Review: Miguel Lets His Inner Rock Star Flourish On ‘Wildheart’
Miguel isn’t just a lusty crooner. Wildheart proves his R&B revolution is now.
Miguel doesn’t give a f**k. Somewhere between rock riffs, off-kilter rhythm, blues grooves, and explicit lyrics of lust and life lies an unbothered crooner immersed in a starry far-off galaxy, enjoying the view of a naked woman crouching in his presence (see: his album cover). The 29-year-old singer/songwriter is on some other s**t for 2015 and rightfully so. Following up the critically acclaimed Kaleidoscope Dream, he deviates from the ratchet R&B running radio on Wildheart. The soulful Casanova just lets his instincts run wild and free.
His third studio effort is a cross roads of sorts as art imitates life and we meet a more mature and self-aware Miguel, both sonically and lyrically. His edgy sound on the 13-track LP will undoubtedly capture the attention of both fans and first-time listeners, a sentiment that couldn’t be echoed by everyone in 2010. It wasn’t too long since his debut, All I Want Is You, was dubbed a sleeper after entering the Billboard 200 at no. 109, but even then, there was no denying his talent. During a time where boldly embellished Ed Hardy t-shirts and Kanye’s Rosewood movement were the biggest things popping, Miguel’s avant-garde sense of style didn’t fit the mainstream bill. “That album was a huge learning experience. I left the marketing of my album and me as an artist up to the discretion of the label,” he explained to Billboard in Sept. 2012. “They marketed me like the typical R&B artist, which I can’t really blame them for, because that’s what they know. But that’s not what my lifestyle was.”
With his first album focusing on “trial and tribulations” and the second whispering, “OK we’re here; I wasn’t bugging,” Miguel’s forthcoming project is “here we go,” as his right-hand man, RCA executive, Mark Pitts Gambles, described in a recent interview with MTV News. After double-digit spins of Wildheart for five consecutive days, it’s apparent to this writer that Miguel is really just getting started. If you thought he shattered the R&B stereotype with Kaleidoscope Dream, think again. Here, he straddles dangerously between the lines of soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Mastering radio-friendly rhythm and blues was a given, but Miguel’s audacity to one-up his Grammy-nominated sophomore album is another thing.
“Believe yourself, trust your intuition. You’re here for a reason,” he pleads on the album kicker, “A Beautiful Exit.” An ode to conquering doubt and fear laced with dreamy electronic textures and crippling bass guitar strums, Miguel makes life’s struggles sound like Technicolor. A roller coaster ride of emotions, the LP pulsates with sex (of course), self-love and his native Southern California. He quickly drifts into machismo-mode after the second track (“Deal”), shedding all the modesty and shyness from previous projects. While once stroking egos and asking his lady if the p**sy was his, he’s now taking full control.
The lead single (“Coffee”) only scratches the surface of his desires, maturing into the erotic, San Fernando Valley porn industry-inspired track, “The Valley.” He belts out on the mid-tempo electronic track, “I want to taste your sweat/Force my fingers in your mouth/ F**k you like I hate you baby/I want to sweat you out.” His backing vocals also continuously repeat, “Lips, tits, cl*t.” After venturing into uncharted territory, he alternates the ragtag rock fusion for a slick, gangster hip-hop feature assisted by Death Row’s, Kurupt with “NWA.” The Prince comparisons are blatant on “Flesh,” a lush performance equipped with endearing falsettos and an impressive vocal timbre as he percolates from tenor to bass with ease.
Included in the bawdy sex playlist are awe-inspiring songs of his personal growth and development, serving as a confessional. Wanting to feel like he belongs (“What’s Normal Anyway”) and recognizing the empty fixations of pipe dreams (“Hollywood Dreams”). Fittingly, Miguel calls on rock god and wild thing, Lenny Kravitz, to close out the album with a sick guitar solo on “Face The Sun,” a final affirmation that Miguel is done with the pleasantries and is, in no way, looking to conform to outside expectations.
Wildheart is a future classic for the open-minded. It’s ultimately Miguel’s sweet spot, and I’m not talking about penetration or the anatomy of his lover. I mean his soul, his essence, the core of his inner being. He told Rolling Stone that his goal with the album was to craft “an ode to love of self… [and] the ongoing infatuation with whatever you’re f**king into.” It worked. The LP captures his love for soul but pushes boundaries by incorporating off-the-wall grunge and rock ‘n’ roll influences. It proves that Miguel is undoubtedly at the forefront of the creative renaissance that is happening in R&B. Although he may catch a bit of flack from rhythm and blues purists for his sonic boom of varying sounds and influences, his vulnerability makes it worth the while. Miguel is human, but most importantly, he has the balls to go the distance. –Ashley Monaé