Lauryn Hill returned to late night television after a years-long break this week with a stunning performance of the Nina Simone classic "Feeling Good" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Hill plays it safe until the middle of the song, where she takes off on a flight of joyous vocal runs, emoting like a woman transformed. Hill recorded six Simone songs for Nina Revisited, a tribute album that arrived alongside the Netflix documentary What Ever Happened, Miss Simone? this summer. The album presents the biggest batch of new Lauryn Hill material in easily over a decade, and "Feeling Good" is a bold choice for a new Lauryn performance, since things seemed shaky for her for years, but she looked and sounded totally renewed.
The rocky decade following Unplugged 2.0, Hill's quixotic acoustic follow-up to the multiplatinum Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, found the artist sliding away from the public eye and refusing to pay taxes, a self-prescribed political act almost undone by a quirky deal to settle her debts in exchange for recording a new album. Months passed, but only one song surfaced, and Hill ended up in prison. She'd play a gaggle of festival and club shows throughout her recording hiatus but became famous both for appalling lateness and for playing fast and loose with the arrangements of beloved classics. Like D'angelo, Hill retreated after rising too far too fast. One hopes her Black Messiah redemption moment is on the horizon.
Craig wishes her heart still was in rhyming. Follow him on Twitter.