Lauryn Hill MTV Unplugged 2.0

The verdicts returned on this record have varied wildly. While some have dismissed it as self-indulgent, others have termed it a brave record. The reality is somewhere in between. Hill is clearly in a transitory state and she constantly appears to be talking herself through this on the record. She seems disillusioned by her success and things like the lawsuit over writing credits on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean telling every journalist that would listen about their affair. Armed solely with an often cracking voice and an acoustic guitar, Hill goes to great pains to appear normal, reiterating this to her captive audience at every opportunity. It probably translates better on the televised version than it does on record; the second CD opens ignominiously with her talking for 12 minutes before playing another song. Because all the songs, except for Bob Marley's "So Much Things to Say," are new, virtually each track is prefaced by an introduction, weighing down any of the momentum built by the previous song. Her rudimentary guitar playing means that some tracks are virtually indistinguishable from others, apart from the lyrics, and her mistakes are front and centre. Someone less popular would probably not have been able to get away with this. That said, the actual lyrical content of these songs is worth checking out. "Mystery of Iniquity," "Adam Lives In Theory" and "Mr. Intentional" are forthright and strong doses of "reality," one of Hill's favourite words. The whole affair is as tedious as it is endearing, yet it's not quite the suicidal career move some are calling it. Rather, it's a filtering device that will send those that first heard Hill through media entities like MTV scurrying. Those who still pump the "Nappy Heads" remix will probably stick around to see what happens next. (Columbia)