Talk Around Town

Every Wednesday night, I find myself sitting on the sofa with my eyes glued to the TV, waiting to catch my favourite reality show: Viet Nam Idol. Viet Nam Idol, the Vietnamese version of the famous British television show Pop Idol by British entertainment executive Simon Fuller, is only in its 2nd season but has attracted thousands of pop star wannabes who wait in ques for hours for a chance to audition.

Compared to other singing competitions in Viet Nam such as Sao Mai Diem Hen (Morning Star Rendezvous) and Ngoi Sao Tieng Hat Truyen Hinh (Stars singing on TV), which cater to professional singers, Viet Nam Idol is the new kid on the block. However, what makes the show different is its message, which encourages viewers to keep trying to fulfil their dreams no matter what. Isn’t it amazing to see a shoeshine boy queuing up to try out or a 30-year old engineer taking his shot with the support and love of his whole family? This brings the show closer to the audience, who has the right to vote for not only a beautiful voice, but sometimes because they see a part of themselves in the contestants.

Influenced by my hope to see talented musicians starting their career from scratch, I used to be sceptical about Viet Nam Idol’s voting system. A lot of talented singers were voted off the show early, while those-not-so-talented seemed to linger. However, when it comes to the two remaining contestants, Viet Nam Idol has proved itself to be a real stage for young talents to shine.

With the spread of singing contests, many musicians and music lovers are doubting the quality of reality programs like Vietnam Idol. Although many like Vietnam Idol because it gives talented people a chance to gain exposure, it should also be recognised finding singers with real talent is becoming more and more difficult. Even the top contestants, though they have tried their best, are in the shadow of established singers. The presenters are friendly, but lack sufficient presentation skills. The show is also plagued by a number of uncertainties: questions about the voting system, the fishy relationship between contestants and organisers and allegations about manipulations of money to win the race. Whether these accusations are true or not, contestants should keep in mind that winning a competition doesn’t always guarantee a successful career.

This Wednesday, season two finished with two contestants grasping at their last chance to win the votes of TV viewers and become the next Viet Nam Idol. It is not surprising that the "friendly" battle between the two "Davids" of Viet Nam, Thanh Duy and Quoc Thien made for a exciting grand finale. They sung their heart out and hope that the audience will not hesitate to pick up their cell phone and vote.

Out of the two remaining contestants, 22-year-old Thanh Duy, is definitely the better performer. With skilled dance moves and intelligent song selection, he knows how to work the crowd. He’s also an expert in avoiding the well-worn path of singing hit songs, which some feel can compensate for their mediocre vocals. He made me, a loyal audience member, feel relaxed and excited. And I will not hesitate to say I like his rendition of the song Toi Thich (I Like) and his amazing acting on stage with Thanh Tung’s well known song Loi To Tinh Cua Mua Xuan (The Spring’s Expression of Love). In the end, it may be his uniqueness that makes teen girls vote for him every week. "Thanh Duy deserves the Idol award because he is so cool! He is confident, creative and never afraid of taking risks", said a fan.

Quoc Thien is a 20- year old with an almost flawless voice who has won the hearts of not only the young, but also their mums and grandmas, especially when he’s singing ballads such as Khong Con Mua Thu (No more Autumn) or Bai Thanh Ca Buon (A sad hymn). Week after week, Quoc Thien has not only shown his progress in singing ballads, but also his ability to involve the audience in some up-beat contemporary songs. Even though he is not a good dancer, Quoc Thien’s warm, smooth vocals and excellent technique make him deserve the number one spot. Listening to him sing an emotional song dedicated to his late mother or watching him help his poor family brings tears to the eyes of many viewers. He hopes that winning the Viet Nam Idol title will help lift his family out of poverty and once again prove that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. That is why my mother said, "I will vote for him."

After almost six months of auditions and performances with amazing times and awkward moments for both contestants and presenters, Viet Nam Idol still has a lot to improve in order to deserve its name. Who will wear the crown next Wednesday, a never-play-it-safe performer or a simple beautiful voice? I have my own choice and you have yours. In the meantime, let’s dream on because the next Idol can be any one of us. — VNS



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