Lauryn Hill Album Reviews

Lauryn Hill was born and raised in New Jersey. She hit the big time, as a member of The Fugees and as a star of Sister Act 2, while still a teenager. Romantic tensions with Wyclef Jean caused the end of The Fugees, and at the age of 23, Hill released The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, which won five Grammies, received immense critical acclaim, and sold prolifically. She also wrote a hit for Aretha Franklin in 1997 – ‘A Rose is Still A Rose’ – and it appeared as if she could do no wrong.

But after such an assured start, Hill’s career faltered. She struggled to handle the pressures of fame, and she had already started a family with Bob Marley’s son Rohan. When she re-emerged as a recording artist, it was with an unplugged album of all-new material, with her own acoustic guitar the only accompaniment, and punctuated by long sermons about her life and beliefs.

Since then, Hill has yet to release a follow-up album; while she’s toured with The Fugees and as a solo artist, and released several singles, she’s also spent time in jail for tax evasion. She remains a talented, compelling figure.

Lauryn Hill Album Reviews

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill


1998, 9/10
Hill recorded her debut largely in Tuff Gong studio in Jamaica. While she’s credited as executive producer, she was later taken to court by the group New Ark, who successfully argued that their influence on the material was greater than the original album credits indicated. Regardless, it’s an assured debut from Hill, who switches effortlessly between singing and rapping, creating a landmark in neo-soul. Perhaps the greatest strength of The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is its combination of autobiographical honesty and effortless commercial appeal.

Hill’s an interesting figure and her lyrics are often compelling – different subjects include her decision to keep her baby in the excellent ‘To Zion’, and relationships with her former Fugees band-mates in ‘Father Forgive Them’. ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ is the obvious single, with its smoothly harmonised hooks, while her remake of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ is punchy and memorable. D’Angelo duets on ‘Everything is Everything’, while Mary J. Blige appears on ‘I Used To Love Him’.

Like a lot of 1990s albums, Miseducation is a little long, but it has a core of terrific songs, and it effortlessly walks a difficult line between commercial appeal and personal authenticity.

MTV Unplugged No. 2.0


2002, 6/10
Instead of bringing in reworked versions of her hits with the Fugees and from her debut album, Lauryn Hill went on a more challenging journey with her Unplugged album. Unplugged is a 105-minute set with just Hill and her acoustic guitar, performing an all-new batch of songs. Many of the songs are long, repetitive and rambling, and significantly, a lot of the running time is given over to Hill’s monologues about her life and struggles with integrity and fame.

The acoustic format only partially plays to Hill’s strengths – she’s certainly not a technically gifted guitarist, mostly utilising simple strumming. But even in this stripped-down format, Hill is still compelling, and her lyrical themes of societal critique are fascinating. It’s difficult to pick individual songs out, as there’s little tonal variation, but her cover of Bob Marley’s ‘So Much Things To Say’ is a pleasant break from her bristly originals.

My rating’s perhaps a little lenient – it’s based on the version in my iTunes, where I only imported the songs and left off the spoken tracks. But despite its limitations, Unplugged is a fascinating statement from a talented artist with a frustratingly small discography.

Return to 1990s Album Reviews


Leave a Reply

More from Aphoristic Album Reviews

Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.

Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

Review Pages

Read about the discographies of musical acts from the 1960s to the present day. Browse this site's review archives or enjoy these random selections:

Sandy Denny Album Reviews

After recording 1969’s landmark folk-rock album Liege & Lief, Fairport Convention splintered. While the band continued, bassist Ashley Hutchings departed to form the more traditional Steeleye Span while vocalist Sandy Denny left to spread her wings as a songwriter. Denny was born in London and trained as a nurse before […]

Run-DMC emerged early in the development of recorded hip hop. They helped to transform the genre from an underground movement with a handful of important singles, like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message’, into big business. They smashed sales records – their debut was the first hip hop […]
Van Morrison Into The Music
Van Morrison Album Reviews

Van Morrison began his career as the vocalist for the Belfast garage-rock band Them, scoring hits with ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here Comes The Night’. After Them disbanded, Morrison’s career stalled with a stint on Bang records, where artistic frustration caused him to produce his infamous contractual obligation sessions, featuring tossed off […]
Jessie Ware Album Reviews

Jessie Ware is the UK’s most likeable mainstream pop star; I struggle with mega-sellers like Adele and Ed Sheeran, but Ware’s low-key personality is adorable. Her 2012 debut Devotion was packed with great songs, but she suffered from diminishing returns with her following releases. She’s roared back into the ‘Spotlight’ […]
The Jam Album Reviews

The Jam was formed by young teens in Woking, a town on the edge of London. Guitarist and songwriter Paul Weller was eventually joined by drummer Rick Buckler and bassist Bruce Foxton. Like many young bands from the era, The Jam gained a record deal in the wake of punk. […]
James Taylor Album Reviews

Introduction With his warm voice, pretty guitar-picking, and introspective songwriting, James Vernon Taylor was the figurehead of the singer-songwriter movement in the early 1970s. His 1968 debut album on The Beatles‘ Apple label flopped, despite featuring one of his best songs ‘Carolina In My Mind’, as well as ‘Something In The Way […]

Blog Posts

I add new blog posts to this website every week. Browse the archives or enjoy these random selections:

Prefab Sprout Steve McQueen Two Wheels Good
10 Best Prefab Sprout Songs

English sophisti-pop band Prefab Sprout date back to 1970s art-rock; leader Paddy McAloon was sent a rejection letter by Brian Eno’s record label in 1976. They didn’t release their debut album Swoon until 1984, by which time the lineup had solidified. Paddy McAloon was joined by his brother Martin on […]
R.E.M. Monster
R.E.M. Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

R.E.M. emerged from Athens, Georgia, part of a fertile scene that also produced The B-52s, Pylon, and Matthew Sweet. They played their first gig in 1980 when the four members were attending the University of Georgia. Drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills had been playing in bands together since […]
Television Adventure
10 Best Television Songs

The band Television emerged from the same CBGB scene that produced Talking Heads, The Ramones, Blondie, and Patti Smith. The group was started by Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, and drummer Billy Ficca. Verlaine and Ficca were childhood friends, while Hell met Verlaine at high school in Delaware. Hell was replaced […]
Lindsey Buckingham Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

It’s difficult to blame Lindsey Buckingham for having a chip on his shoulder. He’s the studio mastermind, the live spark, and the restless creator behind the imperious pop era of Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham is little known by the general public, for whom Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood are the […]
The Go-Betweens Send Me A Lullaby
The Go-Betweens: Albums Ranked from Worst To Best

Brisbane’s The Go-Betweens are one of my favourite bands, but it’s sometimes difficult to explain their appeal. Robert Forster and Grant McLennan are limited as guitarists and vocalists, but they balance each other beautifully; the edgier Forster was a fan of The Velvet Underground, while McLennan was a fan of […]
Crowded House The Very Best Of Recurring Dream
Neil Finn's Five Best Albums

Until the emergence of Lorde, song-smith Neil Finn was New Zealand’s most recognisable pop export. Born in Te Awamutu, Finn was enamoured by the tuneful pop of The Beatles and Elton John. Still a teenager, he joined his brother Tim Finn in Split Enz in 1977, originally as a guitarist. […]
%d bloggers like this: