Miguel sounds progressive on eclectic third album Wildheart
Miguel released a debut album in 2010 that did quite well in the US, but did not give him a proper push internationally. In 2012 however, he shot to fame and stardom with the release of his second record, Kaleidoscope Dream. The contemporary R&B did well and his single ‘Adorn’ became a sleeper hit. Although he gave his R&B style a slightly alternative edge with a smooth but original production, he takes things a bit further on the third album called Wildheart. The productions are quirkier, the songs are harder, the lyrics are more explicit and the whole body of work is more adventurous and eclectic.
After the success of Kaleidoscope Dream the public probably expected Miguel to go down a more commercial road with hit producers. He collaborated with the likes of Mariah Carey, Janelle Monáe, A$AP Rocky and Jessie Ware before working on his own new work, that does not sound more commercial, but actually edgier and more personal. In interviews, the R&B artist explained how the album is all centered around his experiences in Los Angeles and this is the most explicit on ‘Hollywood Dreams’ that talks about ‘waiting for a big break’ and ‘a magic man that can make it all happen’. This all is substantiated with an R&B sound with some room for rocky guitars and an ‘in your face’ way of producing, which is quite unusual in contemporary R&B.
This is a sound that continues throughout the record and makes it a unity, but at the same time, Miguel leaves enough room for variation in styles and the way he uses his vocals. On ‘…goingtohell’ for example, his smooth and high vocals in the chorus are contrasted by a high pace instrumentation with drums and lots of electric guitars. Lyrically it deals with big themes like needing saviour from your sins. Like one would expect from Miguel, quite a few of the tracks deal with sex in a not very subtle way. ‘The Valley’ and ‘FLESH’ are both sexy and seductive slow jams that quite explicitly explain what Miguel wants to do to the girl the tracks are about. With that voice it never sounds raunchy, but feels like something you want to play in the bed room yourself.
Of course Miguel has more to say, which he does on the stripped back and touching ‘What’s Normal Anyway’, on which he discusses his roots and not fitting in in society. He shows what a great songwriter he is on ‘Leaves’, a beautiful track about California that could have lasted two minutes longer if you ask me and the uplifting and hit worthy ‘Face The Sun’ for which he gets some help from Lenny Kravitz. Arguably the best but definitely the most romantic tracks on this album are ‘Coffee’ and ‘Simple Things’ that lyrically show the beauty of the little and everyday things in love and sex. Sonically, the tracks perfectly balance between the R&B sound, the electric guitars and the instant hooks in the choruses. They might not be the most adventurous tracks on the record, but they are convincing and effortless and will help sell this album to the masses.
Miguel surpasses himself on an album that offers more identity, personality, consistency and adventure. It might not be the most commercially obvious and instant collection of songs, but if you give it some time with multiple listens, it shows itself like a body of work that gets unfolded layer after layer with beautiful stories and unusual sounds and productions. It’s a daring effort and I applaud Miguel for that!
Must listen: Coffee, Simple Things, Leaves, …goingtohell, Face The Sun