Like most established singers from Việt Nam who settled in America, Hà Trần caught the oversea disease: covering old ballads to death. Hà Trần released the first Tình Ca Qua Thế Kỷ under Thúy Nga productions in 2007. Despite the mechanical arrangements, it was a huge success in bringing her closer to the Vietnamese-American audience that would never give the idiosyncratic side of Hà Trần a chance.
Seven years later she follows up with the sequel under her own label with much better arrangements from Vũ Quang Trung, Ignace Lai and Thanh Phương. Her reinterpretation of “Cho Em Quên Tuổi Ngọc” is one of the best performances of one of Lam Phương’s most covered ballads. She soars like a songbird over the grandiose semi-classical orchestration. Likewise, her rendition of “Hương Xưa” (Cung Tiến) is exceptional. She maneuvers her way around the string-ladden arrangement with ease and emotion. In addition, her excellent take on Từ Công Phụng’s “Giọt Lệ Cho Ngàn Sau” makes me wish she stayed in this orchestrated realm for the entire record.
“Xin Thời Gian Qua Mau,” another one of Lam Phương’s beloved ballads, gets a fresh bossa-nova makeover, but it isn’t quite like the stringed pieces. Both “Ảo Ảnh” (Y Vân) and “Vết Thương Cuối Cùng” (Diên An) don’t have the Hà Trần’s peculiar and the arrangements are stale. The upbeat medley consisted of “60 Năm Cuộc Đời” (Y Vân) and “Nếu Có Yêu Tôi” (Trần Đức Duy & Ngô Tịnh Yên) comes of as an oblivious attempt of making something different. Her silly scatting should have been gutted completely.
Although Tình Ca Qua Thế Kỷ 2 has a few sidetracks, the album is definitely worth listening particularly the semi-classical numbers, the bluesy “Người Em Sầu Mộng” (Y Vân & Lưu Trọng Lư) and the heart-rending, acoustic “Nỗi Lòng Người Đi” (Anh Bằng).