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Love: It Ain't Working
Episode 39th March 2022 • Flickers • Matthew Linder
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March 9, 2022

Love: It Ain't Working

Summary: Lauryn Hill experienced good love growing up in a loving, caring, and supportive family. But once she went out into the world and started to interact with others, she began to realize that not everyone experienced that sort of grounding familial love. She discovered that the love she was experiencing outside of her family came with baggage and was often broken. And yet, that type of broken and messy love taught her lessons about what love she deserves and what love truly is. It is through the anger of "Lost Ones" and heartbreak of "Ex-Factor, " the opening tracks from "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," that we as listeners begin to understand her conception of love. A love that Eric House uncovers through a musical and lyrical analysis of both songs.

Timestamps:

  • Lauryn Hill and Cheryl Kirk-Duggan on the Difficulty of Love. - 00:00
  • Eric House and Otis Lambert on Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album interludes. - 2:04
  • Eric House breaks down "Lost Ones" and "Ex-Factor" and details the surprising ways the songs express what Lauryn learned about love. - 3:10
  • Krystal Roberts and Matt Linder's reaction to Eric House's analysis of "Ex-Factor." - 15:57
  • Lauryn Hill speaking on the baggage we bring to our love. - 24:33

Hosts: Lauryn Hill researcher, Krystal Roberts, and Hip Hop scholar, Matt Linder.

Contributors: Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, Otis Lambert aka OT The GoldN' Child, and Eric House.

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Logo design by @papercutprayers

Theme music by Julius Tunstall.

Additional music from Yons and Nabil Sioty.

Episode Transcript: https://share.descript.com/view/ksBpK1G2NqE

Transcripts

Lauryn Hill:

You know, love is, is an incredible thing.

Lauryn Hill:

And we don't know love like we should.

Lauryn Hill:

We always talk about, I have unconditional love.

Lauryn Hill:

Unconditional love is we don't even know it because if a person stops

Lauryn Hill:

stimulating us, we stop loving them.

Lauryn Hill:

You're not interesting to talk to anymore goodbye, but that

Lauryn Hill:

real love, that love that.

Lauryn Hill:

Sometimes it's difficult, difficult to have that's that

Lauryn Hill:

love and that's the confidence.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

And she said, I loved real, real hard once

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

but the love wasn't returned.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

And so for her, then I would say, love has to be reciprocal.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

That needs to be some reciprocity.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

And she says she tried to keep it in her life.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

She cried, but she couldn't make it right.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

She's always engaging others.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

So even when.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

Make it an autobiographical being with actually tells her story.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

She's inviting other people to say, okay, look at my life, think about what

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

I've gone through, learn from my life.

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

So you don't make mistakes that I made, but also be inspired by my

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

life in addition to appreciation or affirmation admiration that

Cheryl Kirk-Duggan:

adds to her understanding of love

Krystal Roberts:

An understanding of love that included the

Krystal Roberts:

most beautiful parts of love.

Krystal Roberts:

But also the confusion, pain and loss that sometimes comes with.

Krystal Roberts:

It seems all the more obvious why even throughout miseducation, Lauryn

Krystal Roberts:

wanted to explore how we view love.

Krystal Roberts:

I'm Krystal Roberts,

Matt Linder:

I'm Matt Linder.

Krystal Roberts:

This is Flickers.

Love:

It Ain't Working

Eric House:

you get this beautiful moment where all the

Eric House:

interludes in our album, right.

Eric House:

Where it's like kids in school and he's asking them, he's like right in love

Eric House:

on the board and have them spelled out.

Eric House:

And it's like, what does love mean to you?

Otis Lambert:

And he's asking a group of young men and young

Otis Lambert:

women, these questions and whatnot.

Otis Lambert:

Definitely is explored things like young person who is either in love or

Otis Lambert:

thinks they're in love and has their struggles, their challenges within that.

Krystal Roberts:

So that first interlude comes at the end of the opening track.

Krystal Roberts:

Lost Ones.

Krystal Roberts:

Expressing her anger and prior to Ex-Factor where she expresses her grief.

