Singing Contests: Grand Voice But No Vision

Listening to Ngoc Khue’s Ben Bo Ao Nha Minh on my way to work gives me nostalgia and makes me realize that I haven’t heard a Vietnamese groundbreaking album like this in ages. Out of all the singing contests in Vietnam, Sao Mai Diem Hen 2004 introduced two rare talents up to date: Tung Duong and Ngoc Khue.

Nowadays singing competitions only produced pop singers with grand voice but no vision. Vietnam Idol 2010 Uyen Linh shook up the Vietnamese pop scene. She became an instant phenomenon and yet her new release Giac Mo Toi under producer Quoc Trung’s direction is a disappointment. Rather than taking her far out, Quoc Trung constraints her with pop-rock template. In a year making, he only produced seven tracks for the album and six of them were rerecorded from the contest. The arrangement of “Chi La Giac Mo” takes away the rawness she performed on stage accompanied by simple strumming guitar. Her version of “Sao Chang Ve Voi Em” immediately brings Hong Nhung’s to mind. Her English on Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” is decent, but she hasn’t quite mastered the language’s nuances.

Luong Viet Quang won the people’s vote in Sao Mai Diem Hen 2010 and released his debut titled Can Ban (Basic) under the direction of My Tam. Recognizing his likable voice, My Tam picked out pop ballads like “Dem Nam Mo Pho,” “Boi The Ta Yeu Nhau” and “Doc Thoai.” The minimal, elegant arrangements allow Luong Viet Quang to sing right on the melodies. It makes perfect sense why the album is called Can Ban. Let’s hope that Luong Viet Quang will break out of the basic training in his next release, but I highly doubt it.

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