In his latest double-album, Một Đời Yêu, Hồ Trung Dũng attempts to revive Trịnh Công Sơn’s and Phạm Duy’s classic ballads. Making old music sounds new is definitely encouraged, but tremendous skills and experiences are needed to succeed. Five years into his singing career, Hồ Trung Dũng is still lacking both to take on such big challenges. As a result, he exposes all of his weaknesses on both records.
In most tracks, he sings a bit higher than his range. Unlike Tuấn Ngọc who could achieve this technique with ease, Hồ Trung Dũng struggles to hit the high register. He loses control of his breath and his flow is stilted. In the swing flavor of “Tình Hờ,” he has no clue how to scat. He confuses wordless singing with vocal exercising. In “Hẹn Hò,” he suffers with Đặng Thế Luân’s shaking syndrome. He’s shivering in his phrasing rather than using vibrato.
While keeping the arrangement to the minimal—with just a simple picking electric guitar—is a the ideal approach to Trinh’s tunes, it also reveals the flaws in his vocals. In “Phôi Pha,” he can’t hide the fact that he tries real hard not to break a sweat. In “Đời Gọi Em Biết Bao Lần,” he comes off groaning and whining like an over-sentimental, campy singer.
For what it’s worth, here’s my advice for the youngster: It’s OK to be yourself and it’s absolutely fine to be in your comfort range. Before breaking the rules, you have to learn the rules.