Krystal Roberts:

There's an interesting relationship between these two songs that

Krystal Roberts:

illustrates those challenges.

Krystal Roberts:

When love is not unconditional as Eric House will explain

Krystal Roberts:

Lauryn told the story of love or.

Krystal Roberts:

The real and sometimes messy story of being in love.

Eric House:

I think the song that's still to this day sticks with me is

Eric House:

Ex-Factor I really love in the album.

Eric House:

How after Lost Ones, you know, is a lost ones, is this diss track essentially

Eric House:

where she's, you know, kind of re re reclaiming her identity in her

Eric House:

agency, within the space and bit.

Eric House:

And basically saying, you might win some but you just lost one.

Eric House:

You know what I'm saying?

Eric House:

Like I'm, I'm not playing around with, you know, more.

Eric House:

[Lost Ones]

Eric House:

So you think you're going to get this like beautiful ballad about love,

Eric House:

but instead you get this track about heartbreak and this is actually a

Eric House:

song that I teach often when you're talking about emotional appeals.

Eric House:

For one, I think the lyrics by themselves, you know, just this constant

Eric House:

plea and search for reciprocity.

Eric House:

Getting to the point where he had the refrain at the end, when she's like,

Eric House:

you know, repeating these things, like you said, you care for me.

Eric House:

You said you died for me.

Eric House:

Why don't you live for me?

Eric House:

The repetition of that is very powerful.

Eric House:

I think that one is just to me, just an image of emotion, even if you

Eric House:

don't feel those, even if you're not going through those same things, as

Eric House:

she's going through in the song, you feel everything she's saying with the

Eric House:

ways that the lyrics are structured

Eric House:

When I, when I teach Ex-Factor for, I teach it so that we can get a sense of how

Eric House:

one communicates very complicated, very complex emotions, love being a big one.

Eric House:

And this one right on, because like I said, we have the

Eric House:

buildup with the classroom.

Eric House:

They're learning about love.

Eric House:

And I really love how that's the setup, because it suggests that if the song is

Eric House:

reflection of the interlude that comes before, which a lot of artists do, right.

Eric House:

You, you assume.

Eric House:

The sketch or the interludes or whatever in some way might connect

Eric House:

to either the track that came before the track that came after, well

Eric House:

in this case, it could be both.

Eric House:

You're you're just coming off of a diss song, which she knows that

Eric House:

the story goes that Lost Ones is kind of talking about Wyclef right?

Eric House:

That Lost Ones was everyone believes was a shot at you?

Eric House:

Was it a sot at you?

Eric House:

I wouldn't know that.

Eric House:

I think that y'all would have to interview Lauryn Hill and, and, and ask

Eric House:

her, was that a shot at me in one way?

Eric House:

You're you're talking about this.

Eric House:

That's talking about the ending of a relationship and how she's

Eric House:

kind of finding this agency moving forward, which we'll get to later.

Eric House:

But then I really just appreciate how you're transitioning to this

Eric House:

next song, where it's showing much, much more vulnerability.

Eric House:

I mean that the first line in that song, It's something that just by

Eric House:

itself, you're just like, oh, we about to get into something right.

Eric House:

[Ex-Factor]

Eric House:

We're already, she's already hailing us into her frustration with.

Eric House:

First-line it could all be so simple.

Eric House:

It could be, but you'd rather make it hard.

Eric House:

So once again, I, I always start off, start off with the lyrics because I think

Eric House:

the lyrics in this song tells a specific story, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Eric House:

So you can obviously sell, but you rather make it hard loving.

Eric House:

You was like,

Eric House:

[Ex-Factor]

Eric House:

so once again you get, you get very vivid imagery of.

Eric House:

You know, that simile using that part, I love, and he was like about

Eric House:

a week and we both end up with scars, simile blended with metaphors

Eric House:

a little bit going on there.

Eric House:

And then I think.

Eric House:

I don't know, I guess in musical terms, I wouldn't call it a bridge per se,

Eric House:

because it's repeated, it's kind of like a refrain repeated in two different

Eric House:

verses, which is just tell me who I have to be to get some reciprocity.

Eric House:

No, one's loved you more than me and no one ever.

