These days, many Vietnamese male singers, including Bang Kieu and Tran Thai Hoa, attempt to give their performances a smooth-out flavor by rounding up their vocals. Most of them end up in the sissy instead of sexy territory, which irritates my ears. Duc Tuan is one of a few young singers that could pull it off and still maintain his masculinity. In fact, his cocksure technique makes other cats sound like pussies. He has a fervent, handsome, and strong voice with a wide range of emotions, which allows him to bend and glide easily between rough and gloss phrasings.
His interpretation of Pham Duy’s and Trinh Cong Son’s music in Ngam Ngui… Chiec La Thu Phai is fabulously fresh. The album has only six tracks (three from each songwriter), but the quality of the arrangement and performance makes up for the quantity. His rendition of “Toi Ru Em Ngu” starts off with a strumming guitar, and then builds into a full-blown orchestration. The acoustic drumbeat in between gives the tune a contemporary aroma. In contrast to Nguyen Khang’s wry version of Pham Duy’s “Thuyen Vien Xu,” Duc Tuan’s gorgeous legato provides a warm, comforting vibe to the composition. Despite the opposite approach each singer takes, one quality remains in common is the testosterone in their delivery.
After proved his success with classic ballads, Duc Tuan takes on a different direction in Tinh Yeu Trong Sang with brand new songs written and composed by Quoc Bao. I support his bravado in breaking away from his comfort space, but Quoc Bao’s music isn’t suitable for his style. The title track is passable, but the rest is unenergetic. Even in “Dua Em” (a track that Tran Thai Hoa would slaughter), his soothing, relaxing flow isn’t bringing out its liveliness. Worse track on the whole joint is the corny, tacky “Hold On, Baby.” Duc Tuan’s English accent is barely understandable, and Quoc Bao’s lyric is just straight elementary. I could hardly distinguish what he sings, but the words go something like this: “All of the nights that I miss you / All of the stuffs that I gave you / … / Change the right to the wrong / when you leave my love.” I speculate that Quoc Bao tried to write within his limited vocabulary.
Two albums demonstrate where Duc Tuan’s strength is in. Experimentation is excellent, and I don’t expect him to recover old tunes again and again like many do, but he needs to choose his repertoire wisely. He definitely has the right voice and remarkable skills for intimate-atmospheric music.