Ten Western songs that have made it bigger in Vietnam

 

How Can I Tell Her
Lobo (1971)
Whenever I’m discouraged
She knows what to do
But girl...
She doesn't know about you
If you think you’ve heard this at a random café, you have. The catchy melody and nice-guy-who-just-can’t-help-but-cheat theme have proven enduring in Vietnam. Its lyrical build-up in the first verse is admittedly clever and the song deserves a listen. Just a little one.

 

Boulevard
Dan Byrd (1984)
Never knew that it would go so far
When you left me on that boulevard
Come again you would release my pain
And we could be lovers again
While Boulevard regularly makes the top ten of Vietnamese ‘immortal melody’ lists (direct translation), singer songwriter Dan Byrd lingers in almost total obscurity. This is perhaps the best known of all the ‘you ought to know’ songs listed here, yet old Dan Byrd has seemingly no Google presence whatsoever. He came, he sung, he left. Fittingly, his other big-in-Asia hit is called Sayonara.

 

From Sarah with Love
Sarah Connor (2001)
From Sarah with love
She'd got the lover she is dreaming of
She never found the words to say
But I know that today
She's gonna send her letter to you
Sarah Connor is, brace for it, one of the best-selling German artists of all time. (Nothing says Deutschland like ‘Sarah Connor,’ to be shore, to be shore.) The song peaked at number one in Germany and Switzerland, making it her most successful single.

 

Take me to your Heart
Michael Learns to Rock (2004)
Take me to your heart take me to your soul
Give me your hand and hold me
Show me what love is — be my guiding star
It's easy take me to your heart
Michael Learns to Rock (or MLTR among the cool bunch) make rock-and-roll of the soft Danish variety. But these boys are no moist pastry. Formed in 1988, the band has sold over 10 million records worldwide — mainly in, you guessed it, Asia. Take Me to Your Heart is an adaptation of the famous Chinese hit Goodbye Kiss by Jacky Cheung and Andy Lau.

 

Yesterday Once More
The Carpenters (1973)
Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-wo-wo
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they're starting to sing
So fine
Well you get the non-gist. Unlike the other songs in this list, Yesterday Once More did reach number one in the US. Top of the World could certainly be on this list, too. (“I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation...”) There is a well-endowed Vietnamese celebrity called Thuy Top, whose nickname was chosen by her father as a tribute to the song and not, as is often inferred, her high notes.

 

You’re my Heart, You’re my Soul
Modern Talking (1984)
You’re my heart, you're my soul
Yeah, I'm feeling that our love will grow
You're my heart, you're my soul
That's the only thing I really know
Modern Talking were Europop in its purest form. You’re my Heart hit number one in Germany, Switzerland and Austria before taking Asia by synthesiser. Founding duo Thomas Anders and Dieter Bohlen list among their influences “romantic English-language songs of Italian and French origin, such as Gazebo’s I Like Chopin.”

 

Midnight Lady
Chris Norman (1982)
Midnight lady, love takes time
Midnight lady, it's hard to find
Midnight lady, I call your name
I know you can ease my pain
Not to be confused with the Marvin Gaye song of the same name, the Vietnam-friendly Midnight Lady will forever be associated with Chris Norman — at least by those who know who Chris Norman is. If you’re from Redcar, his hometown in North Yorkshire, you just might.

 

Last Christmas
Wham! (1984)
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, You gave it away
You remember Wham! — oh, what use of an exclamation mark — and you know this song. Though not as well as your Vietnamese friends do (i.e. word for word). This is the Christmas anthem in Vietnam, with renditions permitted throughout the year, in the breakfast-all-day sense.

 

The Day You Went Away
M2M (2000)
Well hey
So much I need to say
Been lonely since the day
The day you went away
You may have a vague recollection of two stunning Norwegian girls, one blonde and one not, singing in the snow. That’s M2M. The Day You Went Away was their fifth single and, according to Wikipedia, “very popular in Asia.” (A somewhat conciliatory endorsement.)

 

Santorini
Yanni (1986)
It has no words but Santorini is familiar to many Vietnamese because it is played almost every time anyone of importance takes the stage to collect anything of significance — on live television, at company events, even at weddings. Cue the red-champagne pouring music. Google it and practice your acceptance speech.

The Word

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1 comment

  • Comment Link James Clark James Clark Jan 31, 2015

    I'm in a cafe now and I've just heard "Boulevard" for the one millionth time. I thought I should Google the lyrics and see who actually sings this song, and this list showed up. I see this was written in 2011 so over three years on and Mr Byrd remains as popular as ever.

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