5 Fandom Friday: Songs That Changed My Life


Music has always been such a huge part of my life. I can’t do anything without having music on in the background. Music has this way of making you feel things: joy, sadness, anger, nostalgia – in a lot of ways, it’s very therapeutic. In any case, this week’s Fandom 5 was a simultaneously fun and daunting task. How am I supposed to pick FIVE songs that changed my life, in any way shape or form? And what songs should I pick? Well, here it goes.

1. Bao Han & Don Ho, Lien Khuc Thien Dang Ai An

Vietnamese music was my gateway to all music and in particular, pop music. As a first generation Vietnamese-Canadian, one of the ways that my parents used to make sure I still knew my Vietnamese background was through Paris By Night. I feel like this was one of the first songs that I actually remember listening to when I was a kid and both of these singers became my favourite Vietnamese singers. Because of my early exposure to it, I still listen to Vietnamese music regularly, which I can’t say the same for a lot of other people my age.

2. Britney Spears, Baby One More Time

It seems a little funny to be including this song, but it did impact my life. Growing up, obviously I listened to music but it was more passively than anything, I feel. Then Britney got introduced to the pop music world, with this song and things changed. 1999 was the height of teen pop music, with NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, among others all making their marks on the scene. With Britney and this song, I became a whole-hearted fan of someone/something.

3. Christina Aguilera, Fighter

For the longest time I was Team Britney all the way. But then I saw Christina Aguilera in concert (when she did the Justified and Stripped tour with Justin Timberlake) and I became a fan with no allegiance to one particular “pop princess”. This song was what turned me into a fan, with its rock-infused pop that makes it a great song to let off some steam. It’s an anthem for all of us, to not let anyone get us down and keep fighting. The sheer power of Christina’s voice mixed with the rock sound of the song is what makes it so amazing, and even more-so when you hear her perform it live.

4. Kelly Clarkson, Because of You

Kelly singing “Without You” on American Idol sealed it for me as a fan. Post-Idol though, I loved her debut album, Thankful, but I think we can all agree that Breakaway, her 2nd album, was a turning point. There was just so much honesty and truths in this album that I could relate to on some level. But with this song, I attached my own experiences at that point in my life to it, and it grew into this big emotional song for me. Honestly, I can’t even hear this song without tearing up, and it gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME.

5. Maroon 5, This Love

This song made me a fan for life, from the very moment I watched them perform this on TRL (hey, remember TRL?) At the time, it was everything I didn’t know I wanted from pop music: the fusion of pop, rock, soul in a completely different way from that of JT or Kelly Clarkson. It’s a definitive M5 sound that’s been an inspiration to other pop/rock bands.

6. Justin Timberlake, Like I Love You

Ok, so I’m cheating a little by adding one more song but I can’t help it! JT made a seamless transition from a member of NSYNC to a solo artist with this song. For me, this song will always hold a special place in my heart because it marked the beginning of my life in high school and my Dance Crew life. As it was, I was already learning the choreography from the music video, and then when I tried out for Dance Crew, as luck would have it, they taught a combo to this song. After that, I spent the remainder of my four years being a part of Dance Crew, who became my second family. All the good and bad memories from my high school years started with this song.


Paris By Night OC Weekly Article – Thoughts

Recently, OC Weekly published an extensive story article by Spencer Kornhaber on Paris By Night, a Vietnamese music variety show. Being Vietnamese, Paris By Night is quite the staple at my house and I pretty much grew up watching it. There’s so much I learned about Vietnamese culture from watching it. And the music! I’m almost certain that my love for music now, stemmed from watching PBN when I was little. Bao Han & Don Ho are, to this day, my two favourite Vietnamese singers. I guess when you’re younger, you can’t really appreciate the slow ballads and the older singers, so I veered towards the more pop stuff that Bao Han & Don Ho usually performed (and also probably the root of my love of pop music).

