Hoàng Quyên has a big pipe and a slight raspy timbre. In fact, her voice has a reminiscent of the youthful Thanh Lam’s without vibrato issues. Her rendition of “Em và Đêm” and “Có Đôi” off her debut Cửa Thơm Mùi Nắng, a collaboration with her mentor Lê Minh Sơn, makes you miss the efflorescent Thanh Lam back in the old days. Her phrasing, particularly on the high register, is so much lighter comparing to Thanh Lam’s. Even though vibrato is applied in big notes, she uses them with care and control.
Highlight of the album is the opening “Ngày Em Ra Đời.” The tune, which produced by Lê Minh Sơn himself, has a sensational swing with hypnotic walking bass and Miles-inspired muted trumpet. Another standout number is “À Í A.” Accompanied by Trần Mạnh Hùng’s elegant classical piano, Hoàng Quyên brings out the emotional essence without being operatic like Trọng Tấn.
“Gió Mùa Về,” on the other hand, falls short on range and dynamic. Her version, which has a new rock-up production, is flat comparing to Ngọc Khuê’s contemporary folk-jazz take. In addition, Ngọc Khuê added so much playfulness—pushing her vocals to an uncomfortably high level and pulling back to child-like talking—into her delivery that it would be hard to match.
Nevertheless, Cửa Thơm Mùi Nắng is a strong, solid debut. She can’t go wrong under Lê Minh Sơn’s guidance and Trần Mạnh Hùng’s arrangements. The album, however, doesn’t define the true Hoàng Quyên other than the younger version of Tham Lam. Nothing’s wrong with that. Madeleine Peyroux started out sounding like Billie Holiday, but found her true self as she became mature. Let’s hope that Hoàng Quyên will discover her own voice as well.