Don Ho – Mai Di Tim

I have always been a huge fan of Don Ho. In addition to his music, I respect his down-to-earth attitude and generous personality; therefore, I give him my unconditional support. I purchase most of his CDs without even checking the track list, and his new release, Mai Di Tim: Love 2, is no exception. I must confess, however, it is the worst album he has ever made.

Don Ho murders his own classics. “Trai Tim Mua Dong” (Truc Ho) and “Tinh Nhat Phai” (a Chinese ballad translated by Nhat Ngan) are two of his most recognizable hits; therefore, he doesn’t need to remind us with the remixed versions. Much as I like what Dong Son had done in the past with his new upbeat productions, he brings nothing exciting to “Trai Tim Mua Dong.” I like the tune slow and intimate just like the way Truc Ho has intended it. If “Tinh Nhat Phai” has yet to fade, the clubbing remake, which featured Giana Nguyen’s sweet-n-sour voice and Justin Timberfake’s wimpy rap, makes it vanish immediately.

But I have to give Don Ho the kudos for trying to do the impossible. Who else would think of giving Trinh Lam Ngan’s “Qua Con Me” a dance-up treatment? The only accomplishment he might have achieved is dismantling its “sen” quality by replacing the robotic bolero with the mid-tempo beat. Yet, the most impossible thing he pulls off is throwing a bonus to one of Vietnamese proudest occupations in America. Dino Pham Hoang Dung’s “Nail” has to be the goofiest shit I have heard in a long time. I just love the chorus:

Nail, nail, nail, ban tay ta phai kheo
Nail, nail, nail, nghe Nail dau co beo
Nail, nail, nail, tien vo day ngan keo
Nail, nail, nail, chac chan se khong ngheo!
Bac si, ky su cung khong bang Nail
Hoc phi ton kem ra truong lai lau
Chi vai tram gio bang Nail ta co
Mai mai, dua dua cu the tien vo!

With the happy-go-lucky beat, elementary rhymes and Don Ho’s childlike hiss and shout, I am having a hard time distinguishing if this is a dissed or dedicated song. I am not even sure why the author has to clarify that “nghe Nail dau co beo.” A job is a job, and if doing nail pays the bills, get your papers on, baby. I am just hoping that kids won’t use this song to make a statement to their parents why they rather file hands and polish feet than write prescriptions or draw blueprints.

Like I said from the beginning, Don Ho is my man, but that doesn’t mean I would shy away from criticizing his work. It could be that I am losing interests in his musical direction with this album. Or it could be that he’s not interested in reaching out to me. I am getting old and he’s still young at heart.