Maybe I shouldn’t start off this paragraph by again addressing the glaring concern of male R&B (or R&B in general), because we’ve all heard, addressed, and voiced our displeasure with the genre as a whole. However, it’s still weird that it’s such an event whenever a notable name comes out with a new R&B album, because us as fans are starved for quality music (yes, Frank Ocean, we’re all looking in your direction). Miguel is one of those names that pops up and everyone says “where?” because he doesn’t often miss with his music. I mean, this is the man who made the last ’20-years-from-now-BBQ-Playlist’ classic, Adorn, so he has earned that respect. Kaleidoscope Dreams was a surprisingly good album, and I was glad that more people took notice given the fact that All I Want Is You kind of flew under the radar. Since that time, the infamous 2013 Billboard Music Awards incident gave me the power to name Miguel from that day forward, ‘Yung Leg Drop’ and we hadn’t heard much of him since. When R&B dudes (not named Chris Brown or The Weeknd) take a break, they really take a break. If the end result is to come back stronger with good music, we’ll take it. I’m still waiting for BJ The Chicago Kid for his Pineapple Now Laters follow up. We just have to deal with it. Having seen Miguel perform live (without physically damaging someone), he’s truly an artist that cares about his craft from the studio to the stage. He has some great songs and recognizes his sex appeal, which reflects in his music. He’s like the R-rated version of Bruno Mars (the type you don’t bring home to the parents). Now on his 3rd EP, I expected more of the bold and sexy vibes to come right out of the gate, based on the EPs that he released that featured songs on the album (which I was curious as to why not newer songs would be on it). I wasn’t too high on expectations, but let’s see where it takes us.
With the news report and police activity circulating in the background, the electric guitar in the foreground, the atmosphere and vibe are set up in the same way of rebellion and high tension. Much like the endless amounts of police related events that take place almost daily in America, especially when it comes to race relations. Abeautifulexit is ironically titled, because it’s the beginning of the album (look at Miguel being deep). But the song does have context behind it, like a rallying cry to stand for what you believe in and not to settle for anything less.
“Don’t ever sell yourself short, sell your acceptance
Accept the new, don’t mingle on the past
Believe yourself, trust your intuition
You’re here for a reason”
It’s crazy how much in that one verse, reminds me of the advice that my mother gave me throughout the years that I pass to people here and there: The importance of being your own person. With the news of Gay Marriage being legalized, and the movement of Black Lives Matter still going on strong, the fight for individual rights and freedoms is one that’s very loud, vocal, and clear as day. For it to be expressed through words here by Miguel says that it’s touching across all mediums. It’s the right thing to say. I like that the emphasis of this song is to follow your own path and not conform to the standards that society sets for everyone. ‘Live fast, die young’ is also a common theme here, but the path is to just keep moving forward. It’s a positive tone being set, so I credit Miguel for laying the smack down already.
With no hesitation, DEAL jumps into the mentality of people wanting to have everything that revolves around the almighty dollar. Money is the root of all evil, but it’s what people thrive for just to seek happiness for themselves. Living in a North American society is really interesting because of the things that we take for granted that is unimaginable for more than half of the world’s population. Money controls how people move in their lives, because it gives us stature, places us in certain classes, and allows us to live certain lifestyles.
“Love me, love me for profit, I can make you go down
I can show you the money if you wanna know how
When you’re ready, come and get me, I’m on Capitol Hill
Before I show you the money, let me spot you the bill”
The goal is always people to have a lot of money, I find. People just want to have a lot of money so that they can find that happiness within themselves to live well. It’s the reason why For The Love of Money is one of the most important songs, because it shows the nature of people what they’ll do and how far they’ll go just to get a dollar. I like the funk that comes to the table. So far, it doesn’t exactly feel like an R&B album, but more like an alternative funk/soul. Then again, it’s only the 2nd song – we have a ways to go. I love how the beat slowed down right before the ending. The little spontaneous things like that, I take notice of those because it can enhance (or at times not) the listening experience. It worked here.
Here’s where it starts to get back to that sex appeal Miguel that most are familiar with. The valley starts it off, and the seductive vocals take over as that dirty talk will most definitely have the ladies start to feel some sensation (I mean, so I’ve seen by various reactions). When he goes to saying things like wanting to have sex like they’re pornstars, that should just give an indication of what’s happening here. The R-Rated content starts here, folks. Get comfortable, and grab napkins. Just nasty. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you hear of people using this in their homemade ‘flicks’ just because the content and the sound of it itself just calls for it to be done.
