2020 Grammys

Vietnam's Vu Cat Tuong Reveals Softer 'Inner Me' With Bilingual Third Album

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Tang Tang/Billboard Vietnam
Vu Cat Tuong 

Singer, songwriter and music producer Vu Cat Tuong -- one of the most famous names in Vietnam's music industry today -- possesses a powerful voice and has the ability to write and compose songs in styles from R&B to soul, blues and electropop, alongside emotional pop ballads.

Her two previous albums, "Giải Mã (Decode)" and "Stardom," received many accolades from both her fans and peers in the music industry. She has already won two prestigious Vietnamese music awards and was honored in Forbes Vietnam's Top 30 Under 30.

If that isn't enough, she has also successfully organized two of her own sold-out concerts: 2017's Birthday Concert and Stardom Concert the following year. And, to close out 2019, she sold out another night with her most-recent third concert, Inner Me, marking the release of her third album of the same name.

Released in November 2019, Inner Me is her first bilingual album and took a lot of effort to get it right. This milestone in her songwriting displays an ability to write and perform for an international audience.

If her second album, Stardom, was meant to be gutsy, bold and strong, Inner Me reveals a softer, more vulnerable side. The eight songs on the album were carefully selected from a list of 30 songs. "The Old You," "Ticket For Two" and "Yours" are entirely in English.

"Singing in English is difficult; writing English music is even harder," she shared. For the album's five songs in Vietnamese, she recalled past emotions and memories.

Along with the difficulty of translating her emotions into English, she admitted that she knew nothing about working with a foreign production team: "Benjamin James and Michael Choi (the album's producers) had to hold my hand and guide me on how to sing in English and to reflect my emotions into it at the same time. I was concerned that my pronunciation might not be clearly heard and understood.

"I had to keep trying to get it right and at least to have a good first step where I have tried my best. From here on, I will have to keep trying if I want to continue to reach out to an international audience."

The recording of Inner Me marked another "first" of many milestones for Vu Cat Tuong. It was recorded both in Vietnam and Los Angeles, at the United Recording studio where many legends such as Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and The Red Hot Chili Peppers have recorded.

She credits producer Michael Choi, who worked on both Inner Me and 2018's Stardom. "After the album Stardom, Michael realized that I had not reached my limit yet, and that I could go further if given the opportunity, so he got me started on writing and singing in English, and then to record the album in the U.S.

"As a young artist like me, and when presented with such an opportunity, I knew I had to accept the challenge, and to push myself to deliver, to prove to myself that I could do it. Michael set me up to work with an amazing crew of the most professional musicians, who helped and guided me every step of the way.

"Sure, there were difficulties and countless retakes. But I chose and decided I wanted to do this, to break out of my comfort zone and to work with this amazing crew to deliver the best product I could ever deliver."

Vu Cat Tuong once shared that she wanted to be like a "free prince" in her very own world, and Inner Me a land of ambition, recklessness and full of new things for her to learn and experience, a land of new travels and adventures.

She spent more time and effort than ever before to create the album, because she wanted to take the first step to reach an international audience with good songs that she wrote herself, that would get the attention of this new audience and hopefully start to build a new fanbase outside Vietnam.

She shared that Inner Me is not her comfort zone. "I am a creative beast, and each of my creations must have a sense of purpose, or be able to sympathize with a certain community," she explained. "As 'Leader' (the lead single from Stardom) was a different step for me, but to me, I wanted to show that I embrace change to forge a different path.

"That path has now brought me here, where I am able to embark on a new journey with a bilingual album where I have a lot of new plans for this album. Therefore, this is not a 'safe zone' for me which I could have taken, but a new step into uncharted territory, of which I am very excited to take."

Her producer Michael Choi shared that helping and supporting Vu Cat Tuong break through will inspire other young Vietnamese artists who need a role model: "Vu Cat Tuong dares to engage and take risks," he said. "I see the potential and power of Vu Cat Tuong, and hopefully her music would be able to reach the world's ears and take off from there, and I applaud her for wanting to take that first step."

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