Nguyen Khang has a fabulous voice, but he needs a talented producer like Rick Rubin to get on him the right track. Asia and Van Son, two of the three notorious Vietnamese music productions, are backing him up, yet they don’t know what to do with him. Ta Muon Cung Em Say, his previous album with Asia, covered popular tunes with not much creative effort. Love, his new release under Van Son, featured new and lesser-known tunes, but they are simply monotonous.
I have to get past nine slow, sleepy cuts in order to hear something that I have wished he would focus his energy on making. It’s actually a combination of “Ai Ve Song Tuong” and “Toi Di Giua Hoang Hon” that set in a simple bluesy, swing arrangement. He didn’t even have to maneuver his voice around the jazz rhythm, but the result is still intoxicating. If he could turn some of these dead-slow tempo ballads into jazz-pop grooves, we would have something invigorating to enjoy. For instance, “Con Chut Van Vuong” would have been a great piece if it were converted into a bluesy ballad. “Tieng Tho Dai” could easily transform into a bossa-nova number and kill off the back up singer while you’re at it. No offense, but I can’t stand Nguyen Khuong’s caramel voice. His spineless whining on “Soi Toc Yeu Yeu” is still remarkably irritating.
Nguyen Khang, my brother, I have mad love for you and would hate to see you go down. If you feel burn out. Take some time off. Get away from Vietnamese music for bit. Go on tour and stop putting out albums that might harm your stature. Move forward, not back. Go further, don’t stop. You’re still blessed with that powerful, rugged and raw voice. Now work on some innovations.