A Visualgui.com reader asked me if I’ve heard of Ngoc Anh and if I have to recommend one of her albums, which one would it be? I told him Ngoc Anh was a member of 3A group, and she has a strange scratch, which I adore, in her voice; however, I could not recommend any of her albums because I have not listen to any of them. So this is an opportunity to give Ngoc Anh a try. After a few minutes visiting her site and looking at her records, Ngoc Anh Online jumps right at me. It’s her latest album. The title is cheesy but catchy, and I like it because “online” refers to the web. What can I say? I like anything that has to do with the web.
Ngoc Anh caught my attention when she sang “Anh Da Khac Xua” (You’ve Changed) on Do Bao’s Canh Cung (Bow’s Wing), which featured various artists including Tran Thu Ha, Khanh Linh, and Ho Quynh Huong. Unlike these female musicians who gave Do Bao’s romantic compositions soft and sweet sounds, Ngoc Anh brought the roughness and bitterness into his work with her raspy voice. “Anh Da Khac Xua” is also featured on this album along with Do Bao’s “Bai Hat Cho Em” (A Song For You). “Anh Da Khac Xua” fits Ngoc Anh like a pair of tight jeans because the song requires deep emotions and she has it in her vocals; however, the sugary and chocolaty “Bai Hat Cho Em” fits songbird Khanh Linh better. Ngoc Anh’s style is superior on the hard-rock rendition of Ngoc Dai and Ngoc Oanh’s “Canh Dieu” (Kite’s Wing) and the trance-remixed version of Kim Ngoc’s “Chi La Giac Mo” (Only a Dream).
Lately, Duc Huy’s songs are being covered by a number of young singers in Viet Nam such as Dam Vinh Hung, Thu Minh, and Hien Thuc. Unfortunately, only Thu Minh can revived Duc Huy’s “Va Con Tim Da Vui Tro Lai” (And The Heart is Happy Once Again) with a bit of freshness. Other singers in Viet Nam, including Ngoc Anh, are still not able to match those in the States. Ngoc Anh’s rendition of “Nhu Da Dau Yeu” (Like We Have Loved) lacks the crispness and soulfulness that Ngoc Lan and Don Ho had brought to the work. Both Ngoc Anh and Hien Thuc could not express “Dung Xa Em Dem Nay” (Don’t Leave Me Tonight) as lithe and sultry as Duc Huy’s wife, Thao My. Since Duc Huy’s compositions were born in the States, they should stay in the States.
Online may not be a strong album for song selections, but Ngoc Anh’s gravel voice is always a pleasure to listen to, and the polished productions from Do Bao, Thanh Phuong, and Huy Tuan help too. She turns Phu Quang and Thai Thang Long’s “Muon” (Late) into a hot club joint, and delivers a heart-wrenching, soul-stirring emotion on Phu Quang and Nguyen Trong Tao’s “Mot Dai Kho, Mot Toi” (One Foolish, One Me). I am feeling her gravel timbre: crack on the surface but smooth underneath.