Lauryn Hill

MTV Unplugged No. 2.0

  • Columbia

After the phenomenal success of her Grammy–winning 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill the singer/songwriter had choices to make.

The safe thing for Hill to do would have been to try and recreate that masterpiece the next time around, or maybe even dig back to some of the hip-hop splendor she crafted during her ground-breaking days with The Fugees.

Instead, she's gone in a totally opposite direction, stripping down her sound to just her own acoustic guitar and voice for this sprawling set of 13 new songs.

Recorded live before an MTV audience last July, it is most definitely unadorned, at times raw but frequently filled with deep emotion. The lyrics are soul-searching as well, and dominated by songs of faith, such as “Oh Jerusalem” and the stirring “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind.”

At times though, Hill's impulses get the best of her, most notably during the seven spoken-word interludes on the album. These aren't just brief introductions, but frequently long, often rambling discourses about faith, fame, freedom, and other subjects dear to Hill's soul. “Interlude 5,” for example, runs more than 12 minutes by itself, and includes Hill philosophizing about everything from the gospel to why so many marriages end in divorce to what it's like behind the scenes at Disney World.

She is one fascinating woman but there's an air of self-indulgence that surfaces too often during moments such as those. Hill's far better when she simply lets the songs speak for themselves.

Kevin O'Hare

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