K-pop, Mandopop and other Asian pop
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
In T-pop and V-pop, the achievements of artists such as Tata Young have paved the way for younger artists. Photo: Getty Images

Thai and Vietnamese pop music is surging across Asia – these are the artists to watch

  • Thai rapper Milli cites rapper Nicki Minaj as an influence, while Thai-German artist Jannine Weigel has more than 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube
  • Hay Trao Cho Anh, the ‘Prince of V-pop’ Son Tung M-TP’s collab with Snoop Dogg, has more than 222 million hits on YouTube and placed Vietnamese pop on the map
Rebecca Souw

Thai and Vietnamese pop music – T-pop and V-pop – once mostly kept to their nations’ shores. Today, both countries’ artists are making waves in Asia and beyond.

Music and entertainment are central to Thai culture, and in T-pop, the achievements of artists such as Tata Young, Bird Thongchai, Da Endorphine and Palmy have paved the way for younger artists.

Thai musicians have distinctive vocal and musical styles and fashion sense, and such authenticity has led to many being discovered outside Thailand.

Phum Viphurit grew up in New Zealand and moved to Bangkok at the age of 18. Phum, who writes songs in English, shot to international fame as a Thai indie pop singer-songwriter with his 2018 single, Lover Boy.
He has since had several collaborations, notably with label 88rising’s Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers, and Korean indie rock band Se So Neon on the song So! YoON!
Thai-German artist Jannine Weigel, who has more than 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube and close to 750,000 followers on TikTok, is an influencer with a bubbly personality. She was the first artist signed to RedRecords, a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Malaysia-based budget airline AirAsia.

Kenny Ong, CEO of Malaysia’s Astro Radio and Rocketfuel Entertainment and a former managing director of Universal Music Group in Malaysia, was behind the founding of RedRecords and Weigel’s signing.

“She was already known for her Thai music, especially in Vietnam,” he says. “Her increasing popularity in Indonesia and Malaysia made our choice clear, as we were looking for a well-received artist in Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries.”

Weigel records in Thai and English, and recently released Passcode – a track produced by Grammy-nominated record producer Tommy Brown, who has worked with artists such as Ariana Grande, Travis Scott and The Weeknd. She has also acted in Thai television series and films.

Jannine Weigel records in Thai and English, and recently released Passcode. Photo: Getty Images

With their overseas upbringing, both Weigel and Phum bring a wider perspective and different musical styles to Thai pop. Ong says: “There’s a better chance expanding beyond Thailand if they sing in English, incorporate more global mainstream sounds or experiment with the hip hop genre.”

Another Thai rising star is home-grown female rapper Milli. Discovered two years ago on talent show The Rapper 2, she rose to fame with the provocative track Phak Khon. She cites rapper Nicki Minaj as an influence, and the similarities between the two were evident in Milli’s flamboyant performance in 88rising’s Double Happiness Winter Wonder Festival.

Besides her solos, Milli frequently collaborates with home-grown Thai hip hop artists such as Maiyarap, LazyLoxy, Ben Bizzy and Autta.

Tuan Tang, an observer of the Asian pop music industry since the early 2000s, was also an executive producer of the shows Project Superstar, The X-Factor and The Voice in Vietnam. He says: “Thailand has better processes for artist and music distribution with [entertainment company] GMM Grammy and similar companies, so it’s likely they will garner international recognition much faster than Vietnam.”

Vietnamese pop owes its place on the map to the “Prince of V-pop”, Son Tung M-TP. He was the first Vietnamese artist on Billboard’s LyricFind Global chart, and his reggaeton track Hay Trao Cho Anh, a collaboration with US rapper Snoop Dogg, has been viewed more than 222 million times on YouTube since its launch in July 2019.
Another Vietnamese popster of note is Erik, a former member of V-pop boy band Monstar turned solo singer, who has mesmerised fans with his boyish looks, vocal talent and dance moves. He collaborated with K-pop girl group Momoland on the ballad Love is Only You.

Meanwhile Min, touted by Vietnam’s largest online newspaper Zing News as a Vietnamese version of K-pop singer BoA, is known for both her singing and dancing.

Tuan says: “Son Tung, Erik and Min may seem to infuse K-pop within their music because they grew up with these artists. They are young and tend to try new styles, adapting quickly to the Vietnamese audience.”

However, traditional love ballads that draw from folk music are favourites in Vietnam, especially in rural areas, he says. V-pop incorporates vernacular sounds and very few artists record in English, making the genre authentically Vietnamese.

Music videos are shot using bold colours and they retain Vietnamese elements, from costumes to props to traditional values.

One example of a Vietnamese group with a distinctive sound is indie pop rock band Chillies, who debuted in 2018 and signed to Warner Music Vietnam.

Will V-pop continue its growth beyond Vietnam? “The artists have what it takes, but as music is so intertwined with local TV, that process would require consistent disruption [for it] to travel beyond our borders,” says Tuan.

Ong says Southeast Asian artists can find new audiences by targeting niche markets, but for now, mass market artists will mostly find fans and fame at home.