Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha (Sunny on the Other Side) Review

To follow up with the enormous success of Ngoc Lan's solo videotape, Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh (As If I've Always Loved You), Tran Thang, the CEO and co-founder of May Productions, and Ngoc Lan once again collaborated and came up with a sophomore vehicle, Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha (Sunny on the Other Side).  Undoubtedly, there had been high anticipation given the unprecedented record of sales from Ngoc Lan's first solo videotape released back in 1990.  Nearly everyone among overseas Vietnamese audiences, including myself, couldn't wait to see what May Productions and Ngoc Lan would come out with in the years to come and if the level of success enjoyed from Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh would ever be matched or surpassed.  Such a task was deemed quite plausible for Ngoc Lan's video works, since the public had already seen such an example in her career as a recording artist a few years prior.  This was, of course, in reference to the enormous success of her 2nd solo studio album, Nguoi Yeu Dau (1987), which had become the biggest selling solo studio album ever recorded by an overseas Vietnamese recording artist, that would be nearly matched the following year with the release of her third solo studio album, L'amour Tinh Ta, which rounded out as the highest selling album for the Giang Ngoc label of the year in 1988.  For a brief while, L'amour Tinh Ta held the position of being the 2nd biggest selling solo studio album recorded by an overseas Vietnamese artist, right behind Nguoi Yeu Dau.  For an artist to hold both first and second places among the best selling studio albums in the Vietnamese music industry, as was the case of Ngoc Lan, is simply astounding to say the least.  During the latter part of the 1980s and beginning years of the 1990s, it can arguably be said that the overseas Vietnamese music industry was pretty much dominated by Ngoc Lan.

Music video productions among the Vietnamese music industry had just started to grow into fruition. The tremendous impact that music videos had made within the American mainstream music industry from the early 1980s and the birth of MTV music video channel had revolutionized world music altogether. Singers were then regarded as movie stars, as audiences now would identify a singer with not only his or her signature song but also as the star of a particular mini-movie known as a music video made for the song.  The same effect would also take place among Vietnamese singers.  Michael Jackson, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper have been accredited as the first major stars of American and world pop music videos.  Among Vietnamese singers, undoubtedly it was Ngoc Lan.

Although Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh had been so well received by Vietnamese audiences worldwide, it had received some criticism for its lack of artistic value.  Ngoc Lan indeed looked beautiful, as the camera crew of May Productions had managed to capture her essence and physical beauty for the entire world to see.  But the storyline behind the music videos featured on Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh were either weak, if not non-existent.  Aside from Khi Co Chang (Je Ne Suis Que de L'amour), the storyline on the rest of the music videos from Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh really did not make any sense. Nevertheless, we enjoyed watching them.  I'd have to say my favorite video was Doi Cho (Johnny, Johnny).  I guess you can say that would be one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures in music videos.  I loved watching how beautiful Ngoc Lan looked, how playful she was with her cute style of dancing, and even the endearing silliness of her trying to dance while standing knee deep in water of some lake.  But just what in the hell was the video all about?  Who cares?  It was more than enough for us viewers how Ngoc Lan looked so sexy dancing and changing into different wardrobes throughout the song, but toward the end of the song, we see a streetlight that shifts from the colors green, yellow and ultimately, red.  Ngoc Lan walks slowly to approach a door that would open to some mysterious room.  And just as she was about to enter, she faints and drops to the ground.  That was the music video of Ngoc Lan singing Johnny, Johnny.  It's rather funny and completely silly, but so what?  We all loved it and just couldn't get enough of Ngoc Lan.

Among the songs selected to be made into music videos featured on Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha, May Productions worked with an innovative Vietnamese-American musician, Alan Nguyen.  Unlike the videos produced on Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh, for the most part the music videos featured on Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha had each been produced and shot with a bit more of a storyline and seemed like each video had an actual script.  Actually, all but one out of the six music videos on Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha seemed to have had a script.  I'll hold off on disclosing which of the six it was because I have a feeling many of our readers already have a pretty good idea which music video I'm referring to here.  If you're not completely sure which video I'm referring to, just read on and before you are finished reading this entire post, you'll know which one I am talking about right now and hopefully will understand my reasons for thinking this way about this music video for this particular song.

