Ice Ice Lady

Thuy Duong is apparently very sleepy and lazy according to most listeners, and the latest criticisms of her returning to Asia’s Bon Mua is no exception. While most singers drown their soul into their performances, Thuy Duong sounds and seems like she’s rather doing anything else but singing and pleasing the audience. Like many listeners, I had snored on her albums a couple of times. Yet, it is the power of ease, which I have learned to fall in love with, that gives her a style of her own.

Thuy Duong is beyond relaxed. She has not yet sung an up-tempo tune. She never pushes her voice. She never uses vibrato, nor does she wants to. What she has accomplished, however, no one dares to come near. She is capable of creating an opposite attraction instantaneously between her voice and her flow. While her languorous delivery appears soothing, her sharp, needling timbre cuts deep into the emotional core. In other words, she can put her cold hand on your heart and still shock you like water touches electricity.

If I have to pick one song to describe her, Truc Ho’s “Trai Tim Mua Dong” would be it. Although Don Ho had swept our hearts with his warm, soulful rendition, it was his gentleness and kindness that won our pity. Thuy Duong’s version, which had been overlooked, has nothing to do with sympathy. She sings in such a cold-hearted condition that people couldn’t find their way into the sentimental state underneath. In the opening line, “Ta gap nhau trong muon mang,” Don Ho might refer to a woman who’s leaving him to walk down the isle with another man, but the woman in Thuy Duong’s version is about to leave this world. In the closing line, “Nen danh om tron mot moi tinh cam,” he might holds that painful part forever in his heart, but she holds it forever in her dead.

Thuy Duong’s style is so cold that you have to be damn near frozen to get in. If you want to be broken in, seclude yourself to her Khuc Thuy Du released by Asia Entertainment. The title track alone would give you a startling chill. When she sings, “Hay noi ve cuoc doi / Khi toi khong con nua / Se lay duoc nhung gi / Ve ben kia the gioi / Ngoai trong vang ma thoi,” the frostiness in her voice suggests that dying is as painless as breathing.

Thuy Duong’s technical skill is quite interesting. To the average ears, she displays none because she hardly takes on high notes. When she does, she would stop abruptly at a certain level and let the air fills up the meter instead of letting her voice vanishes into a diminuendo. Most of the time, she stays in the middle register and leaves plenty of empty space in between the bars. In a way, her voice reminds me of Miles Davis’s Harmon mute. They trimmed away the unnecessary details and developed a stack, hesitant style. Their gruff and chilling sounds are best suiting for an intimate setting. Just imagine her voice accompanied by his closed trumpet in a small café with the weather plunged below zero outside.