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Columbia Music Video presents
"Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need."
DVD ReviewThe Fugees burst onto the hip-hop scene in the mid-1990s and developed a unique combination of poignant, jazzy raps and melodic vocals. Released in 1996, The Score was one of the premier releases of the decade and promised great things for Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras. Surprisingly, all three artists moved apart instead and attained great success through solo ventures. Hill achieved remarkable critical acclaim with 1998's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which combined slow, emotional tunes with danceable hip-hop jams. The album garnered five Grammys® and a score of other awards while selling 12 million copies worldwide. Following relentless touring, Hill basically dropped out of the spotlight and left fans scratching their heads. She returns with Lauryn Hill: MTV Unplugged 2.0, but her outlook and methods have changed considerably in the past few years.
Lauryn Hill and her former band-mates have often injected social commentary into their music. However, the statements generally played over enjoyable beats and utilized wonderfully produced vocal tracks. For this performance, she removes all of the additives and presents the self-described "real" version of herself. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, Hill appears dressed in jeans and a yellow sweater. A bandana and Yankees cap rest on her head, and the attire probably resembles what she wears relaxing at home with the kids. The setting is very intimate, with only a small group of enthusiastic fans sitting on the floor.
This setlist contains no familar tracks from Hill's gigantic debut album. In several lengthy interludes, she candidly discusses the tremendous alterations that have occurred within her mindset. The songs are about "me first" and discovering reality amid the public illusion. Her statements resound strangely because they express a new humility, but also seem haughty at the same time. While Hill discusses numerous issues following each track, it becomes clear that her intentions are noble. However, sometimes letting the lyrics speak for themselves might be more effective. Adam Lives in Theory focuses on the obstacles humans face every day that blind them, leading them to follow untrue causes. Similar to most of the new tracks, its content is heavy and troubling, but also compelling at the same time. Oh Jerusalem also discusses wickedness and deception in an extremely personal manner. Religious items exist in much of her writing and reveal a primary relationship with God.
Near the middle of the set, Hill spends a considerable amount of time discussing the origins of I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel). Once again, she lays it on a bit too thick in stressing her own importance. Luckily, she does tone it down a bit as the night progresses and generates some wonderful moments. One highlight occurs during I Gotta Find Peace of Mind—a heartfelt piece that brings Hill to tears. Following the track, her words seem more down-to-earth and resonate well. The 12-minute interlude is an enjoyable sidebar as she jokes about her husband while he searches for a notebook of lyrics. The remainder of the show moves quickly and often displays Hill's considerable talents. Mystery of Iniquity offers a powerful rap about tough issues within the current judicial system, and I Remember showcases some quiet compassion. The set concludes with a nice cover of Bob Marley's So Much Things to Say and an adaptation of the traditional song The Conquering Lion. Hill finishes on a high note and reveals a genuine nature not always apparent in the past. Who knows what she'll do next?
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: This feature appears in a full-frame transfer that springs from its television origins. The picture is clear and effectively presents this concert in a simple manner. Oddly, some camera angles fail to mesh with the lighting used and portray Hill in awkward colors. I did not see its original televised airing, so I cannot say if this appeared in the broadcast. Overall, this is solid transfer that does its job without attaining a truly high level of clarity.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: This disc contains a decent 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track that allows Hill's voice to spring fully from the speakers. It utilizes the surround speakers nicely and creates an intimate experience of being in the audience. Probably due to its TV origins, the sound is not as clear as some of its musical peers on DVD. This could also relate to the simpler nature of the acoustic show in terms of the instruments used. A 2.0-channel PCM stereo transfer also exists and emits a pleasant sound. While it lacks the atmosphere of its superior companion, this track still is a solid inclusion.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Music/Song Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Review: There are no extras on this disc, save the 15 chapter stops. Instead of including the unaired moments as deleted scenes, everything appears on the main feature. This is a good choice and gives the concert a more complete feeling.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsWhile viewing Lauryn Hill: MTV Unplugged 2.0, I found myself grasping with an array of conflicting emotions. Certain moments spawned annoyance at the repetitive and heavy nature of the concert. I wanted her to just play the songs and not spend so much time discussing the transformation. While the set progressed, everything began to sink in and reach the desired level. I realized that my own discomfort corresponded with Hill's nervousness in playing the new tracks. As her confidence grew, the pieces fell into place and revealed an artist moving towards a fresh stage in her career.
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