Somewhere in my adolescence, I didn’t really watch PBN as much as I did. I mean I watched it, but it was really only in passing, I don’t really remember. I do remember however that about 6-7 years ago, I started to fall in love with it again. I think at that point in my life (junior/senior years of high school), music REALLY became a big part of me. I started getting introduced to other artists who weren’t mainstream, Dance Crew was important to me, and I suppose in search of something different, I went back to watching Paris By Night and actually watching it, not just passively. The real turning point was when Paris By Night 79 – Dreams came out. I remember watching it when it came out and I was in awe of everything they did because they really did something different with the whole production. Everything seemed more grand, the dancers were great, the performances were great, and the music from start to finish was fantastic.

So from that point on, I watched PBN almost religiously – going on the forums to find out news about the next show, admiring all the dancers (like seriously, I follow these dancers’ careers beyond PBN), anxiously awaiting the release of the next DVD. My admiration for PBN is at an all-time high I’d say. I think it says something when PBN 98 was released this past winter, and despite the fact that I had a huge paper to write, when that DVD showed up in my mailbox, I popped it in to watch right away. Or more recently, PBN 99 got released in the middle of finals, and I worked it out perfectly that when I got home from my morning exam, I would allot 5 hours to watch PBN as a break before studying for my next final. Consider me super upset when my DVD arrived late, and ruining my perfect plan.

Anyways, back to the article that sparked my sudden need to write about how much PBN means to me. This story was released in preparation for the 100th show this coming weekend and I think it is absolutely amazing that an American publication has written a piece on a very important part of Vietnamese culture. Being the dance lover that I am, it’s always a little tough for me to explain to my friends how I know of the likes of Katee Shean, Rynan Paguio, Bryan Tanaka, Taeko Caroll, Paula van Oppen, Alexie Agdeppa, Dominic Chaiduang, Tracy Shibata, etc. and why I get so excited when I see them on SYTYCD, ABDC, performing and/or touring with different artists. It’s because they have or are dancing for PBN and that just makes them awesome.

Furthermore, the epicness of PBN 100 is surrounded by the fear that this could quite possibly be the last show. As with the regular entertainment industry, Paris By Night and the company that produces it, Thuy Nga, are faced with increasing issues of piracy. The difference is that it’s an even more serious issue for the Vietnamese music industry than it is for the N. American industries. Each subsequent show is funded by the live ticket and DVD sales of the previous show. But with increasing costs to make PBN how it is (in all its grandeur, quality, and prestige) and decreasing DVD sales, it’s no wonder that there is doubt as to whether the shows can continue. Sure, PBN could cutback a little on everything since they are miles ahead of Asia Entertainment and Van Son (as MC Ky Duyen said in the story), but you have to respect executive producer Marie To for essentially saying that PBN is the best for a reason and you have to put out all the stops – if it doesn’t do that, then it’s not PBN.

I think the one thing that struck me in the article is what a Vietnamese UC Irvine student had to say about PBN and how her and her friends really only come in contact with it when visting family or “re-creating it for VSA culture nights”. For me personally, I mentioned earlier that despite schoolwork, I made time to watch PBN. Beyond just watching PBN, I have the music from each show, I put it on my iPod, I play it in my car, and I get that I’m in the minority when it comes to that. I can’t help but feel a tad bit of disappointment when I learn that my peers (or whoever I know  who is Vietnamese and part of my generation) don’t watch PBN or even listen to Vietnamese music. They’re more likely to know and listen to Korean pop music than Vietnamese music, which I find to be the slightest bit odd. I just don’t get it. Some would make the argument that a lot of Vietnamese kids these days don’t know even know how to speak the language, let alone understand it, but wouldn’t that make you want them to learn by watching PBN? Or even listen to the music? Back to K-pop, unless there’s an English version of the song, how would they know what those artists are singing about anyways? Just one of those things that bother me I guess.

So will PBN go on after this 100th show? As the article noted, there are obviously a lot skeptics and people who think that PBN makes a lot of money and that all this is a marketing ploy. The optimist in me wants to believe that PBN will continue on and that it won’t shut down. But the reality is, there’s just as good a possibility that it might be the end. I can’t even imagine how I’ll feel (or any devoted PBN fan for that matter) if and when that news is ever made official. Considering I cried when I read Bao Han’s letter to her fans saying that she was retiring from music and almost cried again just watching her talk about the matter in PBN Divas, I think if that day ever comes where PBN announces it’s over, I’m probably gonna be a wreck. Here’s to hoping that day isn’t in the near future.