These days, R&B has been coming off as limp overkill. Artists like The Weeknd, Jeremih, Trey Songz, and Chris Brown are either desperately begging for sex or bragging about all the sex they get. One way or another, artists are trying too hard or phoning it in. Fortunately, summer is heating up with a little help from L.A.’s freewheeling freak.
Three years after his expansive and futuristic sophomore effort Kaleidoscope Dream (featuring his Grammy-winning hit “Adorn”), Miguel is back for another round of spacey, sensual seduction with his third album, Wildheart. It’s clear from opener “A Beautiful Exit” that Miguel’s hometown flows in the veins of this record more than ever. Guitars sound like they can reach arenas, organs and bass lines feel as thick as the streets of Hollywood, and the sexual energy oozes from front to back. Tracks like “A Beautiful Exit,” “Leaves,” and “Hollywood Dreams” sound like if Prince fronted a hair metal band. Traces of thumping 80s funk and slow-burning rock and roll (closing track “Face The Sun” features a scorching guitar solo from Lenny Kravitz) are all over Wildheart, almost describing Miguel’s musical DNA. But Wildheart isn’t just Miguel recycling the sounds of his Walkman when he was a kid. The Miguel sound is still present and still working. There’s whirring synthesizers (“Valley”), smooth grooves (lead single “Coffee,” “NWA,” “Waves”) and Miguel slithering and bouncing through it all. Some tracks seem to focus more on droning sounds than getting to a point (“…Goingtohell,” “Hollywood Dreams”), but there’s still more sizzle in the music than anything else on radio today.
What makes Miguel stand out even further than his peers is that he’s not begging or forcing sex. He wants to get laid, but it’s almost the last thing on his mind. “Deal” has him in full stunner mode, telling girls how he might be better for them with his deep pockets and fresh style. “Coffee” is Miguel wanting the conversation, the foreplay, and the morning-after breakfast as much as he wants to “paint [their] love” all over the place. He also shows off his hidden gangster side in “NWA” for the girls looking for bad boy hustlers (with an especially nasty guest verse from Kurupt). Whenever he talks about his significant other, Miguel makes sure that she’s in control as much as he is. However, that kink is nearly derailed by “What’s Normal Anyway?,” where Miguel turns into self-conscious soul-searcher. He talks about never fitting into any one group or identity, either “Too proper for the black kids…Too opinionated for the pacifist / Too out of of touch to be in style.” It’s a fine track, but maybe something saved as a bonus track and not in the middle of his horny rollercoaster.
Miguel’s got plenty of talented peers, whether it be Frank Ocean’s confessional soul-bearing, The-Dream’s high-rolling put-ons, or even D’Angelo’s purist sound. Miguel is a forward-thinking loverman, someone wanting to make R&B more than a droning organ beat and occasional keyboard blips. Wildheart isn’t made for pop radio airplay, but for real deep personal enjoyment (no, not like that, you perv). Miguel is someone looking to make a lasting impression from his music, style, and delivery. He’s not a side guy or a one night stand married women reminisce about, he wants to love you until the world burns and then die in your arms. More so, he keeps finding new ways to say it on every album, and Wildheart is no exception.