In recent years, everlasting songs have been increasingly preferred over new insipid ones among local singers and have thus dominated music shows onstage and in cabarets as well as local music prizes.
“Bai hat yeu thich” (Favorite Songs), considered the local music industry’s billboard, has honored eternal songs in its monthly, quarterly shows in the past two years.
The first prize in its 2012 year show went to “Chiec khan pieu” (The Ethnic People’s Brocade Headdress), which was written by veteran composer Dzoan Nho some 60 years ago.
“Chiec vong cau hon” (The Proposal Bracelet) composed by Tran Tien in 1992, also topped the program’s 2013 year show.
So far this year, few shows have featured new songs, while more major shows exclusively boasting timeless songs have been held, including “Tinh khuc voi thoi gian” (Timeless Love Songs), “Dau an” (Impressions), and “Giai dieu tu hao” (The Melody of Pride).
New songs can hardly make their way to cabarets, where audiences prefer to relish the haunting ageless songs in the cosy atmosphere.
Certain shows, including “Am nhac va buoc nhay” (Music and Dances), “Toi toa sang” (I Shine) and “Duyen dang Viet Nam” (Charming Vietnam), feature both brand new songs and everlasting ones.
However, old songs are welcomed much more enthusiastically than new ones.
Jet Studio, producer of “Tinh khuc vuot thoi gian,” recently launched a program called Sol Vang, which showcases veteran, well-loved overseas singers, such as Elvis Phuong, to cater to audiences’ rising need for old pieces.
Most singers, from top-notch, emerging to fledging ones, now cover old pieces to satisfy their audiences’ taste and cement their standing.
“My audiences find the appeal of old songs irresistible regarding both melodies and lyrics, and the songs remain suitable for them even in modern life. I’m also ‘addicted’ to performing these ageless pieces,” shared local singer Le Quyen, who is noted for her covers of haunting timeless songs.
Why are new songs losing to old ones?
According to music editors, in recent years, countless new, insipid songs have been created overnight and released on the Internet.
Most new songs are written in R&B or trendy dance music, and focus more on dancing, while overlooking their lyrics.
Composers such as Quoc Bao, Vo Thien Thanh, Duc Tri, Anh Quan and Huy Tuan, authors of critically acclaimed songs, now do not usually write songs to express their feelings.
Their recent songs are mostly created on demand from singers, program producers or advertising companies.
In addition, though the easy availability of composing-assisting gear and software help considerably with composing, the abuse of technology is also responsible for producing similar, repetitive songs which lack feeling, creativity and personal identity.
Set on gaining fame soon, several young singers tend to be obsessed by their outside appearance, with many being unhesitant about donning revealing outfits or getting involved in sex scandals, and imitating K-Pop or J-Pop idols rather than choosing good songs.
A number of young composers also intentionally “borrow” tunes or ideas from other works, especially foreign ones, to produce their so-called compositions.
Home or mini studios yield such singers or composers, who appear briefly on YouTube and do everything to attract views.
Music editors and show producers, who make or break the shows, also contribute to the shortage of new worthy songs.
A number of them do not encourage new, innovative songs while requiring singers to perform their hit songs again and again, thus causing humdrum in the local music industry.
Music education also to blame
Meanwhile, Dr. Van Thi Minh Huong, head of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, pointed to the inadequacy of music education as one of the key reasons behind the shortage of new good songs.
In most education authorities’ current thinking, music remains a tool to teach other subjects, such as politics, ethics and hygiene.
Therefore, though elementary students do learn music at school, they are provided simply with brief glimpses of music, leaving most of them unable to appreciate good music or choose which music to listen to.
“When preschoolers or elementary students make their first contact with music, the first notes must be acoustically played, not electronically. Music teachers must also be well qualified and be fully able to nurture love for music among their students at a tender age. Schools also shouldn’t ask teachers of other subjects to teach music as substitutes of music staff,” Dr. Huong noted.
She also put the lack of good new songs down to outdated textbooks, which only focus on teaching songs and vocal music, while overlooking instrumental music and many other general music knowledge areas.
In 2009, teaching staff from the conservatory together worked on a so-called new music textbook, which was later submitted to the city’s Department of Education and other concerned agencies.
The project includes 300 pages, 30 CDs and VCDs containing images and sounds and other teaching aids. The project briefly yet systematically introduces world music and is divided into three sections, classical music, world music and Vietnamese music.
The project has also been presented at several seminars since 2009 but has yet to earn approval, Huong lamented.
Hopes for worthy new songs
Netizens on music forums have often discussed how to revive the local music industry with more worthy new songs.
“Cong hien” (Contribution) prize, considered “Vietnamese music’s Grammy Award,” was launched by The Thao & Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) newspaper in 2005 in efforts to discover and recognize valuable new songs and young composers.
“Bai hat Viet” (Vietnamese Song), also launched in 2005, is one of the current few playgrounds to seek and honor young composers and their worthy works.
New, creative songs and music videos with intriguing surprises and ideas are also launched on YouTube and several local music websites such as nhaccuatui.com in a bid to gain a footing in the current music industry, which is considered overly commercial and entertaining.