Singer Crystal Monee Hall Covers Lauryn Hill on Riveting 'Water': Premiere

Shervin Lainez
Crystal Monee Hall

The former ‘Rent’ cast member’s credits include appearances on songs by Kanye West, Mariah Carey and Craig David.

Christmas is still six days away. But here’s an early gift that’s also a forecast of what’s ahead on the R&B front in 2017: the premiere of Crystal Monee Hall’s “Water.”

It’s the New York-based singer/songwriter’s fearless re-imagining of Lauryn Hill’s “Just Like Water” from the latter’s 2002 MTV Unplugged 2.0 album. Laced with multiple vocal layers and sweeping production, the track shimmers with renewed urgency thanks to Hall’s nuanced, multi-octave-spanning alto.

Listen to "Water" here: 

“I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember and consider myself a soul singer,” declares Hall. “I think contemporary R&B got lost in pop for a while, and people haven’t allowed R&B as wide a berth as it deserves. But it’s definitely on the come-up: a return to singers; people like Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway whose mouths just opened and you could feel what you need to feel.”

Hall’s singing career formally began when the former high school English teacher auditioned for and won a role with the Broadway cast of Rent. From there, the Richmond, Virginia native fronted the Mickey Hart Band with legendary jam-band musicians Mickey Hart (The Grateful Dead) and Dave Schools (Widespread Panic). Her credits since then include Mariah Carey’s Christmas residency at New York’s Beacon Theater, performing with Kanye West and Chance the Rapper during their debut performance of West’s “Ultralight Beam” on Saturday Night Live, and singing on Craig David’s “All We Needed,” the official song of the BBC’s 2016 Children in Need campaign.

Having previously released a solo album and two with Hart, Hall is prepping for her “proper debut” early next year: an EP featuring “Water” and three additional tracks. Fusing world, blues, jazz, contemporary soul and spiritual music, the singer/songwriter tackles social and political issues (as well as love) on “Lost Boys” (about the country’s mass-incarceration crisis), “Who Will Witness” and “If You Breathe.”

“Love and war … that’s a dichotomy I can’t remove myself from,” says Hall, who is also an adjunct professor of music at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts. “And this EP is something I’ve been wanting to do: a modern soul project that definitely harkens back to the vibe and energy of traditional R&B/soul.”


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