Eric House:

those, those parts are like kind of repeated.

Eric House:

So I think the first part of the, of, of that verse set up a very specific

Eric House:

situation, but then I love how, tell me who I have to be to get some reciprocity?

Eric House:

No one else has loved you more than me.

Eric House:

No one ever will.

Eric House:

And then she says it again in the second part, just really emphasizes

Eric House:

the strength of that, of those words in the confusion within those words.

Eric House:

Maybe some like hopelessness, helplessness within those words.

Eric House:

and once again, all of this is framed under a conversation about love.

Eric House:

Where I feel like that's not the story of love that we're taught in, which is

Eric House:

why I think it's a beautiful part about the miseducation is like, we need to

Eric House:

unlearn some of these terms that are taught to us because they are so much

Eric House:

more complex than we give them credit for.

Eric House:

And in this case, this is like, let's, let's really talk about

Eric House:

how love might look sometimes.

Eric House:

I mean, this might not be like the real love, right.

Eric House:

I mean, but I think it's important to say, because especially.

Eric House:

For someone who is much more impressionable, like my younger

Eric House:

self, it's easy to kind of fall into the fall into these traps.

Eric House:

But like, I think that if we don't communicate them effectively

Eric House:

communicate those emotions effectively, then I don't know.

Eric House:

I think once again, it gets to the purpose of the miseducation.

Eric House:

Like, let let's learn how complicated it is so that we know going forward.

Eric House:

And so I think that's why the second verse is so powerful.

Eric House:

So it starts off with.

Eric House:

Uh, I, you letting you back in how, and you

Eric House:

explain, so we're, now we're starting to get some like deep reflection

Eric House:

and like we see her working through the other side of that.

Eric House:

So the, at first we get like we're presented with like, I don't want to call

Eric House:

it an ignorance but maybe like a blissful.

Eric House:

You're confused.

Eric House:

You're hurt, but you're like, why can't you just be better?

Eric House:

And then now we're getting now we're getting to the shift of

Eric House:

like, why do I keep doing this?

Eric House:

painful as it can be I just gotta be with no one else.

Eric House:

So then like, so we're now we're getting some new possibilities of it.

Eric House:

but in like the same melody that she says, tell me who I have

Eric House:

to be to get some reciprocity.

Eric House:

We get, I know what we, we got to do.

Eric House:

You let go and now let go too.

Eric House:

Cause no one's hurt me more than

Eric House:

when the first part is repeated twice.

Eric House:

She just wants some reciprocity because no one loves you more than her.

Eric House:

And now you're like, yeah, let's just not talk to each other no

Eric House:

more, because you hurt me more than anyone will ever hurt me.

Eric House:

And that's a hard lesson about love.

Eric House:

I had to learn thing once again, when you see the, I call it a story, right?

Eric House:

When we see the story that those lyrics play, it presents you with,

Eric House:

you know, this very tangible, even if you've never been through this sort

Eric House:

of situation, you're like, you're, you're empathizing at this point.

Eric House:

Where you're like, damn, I feel like that the repetition got me the way she singing.

Eric House:

They got me the way she narrates the impossibility of it.

Eric House:

All I think is beautiful.

Eric House:

The way she talks about hopelessness is I think is beautiful.

Eric House:

which sounds weird to say about, but once again, I think this song touches

Eric House:

on some complexities of love that not a lot of people are willing to let go

Eric House:

down and it may, it may be even admit.

Eric House:

A lot of people that I know have been in the kind of hopeless situations like

Eric House:

this, I don't want to like say a general everybody, but I know specific people

Eric House:

who've been in situations like this.

Eric House:

I mean, I think that the beautiful thing of it, as much as it hurts, the

Eric House:

beautiful thing of it is like how she is, what she's reflecting in that second.

Eric House:

That I let go.

Eric House:

You let go, because you've hurt me more than anyone's ever hurt me in.

Eric House:

And no one's ever going to hurt me this way again, you're hoping, but yeah.

Eric House:

Yeah.

Eric House:

Yeah.

Eric House:

So then, so then once again, you, you get the course and then now you're

Eric House:

starting to get a little more guitar in there, which is just the way

Eric House:

that guitar is played in that song.

