Summer Mixtape, Track 10: 'Doo Wop (That Thing)' - Lauryn Hill
You remember L-Boogie, right? The Fugees centerpiece who became a solo star with the 1998 release of "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" album ... and then basically stopped making music, save for that raggedy MTV Unplugged session, a few appearances with the Fugees and a random track here (the "Surf's Up" soundtrack) and there (that "Passion of the Christ" compilation)?
Back before she rebelled against the music business and went subterranean, Hill was pretty incredible - one of those rare commercial and critical juggernauts who seemingly could do no wrong. She moved units. She won awards. And she inspired a critical droolfest, even finishing second - behind Lucinda Williams and "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" - in the Pazz and Jop Critics Poll published in early 1999. (I had Hill as the clear No. 1 on my ballot.)
Quite a few of her songs could work on a summer mixtape, from her "Miseducation" cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "The Sweetest Thing" (off the "Love Jones" soundtrack) to Hill's "duet" with the ghost of her baby granddaddy, Bob Marley, on "Turn Your Lights Down Low" (off the Marley remix album, "Chant Down Babylon").
But the pick here has to be "Doo Wop (That Thing)," Hill's biggest solo single.
The track, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Hill a couple of Grammys, pulls off a neat trick: It's a feisty, finger-pointing message song that sounds absolutely great at a backyard barbecue or coming out of a boombox at the beach, what with its lithe melody, booming hip-hop beat and a tinkling piano line that you keep hearing long after the song is done.
The interwoven vocals are great, too - some of them rapped, some of them sung, usually by Hill, but also by other voices, including a man's.
It all adds up to something musically entrancing, though if you snap out of it just long enough to pay attention to the lyrics, you'll hear Hill admonishing women to stop selling their souls and giving up "that thing," and you'll also hear her excoriating men who act like irresponsible, self-centered hooligans.
The message is strong and serious, yet the music sounds sweet and almost carefree - making it a summer song with a conscience.
By J. Freedom du Lac |
July 14, 2008; 9:54 AM ET
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