I have underestimated Thu Minh, the chick with a cute face and a voluptuous figure. Her third album, Neu Nhu, has a few hits, and she knows how to revamp old popular songs, such as “Anh Sang Cua Doi Toi” (The Light of My Life), “60 Nam Cuoc Doi” (60 Years of Life) and “Va Con Tim Da Vui Tro Lai” (And The Heart is Happy Once Again) sound new and bouncy without loosing the aesthetic quality. She has an effervescent voice, a stage charisma, and she can work that sexy body too. Yet, I predict that she could not get further then where she has been on Neu Nhu – a trendy album that rocks the crowd for a short period of time. Therefore, when her forth album, Tinh Em, drops (within only seven months apart), I pay no mind to it, until I encounter her refreshing rendition of Van Cao’s “Song Lo” (Lo River). I picked up the album and utterly surprised by how high she has stepped up from her previous work.
Tinh Em (My Love) is not about the average boys-and-girls-romantic love. The album is about patriotism. Now, ladies and gentlemen, don’t get all hype up because I am praising “communist music.” As long as the production is crisp and the performance is tight from song to song, screw the politics. If expatriate Vietnamese can write about their mournful lost, the communist can write about their pride too. As far as I am concern, music has no border. So just listen and enjoy the work itself.
With the politics out of the way, let’s jump right into the blazing tracks. Once again, Thu Minh revives the traditional village music (nhac dan toc) by making “Bong Cay Ko-Nia” (Shadow of Ko-Nia Tree) lively and contemporary with her sultry vocals and ingenious arrangement. The lyrics on “Thuyen va Ben” (Ship and Sea) have some charming metaphors: “Chi co thuyen moi hieu / bien menh mong nhuong nao / Chi co bien moi biet / thuyen di dau ve dau” (Rough translation: Only ship knows / how wide the sea is / Only sea knows / where ship goes and returns), and Thu Minh gives a poignant delivery with her cogent voice. “Dem Nay Anh O Dau?” (Where Are You Tonight?) is about pride, patriotism and love: “Em dang bay vao trong mo / Thay em duoc ra chien truong / Cung anh chien dau / quyet song chet cung co nhau… / Voi niem tin anh thang giac / du bao nam thang / du nang mua em van cho” (Rough translation: I am flying in my dream / See myself in battlefield / By your side / live or die together… / With a belief that you will / defeat your enemy / Even when it rains or shines / I’ll still be waiting). When she sings that chorus, Thu Minh commends our attention with the courage in her vocals.
If “Gui Nang Cho Em” (Sending Sunshine to You) and “Ha Noi Mua Thu” (Fall in Ha Noi) are too sentimental and forlorn, Thu Minh closes out the album with the upbeat remix of “Nho Thanh Pho Hoa Dao” (Remembering the City of Blossoms) to balance out the vibe. So I was wrong about Thu Minh. She is not only a hot babe, but she also has some real talent, and Tinh Em proves it. The album is striking from hits after unexpected hits.