Music Written & Performed by: Lauryn Hill
Directed by: Joe DeMaio
Released by: Sony
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
My Advice: Avoid it.
Lauryn Hill is an extremely talented woman. Not only can she act, and not only can she rap, but she can sing nearly to bring down Jesus. Her work with the Fugees created some great material, most notably their album The Score. Then, her solo effort, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was host to some stellar tunes. Now comes her MTV Unplugged appearance–and I have to tell you I couldn’t be more disappointed. I’m not sure what happened to the Lauryn Hill whose work I respected…but this isn’t her.
The person who has replaced her is a singer that rambles incessantly between songs discussing really bad self-help platitudes and half-baked personal philosophies. Obsessed with keeping it real, whatever that means, Hill drones on and on, trying to deal with her issues in front of an audience directly–instead of doing it through song. There’s a fine line between poetry and therapy, and Hill deliberately and shamelessly crosses it.
[ad#longpost]Now, given a certain amount of talent and skill, I find myself willing to overlook certain bouts of egomania and general celebrity whackiness. For example, Prince (in whatever incarnation) is a consummate musician who can play something like forty-seven instruments and has invented ten of them–so I’m willing to forgive more from that guy than most. So if the songs Hill was presenting between waxing and waning (and sometimes whining) were choice, then I could deal to a greater degree. But unfortunately, this new version of Hill provides songs that are musically listless (and sound like everything you’ve heard before) along with lyrics that exhibit no symptoms of subtlety whatsoever. As a result, it’s a forgettable evening spent with a musician who appears to be so full of herself that her formerly formidable talent has become hermetically sealed inside her.
There are no special features to help out with this release, which is also a shame. As a result, the performance stands alone–or wavers and leans against a chair alone, however you wish to think of it. If Hill had spent more time developing another album of worthy material instead of working so hard at “being herself”–which appears to be comprised of constantly staring into a very boring cosmic omphalos–then we might have something to talk about here. But, alas, we don’t. Pass this one up, friends.