From viral TikTok videos to Netflix, Emily Vu’s catchy pop captivates fans

August 30, 2023 | By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

Emily Vu’s pop song “Changes” is an earworm. Her disarmingly frank lyrics and optimistic beats will creep into your head and stay there for days. Enough so that the Vietnamese American singer has amassed more than a million followers on TikTok and “Changes” was featured in the recent Netflix film “A Tourist’s Guide to Love.” All by the age of 21.

But music did not always feel like a natural fit to the Los Angeles-based pop artist. “My parents go by the saying ‘Music makes you smarter,’” she explains. They enrolled her in piano classes at age 4, which she did not enjoy. She tried guitar in fourth grade, violin in fifth, and then drums in middle school — but none lit her fuse.

Vu was about ready to give up on music entirely when people started complimenting her singing voice. Without telling anyone, she tentatively began experimenting with recording covers and posting them on Instagram. When her friends finally discovered them, she says, “they were losing their minds.”

Slowly, more and more people tuned in to Vu’s social media videos, including her livestream performances. With her followers ballooning and positive feedback flooding in, Vu saw her path clearly: She wanted to be a professional musician.

In 2020, she connected with a music industry executive through Instagram and signed a record deal. “It all happened so fast,” she says.

Since then she’s released two EPs of her earthy pop music and she’s racked up millions of streams on Spotify — 3.7 million for her song “Weekend.”

Social media and streaming platforms have helped Vu grow her fan base. Now, as an emerging artist participating in Mastercard Artist Accelerator ― a program showing independent artists how to harness the community-building power of blockchain, Web3 and the metaverse — Vu is branching into new territories.

She’s been eager to learn more about Web3 and AI and use the technology to give fans and other artists an inside look at the creative process. “Before I started the program, I’d never even looked at an NFT,” she says.

Now, Vu sees how these new technologies can support one aspect of the music-making process she finds difficult at times: promoting her work. “I’ve learned a lot about branding and about how I can move forward with that,” she says.

As part of the program, each of the five artists used the AI Music Studio powered by WarpSound to create a new song released as an NFT. During a Zoom session, music producers acting as program mentors helped Vu to manipulate the AI tool to create a melody that she liked. Then she wrote the lyrics for what would become “Silhouette.”

“I’m very happy with how it all turned out, and I’m excited for people to hear it,” Vu says. “AI is going to change the way in which musicians work.”

Vu draws inspiration from her personal diary, movie scenes or film plots. She likes listening to singer-songwriter Jeremy Zucker, and Bruno Mars’ earlier songs — “I love the sad sounds,” she says. L.A.-based Lauv is one of her favorite artists. Fans sometimes tell her that she sounds like a young Justin Bieber. “I take that as a compliment as well,” she says.

As for her catchy tune “Changes,” downloads of the song skyrocketed following its debut in the Netflix film in April. And Vu’s proud mother ― who clearly had a sixth sense about her daughter all those years ago ― sends her a screenshot of her songs on Spotify almost every day.

Deborah Lynn Blumberg, contributor