Miguel is down for fucking tonight — know this. And know that Miguel, through the majority of his excellent sophomore LP, Kaleidoscope Dream, minces very few words on the subject. “I’m gonna do you like drugs tonight” are some, and “tell me that this pussy is mine” are others, all mapped out in precise maxi-pop vocal lines. Best may be the magnificent bridge on “Use Me”, where Miguel — after he drops the hi-larious line “forgive me, it’s my very first time” — climbs up a ladder of sweet nothings until he screams for her to “devour me/ defile me.” It’s a moment that would surely raise Simon Cowell’s eyebrows and load a “dawg” into Randy Jackson’s chamber.
That vocal prowess and pop sensibility bring him right to the same winner’s podium as Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, all artists that push the fangs-out approach to R&B. Nothing shrouds Miguel and his directives, and worries, and prayers, and cat calls — it’s all there, full of light and love, refracting through a kaleidoscope of rocks glasses, rainy windshields, and blood-shot eyes.
The success owes a good deal to the production, sparse and specific, and always in tune with Miguel’s tenor. The guitars are all fed through that “dangerous” R&B distortion, one part of the rubble in the crumbled Wall of Sound he uses. It all leans a little like Prince and swerves a little like MJ, but more blown-out and menacing — enough to make Miguel be the next voice, not the retro voice. He’s more about the pop life than his contemporaries, and thankfully doesn’t use a big studio’s shellac to fall in line with whatever else you might find on the JAMZ radio station. Even the album’s hit single, the baby-making “Adorn”, is propelled almost solely by on-beat sub-bass gnarl with desire dripping off the sharper edges of Miguel’s voice.
Kaleidoscope Dream is a fractured portrait of Miguel, as he closes with the mantra, “may the bridges we burn only light our way.” There are no regrets for the libido-on-the-sleeve Miguel, and in his wake, everything is on fire. What’s next?
Essential Tracks: “Adorn”, “Don’t Look Back”, “Use Me”, and “The Thrill”