The “Are you a real Vietnamese?” test

(This was written some time last week and has been left to lurk around in “Drafts” with about 50 other half-baked entries. Ugh! Bad writer! Bad blogger! Bad whinger!)

Last night, at precisely 12 o’clock, yours truly was still up playing with a glue stick. Hmm… that doesn’t sound right. Well, before anyone starts imagining (inappropriate) things, I was making cards, lots of cards, piles and piles of cards. As if my life depended on it. After spending a considerable amount of dollars on beautiful patterned paper and all sorts of gadgets, that wasn’t too unexpected, I don’t think.

Anyhow, you’d never imagine what kind of music was blaring out of my laptop. Brace yourselves! It was a string of cheesy, corny, sticky, easy-listening tunes. Performed by these obscure bands that you might have never heard of, if you weren’t a Vietnamese living in Vietnam during the 80’s and 90’s. I’m talking Air Supply, Michael Learns to Rock, Modern Talking, and a few more “internationally-recognised” groups such as M2M, Westlife, Ace of Base. You know the type. Oh, and also Richard Clayderman and Paul Mariat.

AirSupply  mt1988  michael-learns-to-rock 

That reminds me of a friend who recently mentioned Air Supply’s upcoming concert in Melbourne. Which then reminded me of the fact that A. – a self-acclaimed Skip, born and bred right here on Koala-land, had no idea that the duo were Aussies! When I told him that, he even had to google it, just in case. Upon such activity I had to roll my eyes and went, Dude, you really have no idea how much Vietnamese people love these guys. We know all their songs, have watched all their clips, memorised all their lyrics. We have sung “Making love out of nothing at all” so many times, even the national anthem got jealous.

And Modern Talking, don’t even get me started. Despite the fact that they were neither modern, nor were they talking, I grew up with them. My Dad had a few of their tapes that were constantly on repeat in our household, until they started to squeak. (Those, and a few ABBA numbers.) I’ve always wondered if they were as famous in Germany where they came from, as they were loved in Vietnam. Probably not.

Then there was Michael Learns to Rock in the 90’s. Oh yeah, my dear friends, you may cringe now. But the flashbacks! All those flashbacks! That was how we learnt English back in highschool. Through corny songs. I remember one time we went on a day trip, and midway through crossing a creek, we were all standing there, soaking wet, belting out the worst rendition of “That’s why you gooooo away, IIIII know!” I really thought we were so damn cool. WE all thought WE were so damn cool! Especially that guy whom I had the hots for, who didn’t pay any attention to me but had his eyes on another girl who was liked by about 10 other guys. (Such was the way things go in highschool.) And oh, was I heart-broken. Which might have contributed to the extra loudness of my singing at the creek. Like, ok, so you broke my heart? Well, I’m going to perforate your eardrums. Hah!

Anyway, let’s not digress. 

Recently, after a dinner at a pho place where, wouldn’t you guess?, “All Out Of Love” seemed to be the flavour of a new broth! I told A. about all these bands and he went why? Why do Vietnamese love those kinds of music so much? And I was at a loss to explain. Maybe because we’re (trying to be) romantic? Maybe because those tunes are more similar to the melancholy that dominates Vietnamese songs, in both the melody and the lyrics? All sadness and heartbreak and shattered dreams. Maybe because we’re lazy? And easy listening is just that, easy to listen? Maybe it’s a combination of all of those? I don’t know. I only know that we like it like that.

On a slightly different angle, it’s the same with instrumental music. If you learned, (or in my case, forced to learn) to play the piano in Vietnam, you’d come to hate the Prince of Romance, namely Richard Clayderman. To be fair, I do think his songs are great. Until they are played every-effing-where, all the effing time, driving me so very effing nuts! (Excuse the French, haha, pun intended. He’s French, after all, a very good looking one at that, too.) I remember getting to a stage where if anyone asked me to play one of his songs, I had the sudden urge to either poke myself in the eyes or clam my fingers under the piano lid. Just to get out of that misery. There’s also Paul Mauriat, who composed similar kind of tunes, and transcribed a good many classical songs into, er.., easiER listening numbers, and partly contributed to my eye-poking and finger-clamming reflexes.

Much to my glee, a few years back, Mr. Clayderman was slowly replaced by Yanni The Sexy Greek (have you seen his full moustache?) to be the most-played music at all fashion shows, music shows, TV programs, radio commercials, outdoor, indoor, ubiquitously. But then I shouldn’t have been so smug because soon enough, it again got to a point where I was like, “if I have to hear “Santorini” one more time, I’d proceed to break my own eardrums! Someone get me a chopstick quick!” For your info, this was while I wasn’t even living in Vietnam, only visiting every year or so. Although these days, my musical radar has reported that a certain Yiruma is taking the little Annam country by storm. He is, apparently, the new Clayderman. Time to move over, Yanni, and take your sheet music away too, won’t you? Also, I do think that George Winston has been dubbed as the new Paul Mauriat for a while now, and no one has yet to claim his place. Any suggestion for new nominations?

But after all that ranting, I need to stress again, that I do love their music, light, airy, fluffy, or otherwise. I don’t condone music snobbery, or any other kind of snobbery for that matter. There is a place and time for everything. My problem is when it’s played repeatedly, day in, day out, driving everyone to the point of insanity! (Which is actually not that much different to commercial radio these days.) It makes us lazy, less creative, and *gasp* boring! So one day, out of mind-numbing boredom, I went and got myself some Bach and some Grieg, and after 30 minutes of practise, Dad came down the stairs with a puzzled look on his face, “What is it that you’re playing? It’s so noisy!”

So it’s back to the French man for me. I guess when I’m home with the folks, Anitra* really has no place, stuff her dance! It’s all about Adeline** and her flippin’ ballad.

 ~amy: a wannabe pianist who has the amazing ability to turn even a drippingly romantic Clayderman’s number into one of the most noisy, cacophonous, and soul-shattering torture sessions!~

* Anitra’s Dance ~ Edvard Grieg (not piano but this version is nice.)

** Ballade Pour Adeline ~ Richard Clayderman (and the man himself is still so freakin’ cute!)

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2 thoughts on “The “Are you a real Vietnamese?” test

  1. The reason the Vietnamese love all these 80’s bands is because they have taste. And nothing being mass produced by the record companies these days comes close to the awesome cheesetastiness of the likes of Air Supply.

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