Firstly, let’s define exactly what an Album for Life is. It’s more than just fave album by your fave artist, it’s the album that you can stick on whatever your mood and it’s guaranteed to make you feel something. Whether you feel inspired, nostalgic or so damn good that you wanna ‘wave your hands in the air, and lick two shots in the atmosphere (yeah yeah… YEAH YEAH)‘, as long as feelings are stirred it’s already a contender for Album for Life. Most crucially it’s an album that has grown with you and become timeless.
For example, if you asked me my favourite album in 2006 I’d have said PCD by Pussycat Dolls (obviously). Meanwhile, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill politely took a step back from the limelight knowing I needed to broaden my pop horizons safe in the knowledge that I would eventually find my way back into her arms once ‘Don’t Cha’ ran out of steam. And that’s exactly what has happened over the years, favourite albums have come and gone like Love Island contestants while Miseducation has stayed a constant.
So how exactly has The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill earned itself an accolade arguably more prestigious than its five Grammy’s and infinite awards? Not only is it packed with sentimentality given that it was introduced to me by my beautiful Mum, but also the fact it’s 16 songs aka 1hr17mins of unadulterated musical excellence.
You submit to power of the album from track one (baring the intro) titled ‘Lost Ones’ a moniker that resonates with plenty of Lauryn Hill fans. How many of us have felt lost and turned to The Miseducation for guidance? Within seconds your head is bopping, fingers snapping and if you’re anything like me your screw face is screwing. That’s before we even get to the first chorus.
We would be here all day if I broke down the album track by track but we do have to give a special shout out to a few personal highlights. We can’t talk about this album without mentioning a song written about arguably the greatest love of all – a Mother’s love. ‘To Zion’ is a real embodiment of infatuation. Lauryn is able to describe a love that is all consuming, protective and so very pure. Its remarkably honest for a woman of TWENTY TWO (22!) in an industry riddled with misogyny that doesn’t exactly look too kindly upon pregnant women. You can’t help but feel a tiny bit euphoric when we realise she has overcome uncertainty and second guessing as she exclaims ‘now the joy, of my world, is in Zion.’
After we all collectively decide to dash our contraceptive pill out the window thanks to ‘To Zion’ we come to the big one, the money maker, the crowd pleaser ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’. A song that simply needs no explanation. However I urge you to not get too comfortable in your contentment. As high as the highs are, be ready for the heartbreaking lows. Ms Hill greases the grooves with what I believe to be a scathing critique of the music industry in the ironically named ‘Superstar’.
At this point in the album we take a slightly darker turn until we start to see the light again when Lauryn ropes in the help of a vocal powerhouse and CEO of knee high boots – Mary J Blige – for ‘I Used To Love Him’. There’s something beautiful about the way the song slowly builds mirroring the way we rebuild ourselves after heartbreak. An example of Sisterhood at it’s finest.
I do believe that the moral of the album is love hard but with caution. Why else would it end with some of the most indulgent and glorious love songs (of all time?). It’s like Lauryn is trying to tell us that as brutal as it can be, at the end of the day it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Who wouldn’t want a slice of what she and D’angelo have on ‘Nothing Even Matters’? The album finally comes to a close with ‘Tell Him’ where Ms Hill spells it out for us: ‘if I lack love then I am nothing at all‘. Whether the eponymous ‘him’ in the title is her lover, her son or her God there is no doubting that she is urging us to let love in.
Oh I do love a happy ending.