Unlike the complexity of jazz, a pop record is either a hit or a miss. If the productions are tight, you win half of the battle. If the hooks and the lyrics are right, you will be on your way to victory. Of course, it’s easier said than done. These days Vietnamese pop albums are being released like baby diapers. You hear it once and you throw it out. The major issue is that most young pop singers do not put their investment into the productions and they rely too much on cheap lyrics to feed their hungry fans. Someone once said that why do I even bother listening to these rubbishes. My hope is to come across something decent. I’ve found it.
Ha Anh Tuan’s Sai Gon Radio is an enjoyable pop record just because he understands the rules of pop. He knows that the productions have to be pleasurable even when his voice fails him. What makes Sai Gon Radio work is that it doesn’t sound like a hip-hop/R&B imitation and the lyrics aren’t as banal as those Chinese-inflected junk. Although the album opens with a tune called “Radio,” it is more suitable to be spin in the club than on the airwave. The beat is groovy and the hook is catchy as hell. “Ganh Hang Rau” is another dance-driven production, but the words behind the beat are even more inspiring—something about selling vegetables to buy big house. Hey, who said you can’t dream?
Although Anh Tuan’s nasal voice is persuasive even on slow jams like “Loi Nhac So 4,” the album has its share of snoring moments. Still, the record is surprisingly good. What surprises me even more though is the producer behind the tracks. Nhat Trung has certainly stepped up his pop game.