Hồng Mơ’s new release, Khi Tình 30, kicks off with “Đời Cuốn Xa Dần,” which is a typical pop song. She has a decent voice (strong and slightly scratchy), but the record is just average due to mundane melody and predictable production.
Just as I thought that Khi Tình 30 is going be yet another trendy album that pops up everyday in the Vietnamese music scene, the second track surprises me. Her rendition of Phạm Duy’s “Thà Như Giọt Mưa” is a complete transformation. The tune is arranged in bossa nova backdrop and she maneuvers moderately behind the beat. The result is quite mesmerizing even though I wish her phrasings were a bit slower to give more time and attention to the lyrics. She sounds rushed trying to keep up with the timing. She should have taken clue from Ngọc Lan’s version for this record.
Then again her version of Đức Tiến’s “Mây Bay Là Bay Rồi,” is impeccable. The Latin rhythm is a bit slower; therefore, she has enough time and space to devote to the lyrics and she knows how to work her vocals around the hypnotic plucking bass. “Thoáng Thấy Anh” takes a detour to a mid-tempo club beat. Fortunately, “Yêu Nhiều Hơn” returns to the bluesy vibe. “Dối Lừa” (Holy Thắng) digs deeper into the blues and her delivery is quite confident and poignant in conveying the deceived emotion. “Anh Hết Yêu Tôi Từ Lâu,” another tune from Đức Tiến, is my personal favorite and, without a doubt, one of the highlights in the album.
Khi Tình 30 closes out with Nguyễn Văn Khánh’s “Nỗi Lòng.” Hồng Mơ knows damn well that Hồ Ngọc Hà revived this classic with a bluesy makeover; therefore, she (and her producer) made a wise decision to swing it up. The result is quite refreshing. With the exception of “Đời Cuốn Xa Dần” and “Thoáng Thấy Anh,” I am so glad to see Hồng Mơ moves beyond the pop bubbles and explores the jazz territory. As the title is hinted, this album is for 30s and up. She definitely knows her target.