Ly Hai, the hommie from the lovely little town called My Tho (my hometown), is a slow burner. He doesn’t make too much noise in the music scene, but somehow has managed to stay around for years while many young faces flash then pop like lightning bolts. He is well adapted to the current trends. His style reflects whatever the hottest music young listeners are into. His successes were Chinese-inflected ballads, and he translated most of the tunes. Now hip-hop is vibing up in Viet Nam, and so he is right there with her. The problem is that he can only create imitated hip-hop hits, which are far more artless than those Chinese melodies.
With his latest album, Thien Duong Co Em, he enervates not one but two popular ballads with hip-hop/trance/dance remix. In both Y Van’s “Thoi” and Duc Huy’s “Nguoi Tinh Tram Nam,” Ly Hai’s moderate flows are in one direction while the booty-shaking beats are in another. The synchronization is nowhere to be found. In addition, the nursery rhymes from guest MCs are irritating. Fellows, please respect the cultures (both Vietnamese and hip-hop). The title track, which is written by Duy Manh who is obsessed Chinese music, is sported by a cotton-candy tune harmonized with the computer-manipulated vocals. The end result is as flavorless as a piece of chewed bubblegum.
The whole record is a dud except for Xuan Hong’s “Doi Mat” (“Pair of Eyes”), which has straightforward but uplifting lyrics: “Me cho em doi mat sang ngoi / de nhin doi va de lam duyen / Doi cho em doi mat mau den / de thuong, de nho, de ghen, de hon” (“Mom gave me a pair of bright eyes / to look at life and to be charming / Life gave me a pair of black eyes / to love, to miss, to envy, to resent”). Ly Hai’s delivery is compelling, and the production is engaging. If he focuses his energy on more meaningful songs like “Doi Mat,” I wouldn’t be so condemning.