Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
A searingly honest, deeply wrung portrait of a great artist at her peak
Wanting to shed the sexist perception that fellow Fugee and ex-boyfriend Wyclef Jean had shaped her, Lauryn Hill retaliated by creating one of the best albums of the 90s. "Music is supposed to inspire," she sings on "Superstar" — perhaps to Jean, her failed svengali, perhaps to her label bosses, perhaps to her own demanding audience. "So how come we ain't getting no higher?" She then sets out to answer the question for herself.
Like Marvin Gaye's epic albums of the 1970s, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" is an emotionally raw set of performances. Hill's voices proliferate, sometimes moving in unison or harmony, sometimes commenting on or responding to one another, sometimes pleading, preaching, declaring and doubting all at once.
The incendiary, hard-rocking "Lost Ones," the witty, winning "Doo Wop (That Thing)," the angry, avenging "Final Hour," and the sweetly remembered "Every Ghetto, Every City" are her moments of clarity. But for the rest of the record, she works through the confusion and ambivalence wrought by love and betrayal — never more intensely than on "Ex-Factor" and "I Used To Love Him." Even the songs about uplift, like "Tell Him," "Everything Is Everything" and "Forgive Them Father," are rooted in the possibility things truly might not improve.
"The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" reached its commanding heights only by ruthlessly plumbing the depths. It remains a searingly honest, deeply wrung portrait of a great artist at the peak of her powers.