When Miguel released the nwa.hollywooddreams.coffee EP a while before the album came out, Coffee was one of the songs that I wasn’t really feeling, and then there was a version with Wale, and needless to say, that didn’t change my views on it either. But, it did grow onto me as time went on. Mainly because I like the hook for it, but the beat itself, I didn’t really care for. But when you think about the lyrics themselves, it’s pretty much what a lot of people look for in a companion (given that he is married, it makes sense). There are a lot of those gushy, and sensitive lines that will infiltrate social media at lightning speed (not as often as a Drake lyric, but still), and for good reason because it’s one that, if you’re single, makes you wish that you had someone just so you could relate. I mean, it happens, let’s be real.
“We talk street art and sarcasm
Crass humor and high fashion
Peach color, moon glistens, the plot thickens
As we laugh over shotguns and tongue kisses
Bubble bath, Truth or Dare, and Would You Rather
A cold flame, the thrill of no shame
Drugs, sex, and polaroids
Pick a star in the sky
We could both say goodbye all night”
This really describes what a perfect day in the summer would be like with your special one, because really a lot of people just want to lay back, and enjoy the presence of someone while doing relaxing things, cheesy things, and intimate things. All of the things, that’s all people really want. That’s highlighted in this verse specifically, but it’s a nice song that feels refreshing like a cup of coffee in the morning (but I don’t drink that – Hot chocolate all day). It’s not quite an Adorn moment, but this really is a beautiful song that I can see having a lot of airplay, and possibly awards being dished out. It’s like when Frank Ocean dropped Thinking About You. It’s on that same wavelength. Just get the Wale version far away, and we’re all good.
Alright, NWA is the most random song on the album, bar none, but this is also my favourite on the album. Never mind the fact that Kurupt is featured on it, the bounce and the flow get me from start to finish. This too was on the EP that was released earlier. I enjoyed then, and I enjoy it still right now. When you look at Miguel initially, the last thing I imagine is NWA being in any way, shape, or form affiliated to him. For those for whatever reason don’t know what NWA stands for, just Google it, but Kurupt says it in the first 5 words of his verse. Kurupt sounds like he hasn’t aged in a decade, but his presence was great for the song, providing that gangsta bravado that the ladies love – and thus contributes to Miguel’s complex wild heart. He shows the sexy, he shows the sensitive, now he shows the roughneck attitude. Balance is key. It’s also worth mentioning that he did grow up not too far from Long Beach, California.
Those California roots don’t run far, as Waves serves as a double entendre with regards to surfing and also riding the wave of that high feeling with regards to love (or sex – whatever’s clever). This is just the continuation of the passion that seems to be flowing, from when it started on ‘the valley’ (I warned you). But it gets back into a more personal narrative with What’s Normal Anyway? and this is another one of my Top songs to listen to. At least it lets us know what’s going on in Miguel’s world as a Biracial individual, as many artists of biracial ethnicities have those moments of “where do I fit in” (Logic, Drake, J. Cole, to name a few). Earl Sweatshirt & Tyler, the Creator also came to mind with the first verse of this song, because although they’re Black kids, they struggled with that identity of hanging out with select people because of their contrasting personalities.
“Too proper for the black kids, too black for the Mexicans
Too square to be a hood nigga, what’s normal anyway?
Too opinionated for the pacifist, too out of touch to be in style
Too broke for the rich kids, I don’t know what normal is”
“I’m in a crowd and I feel alone, I look around and I feel alone
I never feel like I belong, I wanna feel like I belong, somewhere”
Finding yourself is one of life’s missions, but when you realize that you just fit in life and not with one or two particular groups, I imagine it could be a little easier, but then again that’s just naïve to think. Like what I said at the beginning of the review when it comes to race relations, and Gay rights, and even include gender equality, people just want to be able to belong to something when society tells them that they’re not normal. With a show like Modern Family displaying just what the ‘new normal’ is, there’s a different definition of that word that a lot of people seem hard pressed to understand or even accept, but it is what it is. It’s the world we live in, and people just want to be accepted. This can turn into a long debate, but I won’t go there. The narrative of the song did its purpose to at least open up a conversation, and that’s why I like it – for that particular reason.
The third and final song from the pre-album EP to appear on the album is Hollywood Dreams, and this one too, I had to grow into (still growing), but I do like the hook a lot. Hollywood is the place where dreams happen, in the city of ‘Lost Angels’ (Miguel, you sneaky writer, you), and a reflection of the city can be a mixed bag of emotions and a variety of experiences.
“Said wow, up fame, became your religion woman
Unique as you are your faith is coming
Now the walk of shame woman, it’s reputation
Cheap thrills, fake friends, coke binge, what a numb sensation
Then he said, “honey I can put your face on the big screen
Well aren’t you looking for your big break?
