Our Take: 5/5 Stars
“The Album of the Year is ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’” said Gordon Thomas during the 41st Grammy Awards. Lauryn Hill walked up to the stage to claim her fifth Grammy of the night. During the time, some viewers were somewhat clueless as to the importance and existence of the album, as it was the first Rap/R&B album ever to win such an honor. However, 20 years later, the album still has a crucial impact on the music industry and the lives of billions across the world.
After leaving the award-winning music group, “The Fugees,” in 1997, Hill would go on to pursue her solo music goals. Later that same year, Hill began writing and working on her critically acclaimed project, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” While working on the album, Hill was pregnant with her first child. Hill stated in an “Ebony Magazine” interview in 1998, “When some women are pregnant, their hair and their nails grow, but for me, it was my mind and ability to create.”
Before the release of her album, she mentioned how, during the time of working on it, she was “very in touch with [her] feelings.” Hill’s sense of emotional vulnerability and transparency is openly shown in her album.
Hill was in a healing period and didn’t hide it in the creation of “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Hill reflects on motherhood, love, heartbreak and spiritual and mental balance throughout the album.
The album begins with a teacher (Ras Baraka) taking attendance. He proceeds down the list and says “Lauryn Hill,” but there’s no response; this opening intro may be an allusion to the album’s title, since Hill may be “miseducated” due to her inability to be mentally open and present in life, like her absence in the classroom.
On “Lost Ones,” Hill reflects on her recent breakup with music artist, Wyclef Jean. The chorus repeats “You might win some but you just lost one,” meaning that Jean may still be successful in his music career, but he has lost Hill, which he will later regret. At the end, it returns to the classroom scene, where students ponder “What is Love?”. This skit sets the mood for much of the album, as the message of love is conveyed throughout most of the album.
The album then transitions to Hill’s “Ex-Factor.” The song opens with a melodic piano and bass pattern. “Ex-Factor” shows Hill’s confusion over why her partner does not put as much effort and love into their relationship as she does.
Hill is not afraid to admit that she is crying out for help and wants her partner to love her as much as she loves him. It is hard for her to fathom the fact that their love for each other will not be mutual.
Hill was not afraid to share the impact her newborn son, Zion, had on her life. On track four, “To Zion,” Hill reflects on how people told her she should abort her son because he would slow down her career.
Hill sings about ignoring naysayers and how her son Zion brought her peace during a depressing time of her life. “To Zion” is followed by another classroom skit in which young students discuss if falling in love has a minimum age after the teacher asks, “How many of you have been in love?”. This may refer to Hill’s son Zion, as she has finally found someone that loves her unconditionally despite him being new to this world.
On the song “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Hill discusses how both men and women are guilty of dating someone simply out of physical attraction and for sexual pleasure. Hill states, “Don’t think I haven’t been through the same predicament” to let her listeners know that she is far from perfect and is even guilty of dating solely for sexual satisfaction; Hill tries to educate her listeners so they do not make the same mistakes she made. “Doo Wop” was favored by many of her fans due to how blunt and straight-forward the message was. In one verse, Hill states, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?”, signaling to her listeners that you can not expect to want someone that has their life put together when you have shortcomings that you have to fix in your life.
In Hill’s ninth track of the album, her confession of vulnerability resurfaces within the album. In the track “I Used to Love Him,” Hill has reached a point in her life where she has officially moved on from this person that she once loved. “I Used to Love Him” is constantly repeated in the chorus, to show that her love for this guy is in the past.
She compared their relationship to the ocean washing the sand away, “He was the ocean, and I was the sand,” stated Hill. This signifies how Hill had been used and taken advantage of, but she has begun to heal and seek better for herself.
In “Nothing Even Matters,” the 12th track of the album, Hill appears to have made this song after falling in love with someone she is dating. Hill sings this song in a duet with D’Angelo. Hill reflects on how despite the trouble in the world around her, she is not bothered because she has found someone that she loves and can see them being together eternally. In this track, Hill appears to be at peace, which is something Hill once struggled with, and can be shown in earlier tracks of the album such as “Ex-Factor.”
Hill ends her album with her final track, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” In a way, this song is Hill’s coming-to-maturity moment. Much of the beginning and middle of the album are about how Hill tries to find love and approval from other people, and she is clueless and lost as to what she is doing wrong.
However, in the final track, Hill’s last verse states, “And deep in my heart, the answer, it was in me. And I made up my mind to define my own destiny.” Hill is illustrating that she has searched for love and peace in every place and was distraught about coming up short every time, but she has come to realize that peace and love are from within.
Lauryn Hill’s unique sense of vulnerability and discovery for love and peace aided “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in being such a deeply interpreted album. The album puts listeners through a rollercoaster of emotions while successfully educating them on how to approach love, inner peace and discovering oneself.