Thu Phuong has quite an ambition. She wants to gain young and new fans without losing her dedicated followers. Instead of releasing an album with various tunes, which is what most young pop stars including Dam Vinh Hung, Nguyen Khang, and Ho Quynh Huong have done, to cover a wide range of demographics, Thu Phuong drops three records simultaneously with each pushing for a specific audience. It’s a much smarter tactic then trying to cramp everything into one. She knows damn well that Doan Chuan and Tu Linh’s “Thu Quyen Ru” and Duy Manh’s “Kiep Do Den” won’t sound right on the same album. As long as she separates the short-lived from timeless tunes, I don’t care how much she wants to entertain the young crowds.
Em Ra Di Mua Thu, which targets the experienced listeners, is the finest out of the three albums. The record is played off on a thematic approach—similar to the classic Doan Khuc Mua Thu Ha Noi in which Hong Nhung gives us a tour of the romantic and picturesque details of the Viet Nam’s capitol. From the opening of Pham Trong Cau’s “Em Ra Di Mua Thu” to the closing of Pham Duy’s “Mua Thu Chet,” Thu Phuong performs with all of her heart to paint eleven gorgeous musical landscapes based around the theme of fall. Each track is carefully chosen and attentively arranged to give listeners the aesthetic beauty of changing leafs season.
The album starts off with the title track produced by Le Sy Du (who is responsible for nine tracks on the album). His arrangement is simple but pushes Thu Phuong’s performance. On the break, the smooth saxophone solo adds rich and sensuous harmonies to her unequivocal delivery. After the break, the sax joins along side with Thu Phuong to create exotic details. On Pham Manh Cuong’s “Thu Ca,” she pours out her soul on the marvelous Latin rhythm section arranged by Trung Nghia. Another fabulous contribution from Trung Nghia is his production on Pham Duy’s “Mua Thu Chet.” His intoxicating jazz groove allows Thu Phuong to reinvigorates the old tune. Teaming up with Ho Kim Hieu (who is an unknown vocalist to me, but she does has a mesmerizing voice), Thu Phuong gives Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Mua Thu Cho Em” a sensational rendition. She also provides Phu Quang’s “Dau Phai Mua Thu” an exhilarating presentation with her genuine interpretation.
Em Ra Di Mua Thu is a great follow up from her previous triumphant Nhu Mot Loi Chia Tay (a Trinh Cong Son’s songbook); however, her only weakness is the breath issue. I let it slid on the last album because she was using Trinh’s music to express her emotion. Breath management does make a huge difference, at least for me. Take the duet with Le Thu on Pham Duy’s “Nuoc Mat Mua Thu” for example. It’s definitely a savory collaboration between the two generations, but we can decipher why Le Thu is still superior. Her technical skill is flawless despite of her age. Nevertheless, I have to give it to Thu Phuong. She has crafted another priceless record. Of course, the sugary albums she released to win the young hearts don’t count. Let’s hope she will improve her breath control and won’t record any more syrupy albums.