Miguel strikes R&B gold once again with "WILDHEART", managing to try out new sounds while making them his own.
Miguel is an R&B artist that not many will argue against. After bursting onto the music scene in 2010 with his debut single and album "All I Want Is You", Miguel has been a casually unstoppable force in music, with hits like "Sure Thing," "Adore," "Quickie," and features like "Lotus Flower Bomb" and "Good Lovin" keeping Miguel in the back of our minds and at the top of our playlists.
One thing Miguel's been able to do stand out is ensure that you never feel like your listening to the same song twice. His debut album consisted of straight-forward R&B, while his second project, Kaleidoscope Dream, incorporated some of the alternative sounds that were popular at the time via Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, as well as adding his own danceable flare to the tracks.
Miguel augments his style yet again on his new album WILDHEART, infusing his sound with a sweaty, funky permutation of the type of rock and roll that your dad might've listened to if he lived in small, overpriced Brooklyn apartment, sweating out the Summer with your mom as they conceived you. The trippy synths of Kaleidoscope Dream remain, accenting the electric guitars on songs like the intro, "a beautiful exit," to create an atmosphere that will make you scream Miguel.
One thing Miguel has never been shy about is his sexuality. Whether its the overt discussions of masturbation on "the valley," or the thinly-veiled "gangsta lean" he gives the lady of his affections on "NWA," Miguel isn't afraid to let it be known that he gets it in as frequently as you would expect. One of the standouts on WILDHEART is even titled "FLESH," which is the plodding, heavy bedroom burner you desire from Miguel, with high-flying falsettos and metaphors like "surrender to friction, this is body language and deep diction."
Speaking of the aforementioned "NWA," one of the two features on the album shows up here, in the form of a surprisingly seductive verse from Kurupt. The normally hardened gangster rapper loosens up for "NWA," handing out smooth bars like, "Her skin so silky, body from a movie like she plastered on a silk screen," that are usually reserved for his Dogg Pound compadre Snoop Dogg. The other feature comes on the album's outro, "face the sun," courtesy of 1990s rockstar and Hunger Games actor Lenny Kravitz, who belts out a rip-roaring guitar solo that will make you feel how Woodstock probably felt in 1969.
Although sex is the main attraction on WILDHEART, Miguel isn't afraid to have introspective discussion, as with the standout "what's normal anyway." He points out the social issues that come with being bi-racial, trying to find his place in a world divvied up by race, by class, by political views and by fashion, causing him to question which groups are "normal," and if there even is a set normal that he should conform to, a feeling that anyone that's made it to middle school has felt at some point in their lifetime.
For those in the know, WILDHEART is a more than impressive project that will satisfy a listener looking for musicality and a sonic adventure, through a more raw universe than their used to from their R&B. Like fellow Los Angeleno Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly however, WILDHEART is fairly insulated, without an obvious single within earshot. The first single "Coffee" was tossed into the ether with a verse from Wale as a taste of the project (the guest verse was left off of the album), but beyond that, it's hard to say which records will impact at a higher level, in part due to the unique nature and structure of the instrumentation (similar to Kendrick's funk tendencies on TPAB). In addition, the hyper-sexual content woven throughout might be too much for radio censors that could push a single to the next level.
Miguel, however, isn't concerned with churning out radio records. Otherwise, he wouldn't have released WILDHEART, which sounds unlike anything you'll hear in 2015. The fusion of sounds, concepts, and topics show that Miguel continues to knock it out of the park with his artistic growth. WILDHEART is a fantastic concept record that truly draws you into its world, and takes you on a nostalgic, sweaty, sexy journey.
By the time you finish, you're going to need a cup of coffee.