Lauryn Hill's show of artistry and impassioned singing at debut Singapore show

Multi-Grammy-winning artist Lauryn Hill performed a one-and-a half hour set at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on the second day of the Sing Jazz 2018 festival on April 7, 2018.
Multi-Grammy-winning artist Lauryn Hill performed a one-and-a half hour set at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on the second day of the Sing Jazz 2018 festival on April 7, 2018.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Many of Hill's songs, some of hip-hop's most recognisable tunes from the decade, went through major rearrangements as she sang in different keys, altered familiar hooks and introduced new rhythms.
Many of Hill's songs, some of hip-hop's most recognisable tunes from the decade, went through major rearrangements as she sang in different keys, altered familiar hooks and introduced new rhythms.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

This year marks two full decades since American hip-hop/soul singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill released her seminal record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her only solo album to date. So it is no surprise that her debut show in Singapore yesterday, on the second day of the Sing Jazz 2018 festival, featured mostly 1990s songs from that album, as well as tunes from her former hip-hop group that propelled her to fame, the Fugees.

But make no mistake, while they were not fresh tunes, the multi-Grammy-winning artist's one-and-a half hour set at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre was no easy walk down memory lane.

Many of the songs, some of hip-hop's most recognisable tunes from the decade, went through major rearrangements as she sang in different keys, altered familiar hooks and introduced new rhythms.

It was a risky move but it solidifies her reputation as an singer who eschews crowd-pandering moves in favour of challenging her own artistry.

Even a chart-topping pop hit like Doo Wop (That Thing), arguably her most famous solo song, was not spared.

Like in many of the other tunes, which included songs like Everything Is Everything and Ex-Factor, Hill cut back on the melodies and upped the intensity of the tracks with her impassioned singing.

Her soulful voice was on form, and when she rapped, the verses were delivered with full authority.


Hill's stellar 13-piece band of musicians and singers tackled genres like hip-hop, gospel, soul and reggae with ease. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES 

The audience cheered loudly to Fugees classics such as Killing Me Softly With His Song, Ready Or Not and How Many Mics, but singing along was not always easy as the live renditions were a lot more progressive and complex than the recorded album versions that many were used to.

Hill, who also threw in renditions of classics by Bob Marley (Turn Your Lights Down Low, Forever Loving Jah) and showtune standard Feeling Good, had a commanding presence on stage, often giving directions to her band and crew.


The audience cheered loudly to Fugees classics such as Killing Me Softly With His Song, Ready Or Not and How Many Mics. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES 

Her stellar 13-piece band of musicians and singers tackled genres like hip-hop, gospel, soul and reggae with ease.

In the last decade, the singer seemed to make headlines for all the wrong reasons - getting incarcerated for tax issues, cancelling tours or making her fans wait hours at her shows.

Thankfully, the audience here did not have to wait that long as she kicked off her set at midnight, half an hour after the stipulated time. While her singing was intense, she seemed genuinely pleased to be in Singapore, referencing the country in some of the lyrics.

Everything Is Everything, for example, had the lyrics of its first verse amended slightly to "I wrote these words... for Singapore".

There are stories of how Hill has accumulated a vast collection of new and unreleased songs and have witheld them for reasons only known to her.

Whether it is true or not, the fresh spin that she puts on the familiar tracks at her live show proved that she is far from a spent creative force, and we can only hope that more of her new material will see the light of day.