Eric House:

It's just that the electric is, are, it's not front and center, but I

Eric House:

think it provides like an echo of.

Eric House:

To really drive a lot of those emotions home.

Eric House:

My favorite part there, the refrain at the end, the care for me, care for me.

Eric House:

I know you care for me like that part the way she repeats it.

Eric House:

Whew.

Eric House:

I think that refrain it.

Eric House:

You, you don't get, you don't get the same realized you don't get the

Eric House:

same, I guess, growth that you get in.

Eric House:

The second verse is kind of jumping back to the first, a little bit where she's

Eric House:

like sitting through some of this pain.

Eric House:

I think the way.

Eric House:

And like at first it's just like, everything else is

Eric House:

dropped and just the drums.

Eric House:

And then as the refrain goes on, then you started to add imitation

Eric House:

and it's the energy going.

Eric House:

And then you have the background singers, like 60 in the first word of each line.

Eric House:

it's a moment, right?

Eric House:

I don't know.

Eric House:

I don't know how else to explain it.

Eric House:

But when I talk about it in class, it's like, if we're going to think of this song

Eric House:

as like a story with plots and all that stuff, some might say the climax is when

Eric House:

the, the, when she's hitting that note.

Eric House:

And I know what we got to do, but to me, I think that's still kind

Eric House:

of rising a little bit, right.

Eric House:

It might be a little bump but its still kind of rising.

Eric House:

And then you're getting to this moment where the refrain's really good.

Eric House:

And I think at the end, the last thing she says is you said you got

Eric House:

And then you kind of get the singing out until he gets into the outro.

Eric House:

I really think that the way that's, to me, that songs a masterpiece.

Eric House:

'cause I think even if, like I said before, even if you've never been

Eric House:

through this sort of situation, the way she presents heartbreak,

Eric House:

as a way to talk about love in this way, gives us a definition.

Eric House:

That's very real and gives us a definition that I think complicates

Eric House:

any of these like fairy tale stories that, I mean, and the people have those

Eric House:

very, stories shoutout to you, but you still can empathize with what she's

Eric House:

going through in that song specifically.

Eric House:

That's how I approach that song.

Eric House:

You know, when you're talking about rhetorical appeals,

Eric House:

emotional appeals, there are a lot of ways in which this song is.

Eric House:

You can just look, you can just look to listen to the instrumentation by

Eric House:

itself and the heavy use of bass drums not a lot of like high energy is a

Eric House:

slow, steady tempo, and then match that with the story, the lyrics are telling.

Eric House:

And you're really getting at how emotion is so complicated and complex.

Eric House:

And there's a great appeal.

Eric House:

Seeing that we should always try to communicate in very complex ways.

Krystal Roberts:

Yeah.

Krystal Roberts:

So what was interesting about what Eric explained there is how Lauryn expressed

Krystal Roberts:

her miseducation when it came to what love really was, there was sort of a.

Krystal Roberts:

Expectation.

Krystal Roberts:

It seems.

Krystal Roberts:

And through the course of a real relationship, it got redefined for her and

Krystal Roberts:

throughout those couple of songs and I'm sure throughout the entire album, she sort

Krystal Roberts:

of redefine what love is and show what it really looks like when you're in love.

Krystal Roberts:

And.

Krystal Roberts:

I thought what was really sort of profound is the negotiation that goes on in love.

Krystal Roberts:

Often we heard it a lot in Ex-Factor, you know, there's this feeling of,

Krystal Roberts:

you know, will you please just do this because you want this relationship so bad.

Krystal Roberts:

So you're sort of negotiating with your partner, trying to get

Krystal Roberts:

it, to work, wanting it to work.

Krystal Roberts:

You know, almost a grieving process that she goes through, right?

Krystal Roberts:

So in the Lost Ones, you know, your feeling yourself a little

Krystal Roberts:

bit, you're big and bad.

Krystal Roberts:

You don't care, you got things under control, you know,

Krystal Roberts:

you're sort of going on.

