Asia 50 – Nhat Truong/Tran Thien Thanh

If Viet Nam War’s politic is a boxing sport, no one punches the controversial bag harder than Asia production. In Nhat Truong/Tran Thien Thanh dedication, Asia, once again, elevated the art-of-war music and visual. Inducing the ebullience of an adrenaline rush, the show opens with explosive gunshots, flashes of bomb bursts, and smoke of ashes. Accompanied by the battling stimulation of the musical arrangement, Thanh Lan approaches “Anh Khong Chet Dau Anh” with a heart of a combating woman. Her voice soars with braveness and her face expresses courageousness. Her strident performance packs more heat than the oven door.

Even though the video is filled with political propaganda, Asia have managed to balance it out with mesmerizing performances from start to finish—even Trish and Asia 4 are listenable in the remix of “Tinh Thu Cua Linh.” Asia’s musical producers, especially Truc Ho, have an ear for making old tunes sound fresh and clean. “Bay Ngay Doi Mong” is a gorgeous bossa-nova orchestration with the invigorating mesh of violins, saxophone, and piano. Both Truc Mai (old generation) and Y Phuong (new generation) bring their unique voices to the tune. Another delightful arrangement is the simple picking-guitar on “Ta Tu Trong Dem,” a song I loved when I was a kid, and hearing Phuong Dung’s ageless voice floats over the rumba rhythm strikes a nostalgic chord.

“Han Mac Tu” is a savory gap-bridging performance between Thanh Thuy and Y Phung. The contrast between Thanh Thuy’s thick, raucous voice and Y Phung’s thin, clear vocals produced an intriguing effect. Y Phung is pretty damn hot too (hopefully she won’t turn trampy any time soon). Speaking of appearances, Kim Anh’s figure looks amazing for her age and in the sky-blue ao dai (long dress). Her slightly raspy voice is marvelous next to Tuan Vu’s warmness. While we’re on long dress, what Diem Lien puts on—the black dress, the pearl necklace, and the hairstyle—epitomizes a Vietnamese woman.

Nguyen Khang is a bit disappointed in “Khi Nguoi Yeu Toi Khoc” with Ngoc Ha. He doesn’t hit the high note like he gets to do at the end of the program with the group collaboration, in which he is assigned to take charge of the bridge. Don Ho’s rendition of “Tinh Dau Tinh Cuoi” isn’t so bad, but he could not surpass Ngoc Lan’s version. In “Tinh Co Nhu Khong,” the young Anh Minh is even better than the wannabe-young Mai Le Huyen. The attempt of pairing up Da Nhat Yen and Pham Khai Tuan is a huge mismatch. Putting a rhythmless dude who could barely pull off a two-step move next to my dancing queen, what were they thinking? Should have let her run the show herself.

The most bone-wrenching performance is Lam Thuy Van and Lam Nhat Tien’s “Nguoi O Lai Charlie.” The cries of Lam Thuy Van’s voice combined with the image of a helmet positioned on a gun gave me a chill. Asia 50 is undoubtedly an audacious political statement. Too bad the video is filmed after the talented songwriter Tran Thien Thanh/singer Nhat Truong had already left us. Imagine how much more powerful it could have been if we could hear the man himself talks about his own work. Now that would be priceless.