I haven’t seen an album dedicated to ballroom dancing for years, especially not from a young face in Viet Nam like Doan Trang. Her latest Da Vu Socodance (sounds like a M&M commercial to me), which featured Latin rhythms such as paso, tango, chacha, valse, and rumba, is another effort to make her music stands apart from her pop peers. What makes Doan Trang stands out for me is not her sweet, transparent voice, but my wonder of how such a powerful tone could come from so flimsy a body.
Like any Vietnamese dance tradition, Socodance kicks off with Hoang Trong’s “Dung Buoc Giang Ho,” a lively paso doble arranged by Nguyen Quang who is responsible for most of the productions on the album. Doan Trang just rides the beat and gives a straightforward delivery, which is fine for this particular up-tempo piece and Nguyen Anh 9’s translated “Ngan Khuc Tango.” In slower tempos like the rumba “Tinh Yeu Den Trong Gia Tu” (another Nguyen Anh 9’s composition) and Pham Manh Cuong’s “Thu Ca” (tango), however, she lacks the souls and the emotions that are so essential in expressing the lyrics. As a result, her renditions on these two tracks are juiceless and colorless. In addition, her breathiness brings down her delivery.
Socodance strangely closes out with Xuan Nghia’s “Rock ‘n Roll Cho Em.” Not sure why a rock track is included in a ballroom dance album. Other than banging our heads, what else could we do with rock? Fortunately “Rock ‘n Roll Cho Em” has more of a twist flavor to it than rock. So we could swivel our feet to the beat and break our necks to the guitar riff after the ecstasies kicked in.
Although Socodance is a nice attempt to get all the lazy behinds, including mine, off the couch and away from the computer, it isn’t anything outstanding. Doan Trang is like a lost child in the Vietnamese-entertainment world. (Come to daddy, I’ll give you a style to run with, baby.) She has tried everything to reinvent herself, from pop to ballads to r & b to hip-hop to Latin dance, but nothing seems to work to her fullest potential. Maybe it is time to focus on her technical skills and to inject some souls into her performances.