Gay songs are fine, just not explicitly so

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Vietnamese pop music has been testing the waters of gay music, as a means of self-expression, outlet for angst, and some critics charge, publicity stunts.

Tinh tuyet vong (Desperate love) composed by Thai Thinh about a person finding no way out to fulfill his/her yearnings hit the stage in 2006 and immediately became popular among Vietnamese pop music aficionados. With Thinh having come out on his homosexuality, the song was seen as expressing the anguish of a sexual orientation unaccepted by society.

The song was popular, but it also evoked reactions of shock and outrage at first. Official acceptance, of course, was another matter.

Vietnam's leading pop singer Dam Vinh Hung, who recorded success with Tinh tuyet vong (Desperate love) had to spend two years asking for authorities' permission to add Hanh phuc cuoi (Last happiness) to an album in 2009. The song, which is the Vietnamese version of the original Chinese hit, was interpreted as a love story between two homosexuals, as depicted by its video.

Hung also added Anh van thu tha (I will still forgive) composed by Do Dinh Phuc into an album in 2010. The lyrics are about a boy losing his girl and the official video shows that the girl is lost to another girl.

Singer Duong Trieu Vu, who appeared in the video, became better known after performing the song. The song came out at a time when most of the audience had gotten used to songs that implied gay relationships.

The general public apparently agrees with the songs, in respects to composers' right to raise a legitimate social issue, as also a venue for the writer to come out about her or his sexuality.

Composer Nguyen Hong Thuan definitely evoked sympathy for homosexual orientation with Tro dua cua tao hoa (Joke of mother nature), which tells of a person who "was, by mistake, born into a wrong condition, and loves differently", who feels tired of living a painful, bitter life.

But not all artists earn kudos or sympathy by touching what is still a very sensitive topic, and those who are "too open" or "brazen" about it by mentioning it in the title of their songs have had to face public ire and rejection.

Fans have voted with their feet for songs like Bat ngo anh yeu nguoi cung phai voi anh (Suddenly, I - a man love another man) or Kiep dan ba than xac dan ong (Woman born in a male body).

The quality of the song is still the bottom line, irrespective of the sexual orientation it deals with, says one music fan. "If it is lame, it is lame."

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