Ngọc Lan 5: Tình Gần

Out of all her solo albums Ngọc Lan recorded for Mây productions—from Ngọc Lan 4: Tình Xanh to Ngọc Lan 10: Hạnh Phúc Nơi NàoNgọc Lan 5: Tình Gần remains my personal favorite to this day. With 12 exceptional recordings, Ngọc Lan perfected the art of creating a cohesive experience from start to finish. Just pop in the album and let Ngọc Lan lead the way.

When she flowed, “Em như một nụ hồng / Cầu mong chẳng lạnh lùng,” you felt the sad beauty in Ngô Thụy Miên’s “Tình Khúc Buồn.” When she declared, “Với em, anh mãi là người tình trăm năm,” you wished you were her lover in Đức Huy’s “Người Tình Trăm Năm.” When she confessed, “Buồn vương màu áo hồng / Nước mắt theo em đi về với chồng,” you tasted her tears in Nguyễn Ngọc Trọng’s “Buồn Vương Màu Áo.” When she confronted, “Anh bên người xa lạ / Anh quên lời hẹn thề / Cho em xót xa,” you felt her pain in Đỗ Cung La’s “Dù Tình Yêu Đã Mất.”

From “Chiều Một Mình Qua Phố” to “Rồi Như Đá Ngây Ngô” to “Hạ Trắng,” Ngọc Lan got us hanging on Trịnh Công Sơn’s every word. In “Để Quên Con Tim” and “Tiếng Mưa Đêm,” Ngọc Lan’s soft, sweet vocals brought the cool, breezy vibes to Đức Huy’s easy-listening lyrics. She gave a touching rendition of Trầm Tử Thiêng’s “Mười Năm Yêu Em” as well as Vũ Thành An’s “Bài Không Tên số 2 & 3” and “Bài Không Tên số 7.”

Ngọc Lan’s vocals were mesmerizing and her song choices were excellent, but “Tình Gần” wouldn’t be complete without the outstanding productions, and saxophonist Thanh Lâm played the key role in the album success. From his orchestrations, particularly the staccato strings in “Người Tình Trăm Năm,” to his arrangements, noticeably the rhythm section in “Mười Năm Yêu Em”, to his sax solos, which appeared on almost every track, his contributions to the album were remarkable. His music direction shaped the cohesiveness of the album.

There were intriguing debates in on how Ngọc Lan came up with Tình Gần for the album title. Someone said that, the title derived from a line in Ngô Thụy Miên’s “Tình Khúc Buồn,” which was, “Sao chưa gặp một lần mà nghe tình thật gần.” The theory seemed convincing, but I have a different take. “Tình Gần” can be translated as “Close Love” or “Intimate Love” (my preference). If you look at all of the albums she released under Mây Productions, Tình Gần was the only one that she covered songs written by Vietnamese songwriters. In other albums, she covered a mix of Vietnamese, French, and American ballads; therefore, Tình Gần hit closest to home.

Updated June 30, 2022