MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 is a live album by American recording artist Lauryn Hill. The performance comes from her 2002 MTV Unplugged special recorded on July 21, 2001 at MTV Studios in Times Square, New York City. Hill abandoned the hip hop sounds of her debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) in favor of folk and soul songs she performed with an acoustic guitar. The songs were interspersed with spoken interludes about her personal and artistic struggles.
When MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 was released, it received mediocre reviews and did not sell well. Most critics found Hill's performances self-indulgent and repetitive, although some appreciated the album as a bold and sincere change in artistic direction. It has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, having shipped one million copies in the United States.
For MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, Hill departed from the hip hop sounds of her debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) in favor of austerely performed acoustic soul and folk songs. She jokingly described herself as a "hip-hop folk singer", and according to Robert Hilburn, assumed the role of a folk singer accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. Rather than singing any of her previous hits, Hill debuted all new songs in a folk style and, in between songs, spoke at length about her personal and artistic struggles.
MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 was released to mediocre sales and reviews. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 before quickly falling down the charts, while most critics questioned Hill's discipline as an artist on the album. In Entertainment Weekly, David Browne said it was "perhaps the most bizarre follow-up in the history of [popular music]", appreciating some of the music's "poetic flow" but finding it exhausting to hear Hill's "strummed sermons directed at unspecified enemies and soul crushers".Alexis Petridis panned the record as "messy" and "inconsequential", mostly because of what he felt were her clichéd self-help lyrics and self-indulgent monologues: "A scant handful of powerful moments, including a furious meditation on the police shooting of a young black man, 'I Find It Hard to Say (Rebel)', are outweighed by repetitious rambling." In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau called it one of the "worst albums ever released by an artist of substance", finding the songs overlong, verbose, unmelodic, and plagued by Hill's typically poor singing voice and "a solo guitar [she] can barely strum (the first finger-picked figure occurs on track 10, where it repeats dozens upon dozens of times, arghh)."
Some critics appreciated MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 as a radical and bold change in direction by Hill. In a positive review, AllMusic's William Ruhlmann conceded that Hill's spoken interludes sounded vain and foolish but still felt the album was "fascinating" as an "unfinished, unflinching presentation of ideas and of a person".Q was more enthusiastic, finding her songs beautifully sincere and performed austerely in a way that recalled the vibrant quality of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" (1980).
^ abQ (London): 121. June 2002. ...Less is indeed more; performed so simply, each song has the resonance of Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song'...Hill's traditional songwriting values and strong roots in '70s soul music mean that a beautiful and heartfelt song requires nothing more than her gritty sweet voice and funky strumming...CS1 maint: Untitled periodical (link)
^Rolling Stone: 78. May 23, 2002. ...An unpolished collection of thirteen demos sung and strummmed exclusively by the ex-Fugee....this tender renegade purposefully does what she's gotta do to keep her music sacred...CS1 maint: Untitled periodical (link)