Ngoc Ha has a powerful voice for such a petite figure, but what makes her stands out is the versatility in her delivery. She could maneuver her way around traditional folks as effortless as pop standards. She even throws in some ballroom ballads every now and then just to prove that she can do it.
Her latest release, Mau Thoi Gian, is yet another album showing off her range and trying to cover all bases. The problem is that too many different flavors just slowing down the show. Mau Thoi Gian begins with an excellent version of Quoc Dung’s “Ru Toi Giac Mong,” courtesy of the semi-classical arrangement. The violin solo and the piano comping heightened Ngoc Ha’s vocals.
The second track fails flat comparing to the impressive opener. From the mechanical production to Ngoc Ha’s lack of personal interoperation, her cover of Lam Phuong’s “Cho Em Quen Tuoi Ngoc” is a huge letdown. The music arrangement gets worse on the third track, Thanh Trang’s “Duyen The.” It’s one of those Thuy Nga’s typical mass productions that could get you drowsy quickly.
On the fourth track, Pho Duc Phuong’s “Tren Dinh Phu Van,” the album takes a sharp turn to northern traditional folks. The arrangement here is a wonderful mix of old melodic strings and new electronic rhythm and spacious vibes. The fifth track takes yet another departure to a safe, constrained version of Nguyen Anh 9’s “Co Don.” The sixth track, Pham Manh Cuong’s “Thu Ca,” takes a dizzy route to the dance floor with the ballroom tango. Ngoc Ha even glides into Tung Duong’s territory with Luu Ha An’s “Con Co,” but she doesn’t have the chops to bend notes and mess around with the melodic lines like he does.
With that kind of a range Ngoc Ha could have crafted each experience with each album. I would love to hear a whole album of her interpretation of Pham Duy’s songbook or an entire work of folks flavor. Hell, I would even jam to her ballroom record if she cuts one. Let’s just hope that she gets it. Making an album requires more than just throwing a bunch of tunes together with various styles and arrangements.