Monday, August 13, 2007

Remnants of An Artist We Loved

I went to Wingate Park in Brooklyn yesterday, curious, more than anything, about whether young Jamaican pop star Sean Kingston had anything in him besides a pop frenzy induced big head. He didn't. Sean's performance of Beautiful for the crowd (over 10,000) was about the worst thing I've ever seen live at any concert, paid or free. Shouted rather than sang, and couldn't even remember the lyrics to Beautiful, jumped up and down in a sloppy T-Shirt with little stage presence or rhythm, jumped into the crowd as if it were a mosh pit, was even interested in reaching out to grab him.

I can't say, unfortunately, that Lauren Hill was an even bigger disappointment that Sean Kingston, because I in fact had pretty low expectations. When she finally graced the stage with her presence after a one-hour-wait to greet the standing room crowd in a brown leather knee length vest, the murmor of everyone around me was the same: "What the hell is she wearing? What's up with her hair? Does she think she's Oprah?" I don't think these were just the petty reactions of a mean-spirited crowd. The men and women around me, young and old, were still hopefull that she'd somehow give a decent performance. They seemed to love Lauren like a sister. Only, they sensed something seriously gone wrong in the sister's walk, her voice, her vibe. I think we wondered what diva spirit had possessed L-Boogie, known for her simple flair and grace, for never being too overdone or flashy, but always, through the drama of stardom, being able to come across as just herself.

The mysterious outlandish outfit told me that there was a deeper crisis within. As loud and as passionate as she seemed, it seemed she had had withdrawn from the world. She didn't even try - as Sean Kingston had, and failed - to connect with the crowd. She seemed to be saying, simply, this is Lauren's world.

Even though I hadn't expected much more, it was for me a sad dose of reality about the hopelessness of finding a place in the music industry for R&B, hip hop, and dance hall artists with true soul. I was among the folks who walked out on Lauren with a sad pout on my face. Even though I hadn't paid for a ticket, I felt as cheated as anyone, my expectations reduced to the memory of a true artists who have, over the years, been able with the simplicity of song and grace to touch so many folks.


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