‘Consumerism’ by Ms. Lauryn Hill – A Damning Critique of Modern Society

If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on in the head of a politics student, honey do I have the song for you. From ‘Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit’ to ‘Miseducation’, Ms. Lauryn Hill has captivated audiences around the world with her soulful voice and whip-smart lyricism. “As the world turns in isms” Ms. Hill sees through the foggy plane of political discourse and reminds us of the absurdity and inhumanity which characterise the 21st Century.

Released in 2013, ‘Consumerism’ stands together with another of Ms. Hill’s singles, ‘Neurotic Society’. Both tracks take aim at modern culture with a hyper-critical glare, but the latter was embroiled in such a high-profile scandal that it perhaps eclipsed the former. In ‘Neurotic Society’, Lauryn Hill condemns drag queens, effeminate men, and what she calls ‘social transvestism’. Which I find quite odd, because performing in a dress is a major aspect of leading the congregation in all three of the main Abrahamic religions.

The word ‘neurotic’ insists society is mentally ill, and Ms. Hill in part correlates this illness with the LGBT community. This is where the lyrics go from hyper-critical to hypocritical. I, personally, don’t think this takes away from the substance of her music, and as an advocate of free speech I respect her right to an opinion.

Ms Hill, if you are, as you say, concerned with people living in fear and being subject to alienation and abuse, then surely you shouldn’t have an issue with LGBT people expressing their identities particularly when we are perfectly happy being ourselves and entertaining and supporting each other in doing so. Not everyone fits into the little archaic boxes prescribed by oppressive religious institutions.

Yet, I do see the ills of society and often this is magnified in the LGBT community. There are reasons for that. I would be interested in sitting down with Ms. Hill and discussing it in more depth. With the understanding that she’s in no better a place to criticise LGBT people and queer culture, than I am to make sweeping judgements about black people in the United States and their respective cultures.

Ms. Lauryn Hill’s other release that year, however, is a number I’ve had on almost every single playlist I’ve made in nearly a decade. It’s a private song, I rarely play it around other people. One reason for that is sensory overload, which I’m sure you’ll understand if you’ve listened to it. The second reason is knowing for a fact only certain people will appreciate it. I’ve decided to write about it because I believe it to be such an iconic and important piece of music. It’s punk poetry. A rap rhapsody. In my opinion, a masterpiece.

‘Consumerism’ is a testament to the evils plaguing modern society. It’s impossible to listen to it without a wide-eyed, horrified expression on your face. It’s possible, for the uninitiated, to get a glimpse into the level of anxiety I have experienced over the past seven years by listening to this song. For many, ‘Consumerism’ so astutely captures everything that’s wrong with the world. My solution to delusions about utopia is to listen to this song. It will bring you systematically, ism by ism, straight back down to earth.

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