Did you just assume my gender? If there's one thing that 2016 internet memes have taught me, it's that you can't assume people's gender anymore. For all you know, they could sexually identify themselves as an attack helicopter. An important part of pop music is selling yourself as an entertainer. One trend I have noticed in Vietnamese pop music recently is the rise of androgynous singers, or artists that possess both male and female qualities making them sexually ambiguous.
Tiên Tiên is probably the best example of a popular androgynous Vpop singer. Her unisex fashion style and indie approach to music is a sharp contrast to the often oversexualized, manufactured nature of the idol pop industry. Named top 5 breakout artists for the 2015 We Choice Awards as well as top 5 inspirational characters, Tiên Tiên is a respected Vpop artist. For this year's 2016 We Choice Awards that took place in January, Tiên Tiên released a brand new dedicated song. Trái Tim Vàng Son is the title song off of the special collection album of the same name created specifically for the award show. Trái Tim Vàng Son means heart of gold. The album, like the award show, seeks to inspire the youth of today. Tiên Tiên's unlikely success story in an idol pop dominated industry has opened the door for many other non-idol artists.
Kai Đinh is one artist that seems to be taking some cues from the Tiên Tiên playbook of adopting an androgynous approach. If I didn't know Vietnamese, I wouldn't be able to assume his gender. Yes, I still assume people's gender even though SJWs tell me not to. Vietnamese is a very gender specific language when it comes to pronouns. There are no gender neutral pronouns like "you" and "me." Instead, it's "anh" (male) and "em" (female). Kai Đinh had his big break when he performed Phải Có Em, which was included on the Trái Tim Vàng Son We Choice album, on the TV singing competition Sing My Song. Kai Đinh newest work is Đừng Xa Anh. In the MV, I definitely could not tell if he was a girl or boy, and it seems to be by design. I know he's a guy from the pronouns he uses, but visually and vocally, I can't be certain.
Vpop singer Vũ Cát Tường is definitely on that androgynous singer boat. Guy? Girl? WTF? I know Vũ Cát Tường is a girl from the pronouns that she uses, but she could easily pass for a prepubescent boy. It's interesting how the song lyrics "the mysterious thing by curious way" lines up perfectly to when Vũ Cát Tường was looking at a picture of what I assume is a girl. Coincidence? I think not. Someone must have read one too many bi-curious George books. And let's not overlook the manspreading that took place near the end. Looking like a dude is the hot new trend in Vietnam apparently.
Vicky Nhung is a Vpop singer who has clearly adopted a tomboy fashion style. There's already a lot of cross-gender fashion lines being crossed in Asian pop culture, so I guess you just have to explore them all as a pop singer. Have you seen all the Kpop and Jpop male idols that look like chicks? If dudes who look like ladies can become extremely popular, then why not ladies that look like dudes? Although Vicky Nhung has decided to promote herself as a visually androgynous pop artist, I think she still has a very feminine quality to her singing. Her rapping does have a slight masculine quality to it, but it's her singing that makes Vicky interesting as an artist to me.
I already talked about this Gil Lê MV; however, I felt I had to include it here again because Gil Lê totally has been doing the sexually ambiguous tomboy thing for a while now. I'm not exactly sure why she does it. Some artists may do it just to try to appeal to a broader audience. Some may do it because it fits their musical style more than trying to project a cute or sexy girl image. Others may do it because it's just who they are. Who knows? There's no real way of telling. BTW, Love Me More was written by Kai Đinh.
Tiên Cookie is one of the biggest names in Vpop when it comes to hit songs, but you hardly see her in the spotlight. Most of her hits have come as a songwriter. She has written hit songs for singers like Soobin Hoàng Sơn, Bích Phương, Noo Phước Thịnh, and Bảo Thy. In any case, she may be the original androgynous Vpop singer of the modern era. She even had a song titled "Sau Tất Cả" before ERIK of ST.319 became popular. Her biggest hit song as a singer might be Tâm Sự Với Người Lạ (Talk To Stranger). Tell me that MV isn't androgynous as heck! I feel that Tiên Cookie is largely responsible for the current uptick in androgynous Vpop singers. In Soobin Hoàng Sơn's mega hit song Phía Sau Một Cô Gái (written by Tiên Cookie of course), there's definitely a Tiên Cookie element to that MV. I don't consider Soobin Hoàng Sơn an androgynous singer, but Soobin should did act like a beta male in his Harry Potter glasses and androgynous sweaters in that MV.
Boy or girl? Does it matter? No. At the end of the day, all that matters to me is the music. It really doesn't matter to me if a pop singer is boy or girl. It makes no difference. Talking about androgynous Vpop singers was really just an excuse for me to try to showcase songs that most people wouldn't bother listening to. Most people only know about the highly manufactured idol pop music that Korea and Japan puts out. With Vpop, there's quite a bit of depth. By taking an androgynous approach at marketing music, it actually allows artists to put out songs that aren't just the same old bubble gum teenage cutesy pop or the ever so popular hypersexualized dance music.