TNX for Listening

With a little bit of Trap and a little bit of R&B, German-Vietnamese singer Linh TNX will enter the New Year with a bang and a beat

When she walks into a room, Linh TNX is nearly impossible to miss. Laughing jovially, hoop earrings jangling and patent red boots gleaming, her energy spills onto every surface in the space. Her charisma and confidence combined with an overwhelmingly relatable quality tells you instantly that the girl has star power.

Born Linh Tran in Hamburg, Germany, Linh TNX is a relative newcomer to the Vietnam music scene, but music isn’t a newcomer to her. Raised on a steady supply of dance, instrumental, and classical vocal training, Linh has the experience to last several lifetimes. The 25-year-old with Vietnamese roots is a certified hip-hop dance teacher and has grown up dancing AfroBeats and dance soul. She has been singing practically since birth, “I started singing at two with my family at a karaoke bar and then my mom noticed I could sing really quickly, before I could speak.”

In elementary school, her teacher introduced her to opera. Linh continued to pursue singing in musical theater, but the constant rehearsals impacted her grades and she had to quit until high school where a homework assignment introduced her to the catharsis of songwriting. From classical to theatrical to German and English pop, along her musical evolution she fell in love with R&B and hip-hop, finding inspiration in the classic artists of the ‘90s. Her music style today is motivated by successful, confident women like Beyoncé, Kehlani and Jhené Aiko. “I’m influenced by their work ethic. All the hard working women out there are really my inspiration. As a woman you have to work twice as hard as men to earn the respect, so I feel like if you can get that power and strength as a woman, that’s such a nice thing,” says Linh.

Linh didn’t plan on moving to Vietnam, she was initially here for a holiday, but a prompt from her cousin changed that. The two recorded Linh’s singing and submitted it to an audition and shortly after she returned to Germany Linh received a call to drop everything—car, job and apartment— and head back to Vietnam. She didn’t even speak Vietnamese at the time, but knew she needed to take a chance to pursue her dreams.

The impulsiveness of her decision and the boldness required to do such a thing is an attribute she credits to her alter ego—TNX. “The foundation of TNX is: T is the first letter of my last name, N is last letter of my last name, and X is that X factor that makes me something different. It sounds a little bit weird but I want to be outstanding, pop out more. TNX is Tran but it’s X,” she explains. Where Linh Tran once questioned her decisions and felt undeserving, Linh TNX is a woman unafraid of getting what she wants. “I’m really open-minded and happy and TNX is more the darker side. The demanding girl. The woman who is not afraid of asking for stuff, cursing, wouldn’t be frightened of anybody. If I’m standing in front of a crowd it’s like, ‘what’s up guys?’”

Linh’s alter ego has also given her strength in both her professional and personal life, especially at the beginning of her time in Vietnam when she felt alone. Through meeting people and making connections she learned something unexpected about the music industry in Vietnam: People genuinely want to help you, they want you to succeed. “Everything works so much on social networks here, everything works through social media and connection. It’s interesting how interested people are in the country,” says Linh. “You get to know people really fast, you get to meet artists really fast. They aren’t cocky or arrogant. In Germany, you have to be ‘somebody.’ Here, I’m not saying you can just go to artists and say something, but as far as you really doing your projects, people really respect that and that’s something I’m grateful for. That way you can really embrace yourself and really pursue the career you’re trying to. It’s not judgmental at all.”

Just three months since her move to Saigon, Linh has already released a single in English with a music video included, has a management team and regularly performs live. She is signed with Piu Piu Records, and is a house artist at their newly renovated club, Piu Piu, on Hai Ba Trung Street. Her musical style is Trap and Beat, which fuses her sultry voice and all of her musical knowledge together. The style moves between melodic ballads and hip- hop, which feature heavily in popular Vietnamese music, making her relatable to markets here as well as abroad. She also raps. “I never was a rapper, never in my life. I don’t call myself a rapper, it’s just for fun. To mix it up and challenge me as well.”

Although rapping is something new for Linh, her comfortability with the performative side of rap is clear in her stage presence. Her creative process requires a beat, some emotion, and a bit of TNX attitude: “My process is listening to a beat and, when I get comfortable with the beat, I start thinking about my current situation. This is the fastest way to put it in a song because I’m actually just singing about what’s happening right now. Especially when I’m in a certain mood, so that means when I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m angry… all these heavy moods, these emotions cause you to think. So it’s basically the beat, the mood, and, as far as rhyming, I was always poetic in Germany, I like to write essays and poems so that was never a problem. The toughest part is writing stuff in Vietnamese because I just learned it, so the vocabulary I have is what I’ve got, but when I was afraid to do it, the TNX came out and I was like, just do it.” And the TNX attitude definitely did the trick, as she is releasing an all Vietnamese track in the next couple of months.

Astonishingly, none of this hasty success has gone to her head. She’s sincerely grateful for what she has accomplished so far and who has supported her along the way. Enjoying the journey, she exudes the nervous elation of someone on the precipice of something. She’s definitely one to watch.

Images by Vy Lam

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