Come here, for fame sake””
People will do the most just for that slice of fame, and in this verse in particular that stood out, it’s a dose of what fame will push people to do, in terms of shady friendships, a lot of drugs, and getting yourself into things just to be up on that big screen for the opportunities that’ll follow. It’s politics as usual, and it’s a scary sight, truth be told. But that’s the life a lot of people want, especially in today’s world where you can be discovered through any form of social media – it doesn’t take much to lose yourself in the thrill of it all, however. Lost Hollywood dreams – well played, Miguel. Well played.
I haven’t kept up with my Spanish lessons as of late, but thankfully there isn’t a whole lot of Spanish being sung on Destinado a morir (Death’s Destination in English) for me to jump on Rosetta Stone or Duolingo to translate. The things that we love or care for will eventually be our demise or come to an end at some point. What messed me up was that this sounded so wicked, but then it just trailed off as if it was just a little teaser. I didn’t appreciate that at all, but when it went right into …goingtohell, that transition was clean. The rock & roll elements that are present in this album, I thought I would have been annoyed with, but on ‘hell’ in particular, this song was just perfect for it. The death’s destination and Hell symbolism meshed well, and the fact that the acknowledgement of all of man’s sins is present, hey man, leave a seat open for me.
“These bittersweet notions of forever
Blossom and find me in my dreams
If we should die, I hope we die together
If not, at least I’ll know just where we’ll be”
I’m sure if Romeo & Juliet lived in the 21st century, this would probably be their theme song. It’s so dynamic, but has that bounce that had my head bopping from the beginning.
You thought the sexiness was over? Nope. FLESH is likely the most dynamic with regards to sex on this album. It just grabs you aggressively from the jump, and how the beat rides throughout with the vocals, it’s laid out in poetic fashion, although Miguel did his best D’Angelo impersonation, because for a good portion of the time during this song, I could understand probably every other word being sung, but that wasn’t a major issue for me, because I enjoy the song overall.
“Flesh, addicted, yeah
I mean it, I’m a mess, now
I’m a slave to your flesh
Woman put me right where I belong”
Fellas, if you have a lady-friend, I’m telling you that if you put this song on at any particular time, you might be conceiving that very moment, I kid you not. It’s one of those that you have no answers for; you just have to deal with what’s going to happen.
I thought it was all going well until the more melodic and somber tune of Leaves comes around. Miguel is in a more vulnerable state, and it’s almost as if it’s a moment of heartbreak that’s taking place just out of nowhere.
“Winter hit me, Hiroshima, where did the sun go?
Just the cruel rain pouring, you say that it’s over
How could it be over, when I never saw it coming?”
It’s true, when something devastating hits you without any form of preparation, it’s as though the world had just turned without warning and it becomes cold, dreary, and just unbearable to comprehend. Now, he mentions California being the cause of his feelings, so it’s the area that has betrayed him, unless California is just another name for something else that has him feeling some type of way. To be honest, California probably hasn’t seen a drop of rain in about 6 months, so the imagery of Miguel’s depression need to become a reality, because they could use all of the water they can get from the sky. Come on, clouds. Move over the sun for a little bit. The electric guitar being played is in a rhythm that I feel like I’ve heard in a song from years ago, but I can’t place my finger on it (the stuff you hear while working in retail). This is a nice song though, no matter the similarities.
When I saw the tracklist for the album, and I saw that the last song on the album was featuring Lenny Kravitz (I want to marry your daughter, Lenny) I had a strong feeling that it was going to be a great song, and Face the Sun did not disappoint, thankfully. It’s crazy that death was always going to be the ending of the story from the beginning (of the album), and everything in-between were just emotions and experiences of feeling close to someone, even self-reflection, and looking at the world on a broader perspective. At the end of it all, what only matters is the person who loves you the most when you’re looking into the light of your last days. It’s such a dramatic ending to the album, which is suitable because there’s a lot of drama within the album itself. Lenny Kravitz does the damn thing on the guitar, which should not go unnoticed at all. I find it weird that the last song of this album and the previous (Kaleidoscope) have the word ‘Sun’ in them. That’s just a random thing, which I’m sure has nothing to do with anything, but it was worth mentioning.
This album carries a more all around artistic vibe because of the heavy dose of instrumentation surrounding it, compared to albums prior, but he keeps it consistent with subject content, although he expands more into himself and even touched on what’s going on around that’s current – that’s the difference. This album, you’re not looking for hits, because there aren’t many songs that stand out as thee song, because as an overall project, there are a bunch of good songs strung together that just work well to be enjoyed as such (although I can leave NWA on repeat consistently). For something that I didn’t have a lot of expectations for, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this album. It’s raw and Miguel laid out just what his ‘wild heart’ is made of. There’s a lot going on, but it was presented in a fashionable way that will serve its purpose in the summer as a go-to project for those kick back and relax days. His discography is pretty legit thus far with this making his 3rd solid album (jury’s still out on it being the ‘best’ of the three, however). Give it a listen, and most definitely enjoy. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX