platforms such as YouTube and Spotify after hearing them on TikTok, helping to increase views and streaming and generate revenues for artists and platforms.

The problem, however, is when the means is mistaken for the end, and some songwriters and producers are starting to tailor their music to meet popular TikTok taste, ending up with superficial works and learning the hard way they are wielding a double-edged sword.

One trendy content is remix, especially ‘house’ remix, an upbeat electronic dance musical genre associated with nightclub entertainment, which has, in the Vietnamese context, spawned some local flavors such as vinahouse and vina deep house.

Initially new and captivating, this trend is now fueling complaints from observant music lovers since some Vietnamese artists are now composing remix songs or writing songs in such a way as to make them easy to remix, and producers are churning out instant remixes to make the most of TikTok. The critics say the casualty is quality.

For instance, just one or two days after singer Truc Nhan released his latest disco cha-cha-cha hit, "Co Khong Giu, Mat Dung Tim" (Don't Regret Over Lost Love) in May, a house remix version of the song flooded TikTok.

According to producer Hoaprox, who made his name several years ago by remixing contemporary popular songs when the remix genre burst onto the local music scene, many producers are being driven to remix songs within just a few hours based on generic formulas giving rise to a plethora of indistinguishable, mediocre works.

Remix itself is a diverse genre, challenging producers to adapt original songs with care to create distinctive versions, he says.

As users’ clips on TikTok often last just 15 seconds, some artists create songs that sound catchy for exactly this brief duration, putting up the best parts along with simple dance moves to create popular challenges and trends on the app.

TikTok exposure for catchy teasers may backfire since audiences going on to check out the full original song sometimes find out it is not as exciting as they expected, or that the TikTok version is so much more interesting that they simply forget the original.

The latter is exactly what happened to a livelier, more appealing vinahouse remix version of singer Erik’s song released in January, "Chay Ve Khoc Voi Anh" (Come Crying to Me).

Last March, singer Hoang Duyen even chose TikTok as the first site to release half of her debut musical video titled "Chang Trai So Mi Hong" (A Boy Wearing a Pink Shirt).

Only several days later did she launch the full version on YouTube, but since by then viewers had become familiar with the best part of the song through TikTok, the full release did not generate as much surprise or enthusiasm as expected.

Besides their short durations, users’ clips on TikTok are also notorious for other reasons, making many people, including artists, wonder about the platform’s suitability.

TikTok users often cover numerous topics like travel and food reviews to mundane daily stuff, not to mention downright vulgar dancing and body baring that are irrelevant to a song’s lyrics, coarsely chop up good songs, mix catchy tunes from various songs, and otherwise use songs without giving proper credit.

For some artists, the hype around TikTok is just that and does not translate into concrete results, at least for the time being.

Singer Huyen Tam Mon, an emerging face on the Vietnamese pop music scene, remains relatively obscure even though the first line of her song "Pho Da Len Den" (The Lights Had Turned On), released last February, has been used in hundreds of thousands of videos and a hashtag linking to a remix version of the song has attracted millions of views on TikTok.

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