Female pop singers in limelight

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The three biggest singing contests in Vietnam in 2010 have all boasted female victors with powerful, heart-piercing voices.

Last Sunday, Nguyen Thi Minh Chuyen, a 25-year-old student at the Military Culture and Arts University in Hanoi, won the Best Singer award in the Sao Mai diem hen (Morning star rendezvous) competition.

Chuyen was dubbed "˜the queen of Sao Mai diem hen,' as she is the first female contestant to win its top prize since the biennial competition was first held in 2004.

Last month, Tran Nguyen Uyen Linh created a media storm when she was named Vietnam Idol 2010. The 24-yearold international relations student was said to be the first idol to have won the hearts of both the critics and the viewers.

Meanwhile, H'Zina Bya, 24, from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, won the annual HTV singing contest Ngoi sao tieng hat truyen hinh (TV singing star).

Composer Nguyen Nhat Huy said the young women's victories made sense, because they all showed more grit and determination than their male rivals.

In fact, all three winners have faced failure in other singing contests before finally claiming their crowns.

Chuyen, for example, lost in the top 10 round of Vietnam Idol in 2008, and in the final round of Sao Mai diem hen in 2009, while Linh participated in student singing contests before taking part in the two major competitions, where she also lost.

Asked if she thought she was lucky to have won, Chuyen said luck wasn't everything.

"[It's also thanks to] my hard work and determination," she said, adding that failing in many contests helped her gain the experience she needed.

Well-known musician and composer Tuan Khanh, meanwhile, said they won because of a variety of factors, including their fashion sense and outward appearance.

Throughout the contests, there were no male contestants that had any drastic changes in style or appearance. But it was different for the females.

H'Zina Bya, for instance, changed from a shy and introvert girl to one exuding confidence and life in the last rounds.

In the first few rounds of Vietnam Idol, Linh performed in outfits that were widely considered plain and unbecoming, with accessories that didn't fit. By the final rounds her look had become fresh and dynamic.

A netizen nicknamed nguoiyeudau said the women succeeded because they were able to display their feminine charm while retaining their unique personalities when conversing with MCs and judges.

To some extent, the success of female singers at the popular contests reflects the Vietnamese music industry in general.

Composer Duong Khac Linh said: "Female singers work very hard and give it their all. They can usually withstand more pressure compared to male artists.

"Currently we have many female singers with strong, feminine voices and personalities, but there are only a few male singers with warm baritones which is attractive to audiences."

However, composer Huy Tuan said it's just a "coincidence" that female singers won the three big contests.

"It absolutely does not reflect the general trend of Vietnamese showbiz," he said.

Asked about the dominance of female singers in V-pop, Tuan admitted that currently Vietnam has a glut of beautiful female singers with good voices, and there aren't many male singers who have a good voice and a strong style.

One explanation the composer gave for this was that singers in Vietnam often receive support from corporate sponsors, who tend to like beautiful women representing their products.

"However, I still believe that male singers will be able to make their mark this year," as the market has recently seen three big releases by male singers Ha Anh Tuan, Tung Duong, and Duc Tuan, he said.

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