#44: Bob Dylan, ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989) vs. Fugees, ‘The Score’ (1996)

 

All hail the master! The legend. The wizard of words. The  melody maestro. The trickster with a social conscious. No, I’m not talking about Bob Dylan (this time). I am talking about The Fugees’ Lauryn Hill. What a performance she and those two other guys put into their second and final album, The Score. Marvel at how she moves seamlessly and gorgeously between singing and rapping. What a voice! One minute, she croons achingly about how he’s killing her softly with his song, the next minute she’s tearing you a new one with her rapping:

So weep as your sweet dreams break up like Eurythmics
Rap rejects my tape deck, ejects projectile
Whether Jew or gentile, I rank top percentile
Many styles, more powerful than gamma rays
My grammar pays, like Carlos Santana plays “Black Magic Woman”
So while you fuming, I’m consuming mango juice under Polaris
You just embarrassed cause it’s your last tango in Paris

Seriously, how many references and rhymes can one person pack into a few lines? This album has humour, rage, political consciousness and beauty. I was aware of it at the time, of course, but paid scant attention to it. I’ve had it on repeat for the past week and I am thoroughly impressed. I’m actually surprised it’s not higher on the 90s list.

I say all this with an aching in my heart. Dylan is my guy, my favourite recording artist of all time (or maybe Neil Young). And Oh Mercy is a damn fine album; his improbable and incredibly welcome comeback album after a decade of mediocrity (the 80s were not kind to the greatest songwriter of all time), thanks to some beautifully moody tunes, and lush production and beautiful guitar from legendary producer Daniel Lanois. I bought it when it was new and I was also in the early days of vintage Dylan discovery, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Alas, Oh Mercy is a minor Dylan masterpiece (he would have at least three bigger ones still to come), and it can’t compete with The Score, an influential and near-perfect album that also happened to be a massive hit that proved hip hop could be uncompromising and still appeal to the masses.

JG

WINNER: The Fugees, The Score (1 point)

BATTLE TALLY

80s: 4

90s: 3

EARNED POINTS
80s: 4
90s: 3

Next week’s battle  –  #43: Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska (1982) vs. TLC, CrazySexyCool (1994)

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