Ho Chi Minh City - With a style a far cry from South Korean pop bands like Big Bang, Vietnamese pop bands are becoming increasingly popular, taking the country's music market by storm. The boy-bands V Music, 365, Harmony and MTV are becoming new music icons for many young people in Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City.
Pop and dance music is making waves in the southern provinces as well.
The teenage-pop bands have attracted the attention of music producers and impresarios.
"We were fans, but now we have fans. It's a great thing for us," says Isaac (real name Pham Luu Tuan Tai), leader of 365, which includes five members.
The band's first album, Awakening, featuring five pop songs in both English and Vietnamese, was a hit with teenagers after it was released in 2010.
"We are trying to hone 365's performance and improve their voices," movie star and pop singer Ngo Thanh Van, the band's producer, said.
But like pop acts the world over, the band has its critics.
"365 and other pop bands are simply a copy of its Western and South Korean counterparts and it lacks a Vietnamese identity," wrote music critic Doan Hoai Trung of HCM City.
This has not deterred the bands, many of which have gained national recognition and many young fans.
"We know our style is similar to South Korean pop bands, but that's not strange or bad," Isaac said. "We admire them like all young people over the world. Why shouldn't we follow their footsteps?"
Last year, top singers, such as My Tam, Ho Ngoc Ha, Phuong Thanh and Lam Truong, dominated the concert circuit and the VCD market.
But more and more, boy bands are receiving enthusiastic responses from young audiences. It may only be a matter of time before pop emerges on top.
"We are not children who love music. We are singers and we have to work hard to divide our time equally between our life and performance careers," said Son Ngoc Minh, a member of V Music.
After only two years of being involved in the industry, V Music won the Mai Vang (Golden Ochna) Award for 2011's best pop band voted by readers of HCM City-based Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.
Their latest album, Viet Nam Ngay Moi (The New Day Viet Nam), features 10 songs written by young composers Nguyen Van Chung, Khac Viet and Nguyen Hong Thuan.
Most members of pop bands have just finished high school and plan to pursue careers in music.
They often work 10 hours a day to improve their vocal music and dance skills under professional artists from the HCM City Music Conservatory.
In the past, some pop bands like 1088 lasted only a couple years, and then folded so their members could attempt solo careers.
If it works out, this is how 365 would like to end up, according to producer Van.
"Why not? We're young and we have opportunities in our future. One day we will become top singers," said Isaac. - VNS