“Wow, we’ve got 25 mutual friends,” says my colleague. “Are you friends with her?”
“With a name like PoPo Duong, I’ve got to be friends with her,” I reply. We both laugh. My oldest daughter’s nickname when she was young was Po Po.
We’re researching the latest ‘trend’ in Vietnamese DJs — attractive female turntablists who are said to be more about looks and performance than the music they play. There was once a time when DJs of both sexes would hide behind their decks, slap on a baseball cap, and let the music — or in the case of Vietnam, top shelf spirits — do the talking.
Now, thanks to antics-employing international beatmeisters such as Steve Aoki and Bob Sinclar and a growing throng of attractive, provocatively dressed eye-candy DJs, the tide has quite suddenly turned. Music, yes. But performance as well. Think of how Madonna, and then 25 years later, Lady Gaga, transformed the concept of the female performing artist. So the growing quorum of female DJs is the latest to get the makeover. In Vietnam, having a well-endowed hostess gamboling away behind a mixing board, a MacBook Air and a couple of decks has become a norm. It’s not just the music that the punters are after these days, but the eye candy.
Some Like it Hot
I’m now on PoPo Duong’s Facebook page. She plays at Fuse and is married to XyXy Ngan, a female customer service representative at Asiana Airlines. I look at some of her posts, and men with foreign names are jumping in with praise, trying to woo PoPo into a response. They are unanimously ignored.
Compared to some of her female compadres overseas, PoPo has much to be proud of. French-born Miss Kittin has 269,642 likes on Facebook. Maya Jane Coles, presently rated as the world’s top female DJ, weighs in with 286,473 clicks of admiration while Nina Kraviz tops that with 382,307 likes. PoPo may be lagging behind with a paltry 85,192 followers, but that’s still not bad considering that she is a local name and yet to get a presence on the international stage. She’s popular, at least Facebook popular.
Equally popular, or so we are led to believe, is the myriad of eye-candy DJs gracing the digital ether of a Facebook group called Big Titty Vietnamese DJ’s. Moderated by the Nha Trang-based expat Craig Anderson, among his favourite celebrity DJs (or deezays, as they’re often written in Vietnamese) are of course PoPo, as well as DJ Money, DJ Tina Bee, DJ Pety — who is also featured like so many other peers on barsaigon.net — and DJ Myno, who has also become an online celebrity. There are two ongoing jokes here among both the posters and commenters. One is about how revealing some of these photos are — DJ Benny Nguyen receives particular attention in this field. The other is about those who DJ using their iPhones.
Quality Over Quantity
We decided to canvas the DJs of Vietnam to get their own thoughts on this new phenomenon. Are the provocative, evocative, scantily clad eye-candy DJs a good thing? Or are they just a flash in the pan? And can they mix well and play decent tunes? Here is what they said:
“This is the entertainment industry and in this industry, it’s a cliché: what sells is triple S: sex, scandal and stories. To me, it’s inevitable. It’s bound to happen, so I’m not bothered. The consumers are wiser now and they have choices. If they choose to go hang out at clubs with sexy DJs and bad music (most not all) versus a normal looking DJ but with good music, it’s up to them. They know what they are getting.” — DJ Scrambled Edge, dOSe
“While it’s probably not too harmful it does suggest that perhaps the music that’s being played comes second to the person playing it. That’s not strictly limited to here. Look at some of the DJs in the world of music today — people like Paris Hilton, for example. While stage presence can help in engaging people further with music, it shouldn’t be the main or only thing.” — DJ Will Henley, Forward Slash
“The current trend in clubs seems to be more about pomp and ceremony than the actual music. I think that these [eye-candy DJs] aren’t being employed for their musical talent. It seems to take the point of ‘clubbing’ away if no ones gives a damn about the actual tunes that are playing.
“There is a fashion here of being ‘seen’ in places, selfies taken next to big brand shops and so on. I think this all ties in with that. People need to be seen in places with these [eye-candy DJs] purely for a Facebook update or a check-in. If a ridiculously hot girl was incorporating some more underground sounds in her sets to sway the crowd away from the traditional Vinahouse and EDM nonsense, then they could potentially become tastemakers, which traditionally is the whole point in DJing — to expose people to new music and show people something interesting.
Unfortunately I doubt that will ever happen.” — DJ Blip Blop, Synergy Music Production
“Not all [eye-candy DJs] are sh_t. I know one or two who can spin. Sure they play trashy music, but that’s what the Vietnamese crowds are into: EDM and VinaHouse. Diabolical stuff. It is, however, played in a technically sound way, meaning the beat-matching is on point and the mixes excite and interest the audience. They also mix in key, which requires a lot of time spent at home working on mixes, finding tunes that work together. This one DJ called Tina Bee who’s [pretty well-endowed], obviously spends a lot of time working on her sets. So, there’s a grey area. Just because they have big tits doesn’t mean they’re automatically crap. That said, most of these [DJs], both male and female, are useless! But what’s new?” — DJ Hugh-G, Friday Fix
So what do you think? A flash in the pan? Or something that is here to stay? Good, bad or totally, erm, rad? Or maybe you think we’re wrong for singling out women in this way? Or do you think this is a case of women taking advantage of their appearance, and working out how to capitalise on it?