Krystal Roberts:

And by the time we get to Ex-Factor, you know, all those defenses are

Krystal Roberts:

broken down and we're sort of seeing the real vulnerability and

Krystal Roberts:

even desperation of being on the brink of losing love and right.

Krystal Roberts:

I just thought Eric did a wonderful job and just sort of explaining that

Krystal Roberts:

and going through each of those songs.

Krystal Roberts:

And I think if you've ever been in love, you know, that, you know, that feeling,

Krystal Roberts:

you know, those different places that you find yourself when love doesn't

Krystal Roberts:

work out the way, you want it to.

Krystal Roberts:

So that was really powerful to me.

Matt Linder:

Yeah.

Matt Linder:

And that was super fascinating.

Matt Linder:

He talks about how Lauryn sets you up with lost ones and the

Matt Linder:

anger, how pissed off she is.

Matt Linder:

And then there's that interlude where it's in the classroom.

Matt Linder:

And they're talking about love and thinking about romantic

Matt Linder:

love and everything like that.

Matt Linder:

And then you expect that the song is going to be like this super gushy.

Matt Linder:

You expect, like this is going to be the song with her and D'Angelo the

Matt Linder:

next song, you know, but it's not, it's the heartbreak song and how messy

Matt Linder:

and complex and difficult love can be.

Matt Linder:

And it's just a surprising and surprising turn as you go through this album.

Matt Linder:

It's like, she's not going to give you what you're expecting it happens, right.

Matt Linder:

From that transition, from that first song to Ex-Factor.

Matt Linder:

Eric pointed out the hopelessness and helplessness for repeating

Matt Linder:

that line, tell me who I have to be to get some reciprocity.

Matt Linder:

See, no one loves you more than me and no one ever will and how

Matt Linder:

she does that in the first verse.

Matt Linder:

And then she does it again.

Matt Linder:

Second verse and how powerful that is.

Matt Linder:

She's just pleading, like, what do I have to do to.

Matt Linder:

Get some of your love back to me that I'm giving you, I'm giving you all this love,

Matt Linder:

but I'm not receiving that in return.

Matt Linder:

And that's just like, man, like in my whole life, there's times

Matt Linder:

in my dating life before I was married, being in similar places.

Matt Linder:

And how just frustrating and heartbroken that you feel all the time when

Matt Linder:

you're in that place that you're giving all this love, but you're not.

Matt Linder:

Experiencing that same love back.

Matt Linder:

It was super cool.

Matt Linder:

The way that Eric pointed out the way the music works with the

Matt Linder:

lyrics, that same melody that she's saying during that portion for

Matt Linder:

reciprocity is also the portion that says, I know where we got to do.

Matt Linder:

You've got to you.

Matt Linder:

Let go.

Matt Linder:

And I'll let go to.

Matt Linder:

Using that same melody.

Matt Linder:

It's like, she's worked through that.

Matt Linder:

She comes at a different place and saying, even though I want this

Matt Linder:

really badly, we have to move on and we have to let go of this love.

Matt Linder:

I thought that was a very astute observation that she

Matt Linder:

was using this same melody.

Matt Linder:

It's like, no, I'm recapturing this.

Matt Linder:

I'm redefining this and taking that pain and reusing it.

Matt Linder:

In a way that will be good for me, but also good for you because we can't

Matt Linder:

continue to go on like this anymore, this into what Eric was pointing out.

Matt Linder:

With the music and its relation to lyrics.

Matt Linder:

I think it's super fascinating that at the end of Ex-Factor, you

Matt Linder:

have this outro with a guitar solo and it's Santana playing guitar.

Matt Linder:

And then next song after this, is To Zion foreshadowing, the unconditional

Matt Linder:

love that she has for her child out of this heartbreak, this fractured,

Matt Linder:

conditional love that she experienced in this relationship, that out of that

Matt Linder:

she is finding a way to experience.

Matt Linder:

Unconditional love in a way that probably listeners aren't expecting,

Matt Linder:

because generally, you know, you think, oh, here's an album.

Matt Linder:

This is about love that inner load kind of sets you up like, oh, Hey, this

Matt Linder:

is going to be about romantic love.

