Wow In Music – Lost Ones
Editor | On 20, Mar 2019
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the debut solo album by American singer and rapper Lauryn Hill. It was released on August 25, 1998. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 422,624 copies in its first week, which broke a record for first-week sales by a female artist. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill produced three hit singles: “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “Ex-Factor”, and “Everything Is Everything”. Its lead single “Doo Wop (That Thing)” peaked at number one in the US, with the latter two singles peaking within the top 40. The album’s success propelled Hill to international super-stardom and contributed to bringing hip hop and neo soul to the forefront of popular music. At the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill earned 10 nominations, winning five awards, making Hill the first woman to receive that many nominations and awards in one night. By 2013, it had sold over 8 million copies in the US and over 19 million copies worldwide. It is now generally regarded as not only one of the greatest albums of the 90s, but one of the greatest – and most influential – albums of all time.
The normal convention in this part of the ezine is to focus on a ‘wow’ moment within a single piece of music. For many listeners, the wow in the case of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the whole album. Taken at that level, I’d say the innovation behind the wow is the fact that it represents a (Principle 5, Merging) first bringing together of three musical elements. Musically it arrived, seemingly from nowhere, as the conceptual confluence of three of the most powerful musical ideas in all of black music: hip hop, Motown-era soul and reggae. Doo-wop harmonies and the flushed distortion of voices singing their pain were cast over taut snares and hard boom-baps. The lo-fi production and warm, thickly muzzled bass tones purposefully recalled vintage vinyl on a rainy Sunday afternoon. After having written for Whitney Houston, having traveled to Detroit to sit with Aretha, it then made sense that Lauryn Hill returned to look upon her former hip-hop band, the Fugees, and their hard, brick-city, midnight-winter rap with a newfound skepticism.
Beyond the musical ‘wow’, the album is also a declaration of independence. It is a break-up letter to the bullshit routine of dealing with men who can’t stop hurting the women who love them. And it is a love letter to the liberated self, the maternal self and to God. It is an album of junctures: Between adolescence and adulthood, between Lauryn as ⅓ of the Fugees and Lauryn as a woman on her own, between being a child and being a parent. (She conceived of the album at 22 years old, single and pregnant with her firstborn.)
It is often said that the greatest music is born of crisis, and – looking in from the outsiders perspective – I’d say that there’s lots of evidence of those S-curve-jumping crises in evidence prior to and during the making of this record.
I think I could’ve chosen just about any individual song from the album to illustrate the wow contained in the whole, but the one I’d recommend readers listen to (if you’re only going to try one song – really what you ought to do is listen to the whole thing!), is the opening track, Lost Ones. An amazing way to declare your revolution. And not just musically. The opening lyric is often cited as one of the best opening lines of all time:
It’s funny how money change a situation
Miscommunication leads to complication
My emancipation don’t fit your equation
I was on the humble, you on every station
Some wan’ play young lauryn like she dumb
But remember not a game new under the sun
The words are so much more than a passing reference to Lauryn Hill’s falling out with former Fugees band-mate (and partner) Wyclef Jean: They’re damning and understanding, angry and morose, layered with the kind of subtext only two people who have been through a shitstorm together can pick up on the first time around. There’s a reason Lauryn Hill won so much acclaim for this album, and it’s not because we got dirt on the end of the Fugees: We got an insight into the end of our own relationships, right from the beginning, and the education of Ms. Hill’s listeners started immediately.
Then there’s the music itself. First up the bass-line, a (Principle 26) sample of a classic Jamaican reggae hit from the early 80s.
Check out https://www.whosampled.com/sample/43929/Lauryn-Hill-Lost-Ones-Sister-Nancy-Bam-Bam/ to the wow in the original version. And, for me, the bigger wow of how Hill and her production team seamlessly took a very reggae pattern and integrated it into hip-hop.
Then, listen out of the repeated dak-dak staccato rhythm guitar part. Or rather not so much the part itself but the way it is synchronized – or rather not synchronized (Principle 37) – with the bass and drum rhythm. Is it ahead of the beat? Or is it behind? Its so far in one direction it could easily be taken for the other. I play guitar so no doubt I’m biased, but that timing ‘mis-match’ is the thing that gets me every time. There aren’t many tracks I’ll find myself playing on repeat, but Lost Ones is definitely one of them.
You might win some but you just lost one
You might win some, but you really lost one
You just lost one, it’s so silly how come?
When it’s all done, did you really gain from
What you done done? it’s so silly how come?
You just lost one