Copycat music is not a new phenomenon in Vietnam, though it has long been criticized by both media and music experts.
A song recently released by a young Vietnamese singer that has a huge number of copied versions raises a necessary question these days: “When is copycat music going to end?”
The Vietnamese song “Chac Ai Do Se Ve” (Maybe Someone Will Come Back), from the original soundtrack of an upcoming film, is said to be the latest example of a copycat product.
The song was performed by young, emerging artist Nguyen Thanh Tung, also known as Son Tung M-TP, who was previously involved in other musical plagiarism scandals late last year.
A slew of Tung’s songs, which are supposed to be written and performed by the 20-year-old artist, were found using the beat and instrument combinations of Korean and Japanese music without citing the original source.
Son Tung M-TP has been accused of being a copycat for most of his well-known works, which have drawn a huge number of listeners. These songs include “Con Mua Ngang Qua,” “Em Cua Ngay Hom Qua,” “Nang Am Xa Dan,” and “Em Dung Di.”
The first two songs in the list, “Con Mua Ngang Qua” and “Em Cua Ngay Hom Qua,” even grabbed the highest prize at “Bai Hat Yeu Thich” (Favorite Songs), an event which is considered the local music industry’s billboard, at its October 2012 and February 2014 shows, respectively.
The copycat phenomenon has recently received commentary from musical experts including former president of the Military University of Culture and Arts An Thuyen; composers Ngo Vinh Lai, Tuan Khanh, Tran Manh Hung, Vo Thien Thanh, and Duong Khac Linh.
Most of them emphasized that writing a musical work using the beat of another song is not the proper attitude of a professional artist, as it does not reflect one’s personal talent and musical style, adding this method is only suitable for amateurs who love music and consider composing a fun activity.
Son Tung M-TP’s song “Em Cua Ngay Hom Qua,” which won the prize for favorite song this February, has been eliminated from “Bai Hat Yeu Thich” (Favorite Songs) and “Lan Song Xanh” (Green Wave), two popular music charts in Vietnam, due to plagiarism allegations.
The song was initially said to be composed and performed by Tung, but was later determined to be a copycat product as its beat was surprisingly similar to “Every Night,” a song by Korean group EXID.
Tung’s latest song, “Chac Ai Do Se Ve,” which ranked first on the list of local music sharing website Zing.vn’s most listened-to songs, has also been removed and replaced by the song that previously ranked second.
The film “Chang Trai Nam Ay,” which uses “Chac Ai Do Se Ve” as its soundtrack and features Son Tung M-TP as one of the main characters, has also had its release date postponed from November 14, as scheduled.
A new release date has not been confirmed by the film production company yet.
In late October, the appraisal committee of “Bai Hat Viet” (Vietnamese Songs) also decided to withdraw the prize for song of the month from FB Boiz, a local boy band, as it used the beat from a Korean song.
The long-awaited solution
Copyrights, which are highly respected and protected in foreign countries, are still an unsolved problem in Vietnam despite many plagiarism scandals and warnings from both media and musical experts.
Unlike composing music for fun or for non-profit purposes, a song that could be used to make money through concerts, ringtones, and film soundtracks should be considered a professional work.
In this case, respecting the law of copyright is also a way to respect the author of the work.
Vietnamese composer Vo Thien Thanh also distinguished between beat and instrument combinations.
The music writer defined beat as the main rhythm, or a unit of rhythm, in a piece of music, while adding that Son Tung M-TP and FB Boiz both used a fully recorded, completed instrument combination, which is not proper behavior for professional artists.
In the fight against plagiarism, listeners play an important role as they indirectly decide whether the artist continues to copy works or not.
Many musical works by Son Tung M-TP have attracted a huge number of listeners. Most of them are young people who mainly and initially pay attention to the melody and rhythm of the song.
“Em Cua Ngay Hom Qua” had received nearly 178 million views on local music sharing website Zing.vn and 46 million views on YouTube as of November 5, reflecting great support from the audience that has motivated the young artist to continuously 'borrow' beats and instrument combinations from other songs.
“When listening to songs, music lovers should have a positive attitude to enhance the artists’ creativity,” said composer An Thuyen.