Dang Tran Thuc, as in all the music videos for Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh, once again served as the director of this Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha.  Would you believe that Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen, the star of Paris By Night videos series presently, had also worked on this project as assistant director?  There is no doubt in my mind that she had contributed a lot of input to the making of this videotape.  I'm just really surprised that Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen had managed to remain as assistant director of this project rather than take over as the director, judging from my own few experiences working with her in the past.  I don't mean that in a negative way.  It's just that, based on my observations of Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen, she seems like a perfectionist and a take-charge type of individual.  But whoever it should be accredited to, I must say that the brave attempts at being innovative on this videotape production are rather impressive.  But keep in mind, this was still a Vietnamese music video production where no matter what, the star would always have to appear at all times looking flawlessly beautiful.  The production team behind May Productions was fully aware of that. Therefor, Ngoc Lan would appear in full make-up at all times, regardless if she was portraying someone imprisoned, a mental ward patient, or even a girl who had just woken up in the morning. That is just the absolute requirement by Vietnamese law universally understood in the field of entertainment, a law permanently set in stone with no possibility of amendment what so ever.  Every Vietnamese person on earth is aware of this law from as early on as childbirth and refers to such more so as common knowledge.  Put it this way, to Vietnamese people, the likelihood of man one day being able to sprout wings and fly like birds is much greater than a Vietnamese singer or actress ever appearing on stage or the big screen without any make-up.  The latter would just be humanly impossible.

The first music video featured on this volume was Mua Thu Ru Em, a song written and composed by Duc Huy.  I really enjoyed this one. However, as I've noticed, this did not fair out so well with the Vietnamese general audience simply because Ngoc Lan did not appear in the video wearing any glamorous wardrobes.  From beginning to end, she was seen dressed in the costume of a cave girl.  I thought she looked seductive.  But for a singer to appear on video not wearing a designer evening gown filled with sequins is just an impossible sale with Vietnamese audiences.  That is just how it goes.

Three of the six in total videos on this videotape were made for three original songs:  Mal de Toi, Prisoner of Love, and Whenever You Come To Me, all written and composed by Alan Nguyen for Ngoc Lan.  Ngoc Lan's voice was in top form in the audio recordings of these three songs from Alan Nguyen, and each of the videos for these songs would contain ample footage of Ngoc Lan looking sensational and glamorous changing in and out of one beautiful wardrobe after another.  Therefor, it was really of no surprise that these three music videos of Alan Nguyen-penned new songs were sure shot favorites with Vietnamese audiences.  Ngoc Lan obviously had good taste in clothing, and as always looked great in every wardrobe she was seen wearing on video.  But I must concede, especially in the music video for Mal de Toi, it would have been a whole lot better if May Productions had hired a professional choreographer to help her out, or at least enrolled Ngoc Lan in some professional dance lessons.  Just watching Ngoc Lan looking cute, smiling and wiggling back and forth while lip synching the lyrics to Johnny, Johnny on Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh was charming enough to make Vietnamese audiences love and adore Ngoc Lan even more and deem the video as enjoyable to watch and entertaining.  However, the same approach did not work on Mal de Toi, as the lack of choreography was quite apparent and Ngoc Lan's limited dance moves just simply got old before even the first minute into the video.  She looked really bored trying to dance by herself in front of the camera.  But could anyone blame her?

Whenever You Come to Me is a lovely song written and composed by Alan Nguyen with a gentle melody and beautiful lyrics both in English and Vietnamese.  Yes, Ngoc Lan was seen in this video singing in English.  There had been no question that Ngoc Lan's singing in the French language was an exceptional trademark of hers and how she had been so successful with her recorded covers of French love songs where her French sounded as effortless as her Vietnamese.  But up until then, it had seemed that English was a language she often struggled with on many of her recordings of American love songs.  Her performance with Whenever You Come to Me, as well as Prisoner of Love are clear examples that she had indeed come a long way with the English language.  Her pronunciation in English with these two songs were a far cry from Casablanca recorded on her first solo studio album and other songs she had recorded in English from her earlier days.  This was just another example of how Ngoc Lan had grown as an artist.

