In May Lauryn Hill released her first single in years. The track, titled "Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)," left people wondering. Somehow the production itself sounds a little neurotic: rough instrumentation accompanies an explosive regurgitation of words.
But Ms. Hill's voice, warm and assertive, charming and intense, is there. That's the voice that made many LGBT folks appreciate The Fugees and adore her miseducation.
Yet it seemed impossible to get past some of the lyrics:
"Commerce and girl men
Run the whole world, man. [...]
Quick scam and drag queens,
Real life's been blasphemed."
While musical expression should not be trapped in attributed meanings, it is certain that fruition is a bilateral process made by both the musicians with their inspirations and the spectators with their reactions.
Too many people breathe homophobic smog in "Neurotic Society."
For LGBT fans, Ms. Hill was a font of support in the '90s. Gay men and women fell in love to the sound of "Ready or Not" and got over breakups with "Killing Me Softly." They sang "ooh, la, la, la, it's the way that we rock when we're doing our thing" during Pride marches. Some prayed to God with "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." Above all they opposed oppression with "Final Hour," resisted mainstream constructs with Marley's "Redemption Song," and tried to "develop a negative into a positive picture" with "Everything Is Everything."
Lauryn Hill was an inspiration. She was on our side.
Two weeks ago, Ms. Hill explained her position in a Tumblr post:
Neurotic Society is a song about people not being, or not being able to be, who and what they truly are, due to the current social construct. I am not targeting any particular group of people, but rather targeting everyone in our society who hides behind neurotic behavior, rather than deal with it.
While I truly believe that Ms. Hill did not target any particular group of people, including LGBT communities, not only did her comments not clarify the use of certain expressions, but they confirmed a judgmental standpoint on alternative forms of gender expression. "Girl men" and drag queens are examples of persons who hide behind neurotic behaviors?
The overall Tumblr post sounds hypocritical, especially in light of Ms. Hill's recent history. Artistic elaboration and freedom of expression are treasures worth defending, but hiding behind them to justify bigotry is sinful. It is another way of -- to borrow Ms. Hill's lyrics -- "preying on human ignorance" by fueling fear of the unconventional.
What a disappointment.
Ms. Lauryn Hill, you might win some, but you just lost one (too many).
Follow Renato Barucco on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RenatoBarucco