Lauryn Hill unplugged equals a sad, uninspiring career meltdown
It’s been four years since the release of her 6-million selling Grammy blockbuster, which redefined the confluence of soul and hip-hop like no album before it.
Lauryn Hill feels a need to explain why she has virtually disappeared since then. So on her first release since “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” she explains and explains and explains enough to stretch it to an overblown double-disc set (with a list price of $20): “MTV Unplugged No. 2.0.”
Aside from the rambling (which could have been transcribed on liner notes if she thought it was so necessary to include), there are the songs: embryonic, half-formed, unfinished in many cases; same-sounding when they are.
All are sung with a hoarse voice to an acoustic guitar and what seem to be the same chords over and over.
The Lauryn Hill we knew before, she claims, was not really her. This is the real her: apparently, India.Arie.
Actually the closer model is the specter of her father-in-law, singing an acoustic “Redemption Song” (she does include a straight cover of Bob Marley his “So Much To Say,” besides the traditional reggae song “Conquering Lion”).
Quoting the Bible, relating her breakdown from the tyranny of success, she lets her voice crack as a way to show she’s keeping it real. Real unprofessional.
As intriguing as a preview of new songs might be for “MTV Unplugged,” it’s dismaying that the ragged versions are considered finished. The record company is obviously cutting bait; letting these songs out in any form they must be sure they’ll never be finished in a studio.
And that makes the album a remarkable artifact of total career meltdown.