Dam Vinh Hung – Mr. Dam

Not sure why Dam Vinh Hung looks like a redneck on the cover of his latest album Mr. Dam, which obviously has nothing to do with country music. It just shows how off he is in the fashion world, but that’s another story. Although fashion and music go hand in hand, let’s just focus on his music world, and see if DVH is any good on his seventh’s studio solo.

Truth be told, I miss the good old DVH who struck me with his soulful performance of “Tinh Tho,” powerful presentation of “Goc Pho Reu Xanh,” and indelible rendition of “Tan Tro.” His singing used to be lighter but strong and captivating. Now he has developed an emphatic style. On “Ngoi Nghe Yeu Thuong Troi Xa,” his stressed phrasing gives Do Dinh Phuc’s music way more drama than it needs to be, and his heavy delivery comes across as if ton of bricks have pressed against his chest. Back in the early days, his breath control was perfect. But now, on the duet of Duc Huy’s “Nhu Da Dau Yeu,” both himself and Hong Ngoc sound like they are puffing a Cuban cigar together, and passing it to each other while recording. He breathes heavily not only on this particular track, but also on other performances.

DVH also loses his touch in revitalizing old tunes. Duc Huy’s “Nguoi Tinh Tram Nam” is another nightmare recovered, where his moaning and groaning add nothing but distraction to the work. Why does he love Duc Huy’s music so much? Duy Huy’s compositions – mellow, elegance, and simple – do not match his style at all, and he could not bring anything new to them. Furthermore, his version of Huynh Nhat Tan’s “Bac Tinh” is nowhere near Tuan Ngoc’s performance. As soon as Tuan Ngoc kicks off the first lines, “Voi vang lam chi trach nhau bac tinh,” he grabs listeners’ attention immediately, and continues to sway them with his flawless and effortless technique even after the song is over. On the other hand, DVH tries his hardest, but still could not take the song where Tuan Ngoc has taken it. Part of the flaw is also in the arrangement. Huynh Nhat Tan is behind the board on Tuan Ngoc’s version. Who could compose the music better than the composer himself? The result is hypnotizing. On DVH’s part, the producers (Bao Luu and Anh Khoa) could not bring any texture or color to the musical table. Not only for this track, but the over all production is also weak.

Is there anything good on the album? Of course, there has to be something. The best part is that he stops singing Marc Anthony’s songs. Remember “My Baby You” and “I Need to Know?” Thank gosh, right? Actually the decent track is Tran Ngoc’s “Tinh Em Xu Quang,” a sweet, rural ballad. It’s a Quang Linh’s style, but DVH sounds nice for a change. The new songs, including Thai Thinh’s “Dung Thuong Toi” and Hoai An’s “Noi Nho Tinh Toi,” are huge disappointments. They are just a bunch of syrupy ballads with bland productions and banal deliveries. Mr. Dam is done. It’s time to drop the mic and pick up the clipper.