Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Miseducation of Lauryn's Legend

"The record company is the pimp
The artist is the hoe
The stage is the corner
and the audience is the trick..."


It's been little over a week now since L.Boogie's latest artistic meltdown at Oakland's Paramount Theartre. I decided not to go at the last minute, but reports from those who witnessed the event call it tragic, at best. The show started over two hours late, the band got no love, and Hill's physical stamina was breathtakingly absent. After the first set, it's said that around 100 folks were in the lobby screaming at concert promoters to refund their money. A review in the Chronicle describes the scene:

"Her hair in an unkempt rust-colored Afro, Hill wore a green-and-yellow plaid jacket that appeared to be made of wool and an ankle-length black skirt, looking not unlike a bag lady one might encounter at a taco truck on International Boulevard. She held a microphone in her right hand and a black handkerchief in her left, frequently wiping sweat from her face as she paced the stage.

At one point during the show, the singer tripped and fell, landing flat on her backside. "That's what I get for wearing high heels," she said as she rose to her feet."

Another review posted on the Bay Area concert blog ibabuzz goes even further in its condemnation:
How bad was this concert? Well, calling it a fiasco would be an insult to fiascos everywhere. It was bad enough to send 75 to 100 fans into the lobby only four songs into the set, all of them grumbling loudly and demanding refunds. Those were the smart ones _ the rest of us remained in our seats and watched what amounted to a two-hour train wreck."

I'm an ardent Hill supporter, not necessarily because of the consistency in her repertoire of music, but more out of an appreciation for the timing and influence of her most well known work. After a performance like last week's it's certainly valid to level criticism her way, especially after some folks paid the equivalent of a car note for tickets. As a performer, a professional, it's important --no, crucial -- to deliver to fans the material they paid for.

At the same time, being a fan also carries with it a certain level of responsibility. That responsibility includes being conscious of what you're spending your money on. Let's be real: The Meltdown of Lauryn Hill is just as notable as her grammy-winning success. Her last album was the controversial unplugged series, and even that was close to a decade ago. If Hill's performance was as tragic as most folks are saying, it's even more tragic that after years of hiatus, well documented diva-style outbursts and self-proclaimed musical changes that anyone would expect the Lauryn of old, in baggy jeans and short dreads, to get up on stage and belt "Doo Wop" to fan's delight.

At the end of the day, she's a woman, a young woman (only 32 years old), still going through the transformations life and circumstance dictate. It's unfortunate that her musical caliber isn't up to par, at least not to a level that resonates with even open-minded music heads. But the old Lauryn ain't coming back. If you want the old harmony of The Score or Miseducation, I'd suggest picking up a pair of headphones instead of trying to box an ordinary woman into the narrow parameters of stagnant superstardom.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

For as many horror stories as I have heard about Hill, I'm probably going to have to witness it for myself before I give up on her.

People declared her "done" and "crazy" after her Unplugged release, but I still listen to that album. Though it's an unpopular opinion, I adore its raw, introspective feel; it's nice to see someone actually thinking about issues, even at the points when I didn't entirely agree with the content.

"She's no more crazy than me," I used to say. I'm not sure I'd be willing to declare that anymore given that she's widely considered completely loony and I no longer have enough information on her to justify the assertion with any compentency.

She most recently had a song on one of those animated penguin movies' soundtrack called "Lose Yourself." It's not great or even classic Lauryn, but I've enjoyed hearing her voice lent to something new finally. Have you heard it? You can find it via Hype Machine. I'm having trouble determining whether the lyrics hold deep significance to the situation you speak of or if it is modeled after every other pop song. As usual, I'm choosing to give Hill the benefit of the doubt.