Nguyen Khang’s new album, Ta Muon Cung Em Say, is a cop-out: He stays in his comfort zone; he covers candy tunes; and he abandons artistic daring for formulaic boring. With such a unique of a voice, he could push his craft into a higher level, but instead he chooses to play safe, which is a damn shame.
TMCES begins with the dated “Café Mot Minh.” Why bother rerecorded a song that not only every Vietnamese singer had sung, but also in the same acoustic guitar sound and the exact written melody every Vietnamese singer had done? The basic rule of cover is to make an old, popular tune sounds new. He redelivered Dieu Huong’s “Vi Do La Em” with an equivalent blandness and monotone he did the first round. On “Diem Xua,” his flow is slicker on the refreshing arrangement, yet lacking the rawness of emotion he brought to Trinh Cong Son’s lyricism before. “Tro Ve Mai Nha Xua” would have benefited from a string ensemble rather than a club remixed, but he desires to enter the popularity contest more than he would like to raise the musical bar. Fame is blinding him.
On the album cover, he sports a black tuxedo looking like a pimp surrounded by his hotties. His long-time collaborator Diem Lien returns with Quoc Hung’s “Vi Sao Em Oi.” Their duet is once again an opposite attraction where good girl goes for bad boy, and Nguyen Khang beefs up vocals to sound like a badass. Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Niem Khuc Cuoi” turns out to be not so great, even though Ngoc Ha and Nguyen Khang are two of the best vocalists among their peers. What didn’t work is that they don’t seem like a believable couple. The only thing they might have in common is their height. Surprisingly, Nguyen Hong Nhung, his partner in crime, steals all the duets. Truc Ho’s “Gio Da Khong Con Nua” is a lustful pleasant from a sensualist-meets-bohemian romance.
TMCES is actually not a bad album, but rather a disappointing one. He chooses to commercialize more than to challenge himself.