Indie, mainstream artists hook up with spectacular success

By Linh Do   April 19, 2020 | 12:34 am PT
Indie, mainstream artists hook up with spectacular success
Min (R) and Den Vau, one of the hottest indie rappers these days. Photo courtesy of Den Vau.
More and more Vietnamese indie and mainstream musicians are joining forces in an effort to capture the best of both worlds.   

With their popular music videos, local indie singers are becoming increasingly sought after by their mainstream counterparts for collaboration, reflecting an evitable trend that is here to stay.  

The collaboration ranges from cameo appearances and co-singing to joint songwriting and production, and most projects have been successful. 

Recent collaborative MVs such as "Anh Nha O Dau The" (Where Do You Live) featuring mainstream newbie AMEE and more well-known indie rapper B Ray, and "Bai Nay Chill Phet" (This Song is Quite Cool) featuring Min and Den Vau, one of the hottest indie rappers these days, have amassed nearly 100 million views on YouTube.  

Other notable projects over the years include "Em Thi Khong" (I Don’t) by the reigning queen of Vietnamese pop, My Tam, and indie rapper Karik; "Hello" by the king of Vietnamese pop, Dam Vinh Hung, and indie rapper Binz; "Fall in Love" by Hoang Thuy Linh and indie performer Kimmese, a leading female rapper along with Suboi, and "Nuoc Mat Em Lau Bang Tinh Yeu Moi" (New Love Wipes Away Old Tears) by pop star Toc Tien and popular indie band Da LAB.

Released in 2013, the video "Tinh Yeu Mau Nang" (Sunshine Love) featuring singer Doan Thuy Trang and indie rapper Big Daddy saw some particular good work that won it the "Song of the Year" award at the 2014 Dedication Music Awards, the Vietnamese pop music industry’s top honors.  

Indie artists, many of whom charm young audiences with their simple clips and idiosyncratic, heartfelt songs, are now considered the right match for mainstream singers, who can command large financial resources and have established reputations. 

According to Nguyen Trong Duc, a member of indie band Da LAB and whose hit  "Mot Nha" (Under One Roof) has become a household song, most contemporary artists in Vietnam today actually work independently rather than under a company, so the distinction between indie and mainstream music is getting blurred, reflecting a global trend.  

Riding this trend, Da LAB plans to work with another mainstream singer after its success with singer Toc Tien. Their collaboration, the MV "Nuoc Mat Em Lau Bang Tinh Yeu Moi" released several months ago, has attracted around 38 million views on YouTube.  

To insiders such as Duc and musician Nguyen Hong Thuan, the key motivation for collaboration for both indie artists, who are empowered by social media, and mainstream singers, who appreciate their rivals’ rising prestige, is to improve and expand their range.

For bolero star Dam Vinh Hung, for instance, the reason he worked with indie rapper Binz to make the VND1.4 billion ($59,000) MV "Hello" in 2018 was to prove that he still had what young people had and wasn’t falling behind. 

Mainstream music is known for being "clean" and conservative but can be vapid, while indie music is more personal and often features vulgar language, dark feelings and themes such as rapper Wowy’s songs about money, smoking and crime.    

The joint forces of indie and mainstream artists are thus hoped to yield well-balanced works to revitalize the local musical scene and attract more audiences.  

Thuan too plans to find young, capable indie artists to collaborate with mainstream singers in upcoming projects.   

Seasoned indies and mainstream newbies: who leads, who follows?  

When it comes to seasoned indie artists hooking up with brand new faces, the line between the two musical genres seems especially vague. 

In this case, it is the mainstream newbie who has much to benefit from collaborating with popular indie artists with solid fanbases and enough commercial appeal to be contracted for famous brands’ marketing campaigns.

For instance, St. 319 Entertainment’s new singer AMEE achieved considerable success by working with B Ray, who has over 600,000 followers on his Facebook page. 

Last year, AMEE’s debut song "Anh Nha O Dau The", her second project with B Ray after the latter’s hit "Ex’s Hate Me", became No. 2 on YouTube top trending and attracted over 47 million views within just one month of being released. 

Her second song, "Den Da Khong Duong" (Iced Black Coffee Without Sugar), climbed to No.3. 

Before AMEE, a senior St. 319 singer, Min, also debuted with well-known indie rapper Mr. A in "Tim" (Lost) and "Luon Ben Anh" (By Your Side). 

Mr. A had earlier scored several hits such as "How About You", "Tell Me Why" and "Hoa Sua" (Devil’s Tree), and worked with a few famous mainstream names such as Van Mai Huong and Hoang Ton.    

"Tim" went on to become a big hit, and was aired on numerous music programs on TV. 

Other examples include singer Phuong Ly, who worked with another leading indie artist, JustaTee, for three hits, "Mat Troi Cua Em" (My Sun), "Thang Dien" (Crazy in Love) and "Anh La Ai" (Who Are You), and singer Orange, whose career picked up especially after her project with Karik, "Nguoi La Oi!"(Hey Stranger!).

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