Like in her first solo videotape, Ngoc Lan chooses to round out this second solo videotape with a classic Vietnamese tune; a popular song written by Tuan Khanh, Noi Niem.  This decision and the art direction of the music video to Noi Niem seemed too much like a replica of Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh, in which the final music video was of the song written by Trinh Cong Son, Tuoi Da Buon.  Just like how Tuoi Da Buon had been the least entertaining video on Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh,  in my opinion, Noi Niem was the least entertaining and most uneventful out of the six music videos featured on Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha. 

The one video I found to be rather ridiculous with an unclear storyline, and can even be downgraded to being utterly ridiculous the more times I've watched it, was Mua Dong Sap Den.  Years ago, I had heard Ngoc Lan's recorded version of this song on a compilation cassette of Duc Huy songs consisting of several other female recording artists like Kieu Nga, Thuy Vi, Bich Ha, Nhu Mai and Ngoc Lan, entitled as Em! released under Da Lan music label.  I didn't care much for Ngoc Lan's delivery of this song.  This song had also been recorded by Khanh Ha on her solo studio album, Ngay Ngat Ben Anh (1987), released by Diem Xua Productions, which would later be retitled as Coi Tinh when it was released on compact disc.  Khanh Ha's superb rendition of Mua Dong Sap Den has since then overshadowed all others.  Out of all the songs Ngoc Lan had recorded throughout her career, Mua Dong Sap Den would be one of my least favorites.  Her vocals for this song seemed rather lifeless and mundane.  The art direction and storyline on the music video of Ngoc Lan's version of Mua Dong Sap Den only further perpetuated my sentiment.  Besides two very brief footages of Ngoc Lan walking in the snow in this video, which would represent something having to do with winter at least, most of the clips put together for this song seemed like a mishmash of seasons and events totally without any sort of correlation.  I couldn't help but wonder just what the scriptwriter, editor and director of this video were all trying to do with Mua Dong Sap Den.  In the music video for this song, Ngoc Lan was seen walking on the beach, lying on a hammock on what seemed like a hot summer day, wearing a backless dress out in the desert, and attending an outdoor wedding as the guest who catches the bouquet thrown by the bride.  Now keep in mind, this was a song called Mua Dong Sap Den (Coming Winter).  After watching the music video several times, I guess, all I can say is, well, uh.... perhaps the only thing that would have made it totally complete would be if Ngoc Lan had appeared wearing a bathing suit on some tropical island and then maybe a few clips of Ngoc Lan dressed as either a nun or can-can dancer walking along the Seine River.  In other words, huh?

Ngoc Lan's sophomore video effort, Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha, upon its release generated high sales, unsurprisingly.  Despite its greater artistic value, the popularity of Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha would not match anywhere near the massive level Ngoc Lan had enjoyed with her first solo videotape, Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh.  Although Ngoc Lan did look beautiful on this videotape, she just didn't appear as glamorous as she did in Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh.  I believe that was probably one of the main factors of it being not as popular as her first solo videotape.  Nevertheless, Mat Troi Ben Kia did turn out to be a successful vehicle for both May Productions and Ngoc Lan.  It was well received by the audience, especially among her loyal fans, and was in no way a discredit to Ngoc Lan as a Vietnamese music video star.  It just wasn't as grand as Nhu Em Da Yeu Anh.

By the way, all six of these songs featured on this videotape would be released on compact disc by May Productions almost a decade later.  The title given to this compact disc would also be Mat Troi Ben Kia Mua Ha and would include six other songs Ngoc Lan had recorded for May Productions that had yet to be released.  Although it would technically be Ngoc Lan's 11th solo studio album, in actuality this was more like a compilation album consisting of some of Ngoc Lan's recorded songs at different times for May Productions.  This album was released in 1999 by May Productions, when Ngoc Lan was no longer actively recording for the label.  

No comments:

Post a Comment