Xuan Khoi sounds so much like Tuan Ngoc, only sleepier. In fact, Tuan Ngoc is all over his new album, Chieu Mot Minh Qua Pho. As soon as Xuan Khoi begins to sing the first bar on the opening track, Tu Cong Phung’s “Tren Thang Ngay Da Qua,” you can immediately recognize the phrasing. Even the music is arranged in Duy Cuong’s Latin flavor.
Like many of Tuan Ngoc’s followers, Xuan Khoi isn’t capable of reaching the upper register with ease, a skill that sets Tuan Ngoc apart from his imitators. Tuan Ngoc’s influence is even more transparent on Tu Cong Phung’s “Tinh Tu Mua Xuan.” Not only his phrasing, but his flow and his vibrato come straight from Tuan Ngoc’s classic rendition. The difference is that Xuan Khoi gets shaky on the long notes and he lacks the romance and authority Tuan Ngoc brought to the tune. Obviously Duy Cuong’s semi-classical orchestration is unmatchable.
The whole time I am listening to Xuan Khoi, yet all I could think about is Tuan Ngoc. From Pham Duy’s “Tinh Cam” to Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Ao Lua Ha Dong” to Nguyen Trung Cang’s “Bang Khuan Chieu Noi Chu,” Xuan Khoi simply can’t escape Tuan Ngoc’s shadow. Both Xuan Khoi and I have one thing in common: we spend way too much time with the musician’s musician. My suggestion to Xuan Khoi is to stop listening to Tuan Ngoc, stay away from Tuan Ngoc’s repertoire, and don’t even think about covering Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Rieng Mot Goc Troi.”