Nguyen Hong Nhung’s latest release, Duong Nhu, displays her maturity in handling classic ballads. From Cung Tien’s “Hoai Cam” to Pham Duy’s “Nghin Trung Xa Cach” to Trinh Cong Son’s “Ru Em Tung Ngon Xuan Nong,” she delivers each song with soulfulness and tastefulness, but still lacking the uniqueness. Because these timeless tunes have been sung to death from generation to generation, they need to be reinvigorated. Singing them straight on the melody just won’t cut it.
The strength of the album isn’t from the classic covers, but from Mai Thanh Son’s compositions. “Duong Nhu” and “Nghiet Nga” blend surprisingly well with the rest of the tracks on the album despite they are written by a young musician. “Duong Nhu” is captivating thanks to the little bluesy keyboard licks in the arrangement. Mai Thanh Son has not only done a wonderful job of producing it, he has also done an excellent of penning the lyrics. “Nghiet Nga” is also well written. The lyrics and the melody are far better than today’s trendy pop tunes.
When Mai Thanh Son appeared on Asia’s stage singing well-known English tunes, I couldn’t figure out why Asia took him under its wing. His weak, virgin voice doesn’t stand out, but now I can see where his real talent is. He is a fantastic arranger, which I had noticed when he produced some tracks for Nguyen Khang’s show. Now his tunes on Nguyen Hong Nhung’s album make me interested in his work behind the scene more than in front of the camera and on the mic. The good thing is that he lets Nguyen Hong Nhung sings his songs. Listening to both of his and her version of “Nghiet Nga,” one can clearly tell that Nguyen Hong Nhung kicked the tune up a notch.