Thanh Thao’s musical direction is best describe as “deafness fears no gun” (diec khong so sung). Even though most of her hits are mediocre, you have to hand it to her for playing around with different styles ranging from trendy pop to dance pop to imitated hip-hop and r&b to to over-sentimental ballad. Her new release, Hoang Tu Trong Mo, is a bolero devotion. She also enlisted an impressive roster of guest princes including Thai Chau, Ngoc Son, Truong Vu and Le Hieu for the duets.
What makes Thanh Thao intriguing is that she is not afraid to mix and match styles. She picks out her beats as if she shops for her clothes. Hoang Tu Trong Mo is based on the bolero foundation, but she also adds some pop, hip-hop and even jazz on top. The most fascinating arrangement on the album is the blend of jazz, hip-hop rhythm with traditional instruments on “Nho Nguoi Yeu” with Ngoc Son. The track sounds both “sen” (cheesy) and “sang” (elegant) at the same time. Who else, but Thanh Thao could pull that off?
Her collaboration with Truong Vu on “Duong Tinh Doi Nga” works surprisingly well. His over-emphatic singing is a perfect foil for her straightforward delivery and they seem to feel each other’s pain. In contrast, she sounds as if she is done with the Quang Dung drama on the medley “Nhin Nhau Lan Cuoi” and “Xin Dung Noi Yeu Toi.” They both sound flat and tired of the past. While Dam Vinh Hung is on top of her on “Gap Nhau Lam Ngo,” Vuong Trieu Vu is at the bottom of her on “Sao Em Vo Tinh.” They should get together and do a threesome.
Another standout duet is “Em Ve Keo Troi Mua.” Le Hieu’s northern accent in singing a southern tune is quite pleasing. Like most of Thanh Thao’s album, Hoang Tu Trong Mo contains both hits and misses. It’s nice to hear her messing around with different flavors.