Having first found fame when he won Việt Nam’s biggest singing competition, Morning Star - Rendezvous, in 2004, Tùng Dương has never seemed to suffer from creative exhaustion. Despite all the difficulties posed by COVID-19, the 37-year-old singer, who has been dubbed the “Divo of Việt Nam”, surprised fans by revealing that his eighth album will be released on December 28. Together with the launch, Dương will also stage two performances to promote the album. The “Divo” spoke with Thúy Hằng about his endless creative energy.
LATEST OFFERING: The cover of Tùng Dương’s new album, ‘Human’.
Inner Sanctum: What motivated you to overcome the difficulties in recent months from COVID-19 lockdown?
I’m quite demanding on myself when I’m working. I always look for a new goal, no matter the achievements of the past. I never feel satisfied with that. People say “the past is history, the future is a mystery, the present is a gift”. For me, the present is whatever we are experiencing, so even if the present is challenging, I know that as long as I keep trying, all the difficulties will end. Everything seemed to stand still during the pandemic, but I was still involved in music. At the end of May, I held a “reunion” with late rocker Trần Lập in a music video entitled Cơn Mưa Tháng 5 (Rain in May). In the video, I duet with the frontman of the famous rock band Bức Tường (The Wall), guitarist and songwriter Trần Tuấn Hùng. I’ve never stopped working or regarded difficulties as obstacles.
MESSAGE TO SEND: Dương hopes the album will provide comfort and positivity.
Inner Sanctum: Your latest album is called “Human”. What is the message you want to send through the album?
Việt Nam’s music scene quietened down during the pandemic, so I was thinking about doing something special. I wanted to create an album that could provide comfort and at the same time send a positive message to the community in the midst of the pandemic and then natural disasters.
With 12 songs from songwriters Duy Hùng, Bùi Caroon and Sa Huỳnh, the concept album was unified by the theme of being dedicated to earthlings. This is also the first time I’ve performed progressive rock, or prog rock. Why prog rock? In the context of many people facing a host of difficulties and maybe lacking positive energy, I think the beats of my music can inspire them to enjoy life. Human honours humanity.
Inner Sanctum: In the era of Industry 4.0, the release of a physical album seems to go against the economics of the music business. Why did you want to release a physical album?
Sure, it’s more convenient for people to listen to music through digital music platforms. That’s why, together with the release of the album in the CD format, Human is also available on iTunes and Spotify. Music lovers can choose how they want to listen to the album.
Though many young singers focus on creating music videos or single albums, I always feel emotional whenever I have a CD in my hand. I know how hard the artists worked in the studio.
Whenever I have the chance to go abroad, one of my favourite pastimes is seeking out rare CDs.
Anyway, I must admit that selling CDs nowadays is more difficult than before. When CDs were still popular, I sold more than 30,000 copies of my albums Những Ô Màu Khối Lập Phương (The Coloured Cubes, 2007) and Li Ti (Tiny, 2010). With Human, I’ve only released 2,000 physical copies but spent a lot of money producing the album.
HONOURING A LEGEND: Dương performing at a concert dedicated to famous Vietnamese composer Trịnh Công Sơn in July.
Inner Sanctum: Many people say your music is not easy to listen to. How would you comment on this latest album?
Like my previous albums, “Human” presents my personality in music. My music is not simply for entertainment, because I want it to be a pioneer, full of creativity. I have my own path to follow. My favourite motto is “Creativity requires courage to give up the familiar”. Many people may think I’m a stubborn and demanding artist. I don’t want to be a singer in the way people think a singer should be. I would die if I had to live like that.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us more about the “Human” concerts?
The concerts are, of course, to promote the album, so will certainly feature some new material. Part of the concerts will be dedicated to “The Red River Four”, which refers to four big names in modern Vietnamese music -- Phó Đức Phương, Trần Tiến, Dương Thụ and Nguyễn Cường -- who have made significant contributions to the local music scene and also played an important role in my career. Thanks to their songs, the audience came to know about me and have given me special affection.
There are also special guests in the third part of the shows, including indie band Ngọt, emerging singer Bùi Lan Hương, and famous songstress Hà Trần, who is currently living in the US.
POPULAR STILL: The singer believes his number of fans is growing every year. Photo courtesy of the artist
Inner Sanctum: While the new album features songs composed by young songwriters, the concerts will present young singer Bùi Lan Hương and the band Ngọt, which consists of young members. Why did you decide to cooperate with these young artists?
They are very talented. I was thrilled by their talent, their life experience, and their professionalism. I’m sure people will be surprised to learn that all of the songs on the album, with heartfelt lyrics and refined melodies, were written by people still in their 20s. Listening to their music can change the way you perceive today’s younger generation.
Inner Sanctum: What is your position in Việt Nam’s music scene?
After a career of nearly 20 years, I have my fans and critics. But the number of fans seems to be growing every year. Though many like to enjoy my creativity, there are others who prefer I just sing ballads. I don’t like calling myself a 'Divo'. All I want is good health and to be able to perform until I’m 70 years old, like American crooner Tony Bennett or my teacher Quang Thọ. I want to look back and be proud of whatever I have contributed to music.
I have spent the past several months on the Human album and concert. I already have ideas for my next musical project. I want to keep myself active all the time. I don’t want to take a break. For me, stopping means taking a step backwards. VNS