Matt Linder:

And she says, no, this is about the complexities and difficulties of

Matt Linder:

love and love does always work out, but here's another type of love.

Matt Linder:

And we're going to explore that and explore it.

Matt Linder:

That type of love that you have for your own children.

Matt Linder:

Cool how's she's preplanned that in had Santana at the end of Ex-Factor saying

Matt Linder:

like there's a light at the end of this.

Matt Linder:

I don't know.

Matt Linder:

It's just super cool.

Matt Linder:

The way she's just so meticulous about all her musical choices.

Matt Linder:

As well as her lyrical choices, that the music just as much communicates her

Matt Linder:

thoughts and her feelings and emotions.

Krystal Roberts:

Absolutely.

Krystal Roberts:

Absolutely.

Krystal Roberts:

You bring up a good point about the surprising emotional jump

Krystal Roberts:

from Lost ones to Ex-Factor and then eventually getting into Zion.

Krystal Roberts:

And I think, I don't know if this was purposeful, it seems

Krystal Roberts:

like it was seeing how meticulous Lauryn but just that process.

Krystal Roberts:

That is a process that we all go through, you know, like you said, the

Krystal Roberts:

anger to the heartbreak and then there's that light at the end of the tunnel.

Krystal Roberts:

There's the beautiful side of love that I think, you know,

Krystal Roberts:

Lauryn has expressed in her music.

Krystal Roberts:

And then there is this where, like you said, the complexity of love and

Krystal Roberts:

all the different layers to it, but there's a third part of love where

Krystal Roberts:

you have to love yourself enough.

Krystal Roberts:

To get out of it.

Krystal Roberts:

You know what I mean?

Krystal Roberts:

Like I said earlier, you know, there's a negotiation that goes on

Krystal Roberts:

and if you notice, she said, you let go and then I'll let go too.

Krystal Roberts:

To me, that's an expression of like, I'm not quite ready.

Krystal Roberts:

I need you to do it.

Krystal Roberts:

Like almost to release me, but in reality, Lauryn released herself

Krystal Roberts:

and as she sort of came into this self-love I would say through the.

Krystal Roberts:

Pregnancy and the birth of Zion she discovered that deeper love that we

Krystal Roberts:

talked about previously while there is the beautiful love, the heartbreaking love.

Krystal Roberts:

There is that love of self that I think emancipates you in general so that you

Krystal Roberts:

can experience all of the layers of love.

Krystal Roberts:

'cause sometimes you can love, and you can fall into a very bad place,

Krystal Roberts:

a dark side, you know, of love, or never want to expose yourself or

Krystal Roberts:

make yourself vulnerable to it again.

Krystal Roberts:

But I think that self love has sort of propelled her to.

Krystal Roberts:

Having the type of healthy love that she knew of when she was

Krystal Roberts:

younger, but just with more experience and more understanding,

Lauryn Hill:

you know, we all bring baggage to every situation and every

Lauryn Hill:

relationship, but the good part is that, you know, when you find someone

Lauryn Hill:

that you think you have something in common with you recognize the bags.

Lauryn Hill:

That's Samsonite.

Lauryn Hill:

I got that.

Lauryn Hill:

That's a toiletry bag.

Lauryn Hill:

You put a toothbrush in there.

Lauryn Hill:

Uh, but, but when I met my fiance, I had my little travel

Lauryn Hill:

kit and he had like u-hauls.

Lauryn Hill:

And I was like, whoa.

Lauryn Hill:

I was like, what goes in there?

Lauryn Hill:

And, and, you know, be very eyes, very intimidated.

Lauryn Hill:

And you couldn't have found two people who, you know, were, were, were more.

Lauryn Hill:

We were just incompatible, but we, but there was love,

Lauryn Hill:

you know, we love each other.

Lauryn Hill:

And I was like, why do I love this man who is taught?

Lauryn Hill:

That's how he talks and this Jamaican patois.

Lauryn Hill:

Wow.

Lauryn Hill:

I, you know, and I was just like, what is, what is this?

Lauryn Hill:

But, but, you know, God brought us together and God worked it out and.

Lauryn Hill:

I'm just a love I tell you love is that confidence.