Miguel’s ‘Wildheart’: Album Review
Let’s start it off this way: I didn’t think Miguel‘s career would’ve lasted this long. When the singer made his debut with All I Want Is You back in 2010, his sound placed him in the R&B/Urban category of radio-friendly music that did not really separate him from the Jeremihs, J. Holidays, Trey Songzs and The-Dreams of the world. But two years and a record label change later, Miguel proved me wrong with the anything-but-a sophomore slump — Kaleidoscope Dream.
Fast forward to today, and the crooner has released his strongest body of work to date that doesn’t rely on commercialization for it to profit. Miguel’s third studio album, Wildheart, is unapologetically raw, sonically rich, oddly intergalactic and sustainable enough to show just why the singer deserves not to be ticked off on any musical category — he’s got his artistry all figured out now.
The album kicks off with “a beautiful exit,” a soaring mid-tempo that is laced with fuzzy guitar licks that provide a sonic foil for Miguel’s sweet vocals. “Don’t ever sell yourself short, sell your sad things / Accept the new, don’t mangle on the past / Believe yourself, trust your intuition,” he sings with an affirmation that is more confident than ever. It is almost as if Miguel is speaking to his former self in a mirror, motivating himself stretch his artistry to its limits yet the tune snaps back just enough to prevent it from becoming too predictable.
Next up is “DEAL,” a handclap-ready tune that has a smooth undercurrent of funk inspiration. It is a grown-up and less glossy version of All I Want Is You‘s “Pay Me,” as Miguel almost satirically shouts about society’s incessant need for monetary gain. The song comes as no surprise once placed in the LP’s theme of the Los Angeles lifestyle. “I just wanted this album to look and feel and taste like twilight in L.A.,” he told Rolling Stone last month. “Just light enough to see the beauty, but then dark enough for all of the sketchy shit to happen.”
Sure, the first few tracks off Wildheart show Miguel’s varied musical influences: Prince, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, etc. But the singer pushes all those expectations aside once it truly bursts into a lust-fueled fury in the middle of the record, as he amps up the sex at full force. This is not your typical (and increasingly banal) “Let’s make love” type of R&B music — Miguel rips that stereotype apart and slices it with a visceral, steamy and insanely carnal body experience. This is made clear with “the valley,” one of the LP’s most standout tracks.
The almost-animalistic downtempo is like softcore porn — from the bass-heavy production that holds enough weight to drop your panties to the floor, the whispered naughty vocals and the refreshingly explicit lyrics. “I wanna fuck like we’re filming in the valley/ I wanna push and shove and paint your hills and valley/ I got a red idea to expedite the ride/ Put it over, pull ’em to the side,” Miguel croons as he discusses mouth-to-finger foreplay, masturbation and female private parts with a fervor that oozes an erotica that many artists in his realm are afraid to explore.
“Coffee (F*cking),” Wildheart‘s lead single, isn’t as wild as the previous track — but it does continues the album’s sex adventure. The tune displays a more intimate side of seduction that is as soothing as it is racy. It shows Miguel’s effortless artistry when it comes to abstract songwriting: “Old souls we found a new religion / Now I’m swimming in that sin, baptism / Peach colored skies we feel the sunrise / Two lost angels discover salvation.” The LP soon digs deeper into an unrestrained sensuality, thanks to “FLESH.”
This track finds Miguel flipping back and forth between his bedroom personalities: rugged dominance and a psychedelic tenderness that would make Prince proud. The distorted haze of the guitar-based melodies that are spiked with thrusting drums (probably not a coincidence when you think of the song’s title) will make you feel like you are making love on the moon.
In our recent chat with Miguel, he revealed the meaning behind “what’s normal anyway.” “Because you don’t care anymore, and you realize that normality is subjective and based on people’s perceptions, which is based on people’s own experiences, circumstances, fear, blah blah blah,” the singer exclaimed. With all of the striking political events taking place in the U.S. that are deeply rooted in race. This minimal yet effective track finds Miguel stripping his soul as he looks within himself to figure out his place in a cruel world that judges his culture, morality and selfishness.
It is clear that the artist no longer gives a fuck about meeting a certain societal standard when it comes to what is expected with his music, and that is why Wildheart is such a truly great album. Miguel is proof that R&B no longer has to be boring or weighed down with lovey-dovey cliches and uncomfortably wet tears. In 2015, the genre does have room to be fiercely honest, cerebral, slightly crude and sonically expansive where it can easily be transported from the intimacy of one’s bedroom to an international arena.
When we spoke to Miguel, he stated: “But what transcends programming is knowledge. Knowledge of self. Knowing what you stand for. Knowing what you care about. I think that’s what the whole album’s about.” And how right he was! Wildheart finds the singer ripping away any remains of mainstream expectations he had left and showing a more bare, rough-around-the-edges personality — Miguel is now more confident than ever both musically and mentally. At this point, the singer’s growth as a surefire artist cannot be tamed. His wildheart cannot be broken, after all.