"It's funny how money changes situations" rapped former Fugees singer Lauryn Hill in the opening line of her multi-platinum solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It's a "no shit, Sherlock" moment, but its prominent placement seems indicative of the old showbiz saw that you can make anyone a success, but not everyone's made to be successful. Going from the stage mic to megaphone, as it were, requires something of an artist -- something Hill was unwilling or unable to give, and so she left the stage. In that moment, she made her career.
Turning down fame and fortune at the height of your powers is sort of incomprehensible. It creates tremendous mystique. We are stunned and fascinated to see Björn Borg quit tennis at 26 or Greta Garbo leave film at 36 and retreat into a more unassuming life. We cannot, perhaps, appreciate being passed through the machine, this Eli Whitney/Rube Goldberg contraption that smooths and standardizes a creative product for mass consumption, excreting it with a trumpeted flourish of marketing.
The experience seemingly was so unpleasant for Hill that after three successively albums (two Fugees albums and her solo debut) she walked away. She came back for a couple of years in 2002 with an unpolished, unplugged performance of new material, MTV Unplugged No. 2.0. It's fascinating but unfinished, like a work in progress. And she was gone again.-- Chris Parker