Review Summary: By staying within himself as well as adapting to the changing landscape of the genre, Miguel crafts the R&B record of the summer.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of finding success in music is catching a break. Dealing directly with the R&B, Frank Ocean appeared and used his success with OFWGKTA in order to catapult his individual success. It wasn't until Drake decided to post "The Morning" on his blog that The Weeknd found exposure. Either way, connections can often be the biggest key to really breaking out and that's honestly a sad reality. For Miguel, he has had to overcome the dissolution of Jive, poor marketing and an overall different sound to finally have his moment in 2012 with Kaleidoscope Dreams
and while his second LP awoke to critical acclaim, it's easy to say that it's not until Wildheart
that Miguel's sound has come full focus.
That isn't to take away anything from Kaleidoscope Dreams
which was a great album in its own right, but it never seemed to have the sort of stability you would hope with a breakout album. With Wildheart
, Miguel broadens his spectrum to suit just about anyone and by doing so creates a diversity that hasn't been seen in an R&B album since Channel Orange
. Single "Coffee" has enough feel-good sensuality to be the soundtrack of your summer. The hook, "Wordplay, turns into gunplay/ and gunplays turns into pillow talk/ and pillow talk turns into sweet dreams/ sweet dreams turns into coffee in the morning" craft an image that is so fitting to summer that you can't help but smile and hum along to it. Elsewhere, the Frank Ocean-esque "What's Normal Anyways?" is the anchor to the whole album. In an interview with Pitchfork, Miguel was quoted saying, "If people listen to my music and are like, “OK cool, this is like some sex shit,” that song will bring everyone back to what the real purpose is. It’s a harness for myself, too -- a reminder of why we do this shit." While much of Wildheart
see's Miguel at his most devilishly charming through soundtracks of love (Waves, The Valley, Coffee) its in the more introspective songs that we truly feel the human element of Miguel's music. In that respect is the evolution of Miguel. By the end of the album we are hit with the track "Leaves," and much like how the happiness of summer eventually turns into the gloominess of autumn, Leaves is that turning point. Behind a great alt-rock chord progression, that slowly builds toward its anthem of a climax, Miguel crafts the breakup song of 2015, with just enough heartbreak and glimpses of hope to win over anyone.
It's in these few moments of bleakness spread throughout Wildheart
that really add to the album's depth, and in a greater vision, its longevity. By being able to effectively reconstruct his style with an open-minded recognition of how his other R&B's companions construct their music, this is Miguel at his highest evolutionary state ever. Whether its the brooding production of "Flesh" that sonically borrows from James Blake, or the sexually perverse nature of the lyrics on "The Valley" combined with lo-fi trap atmosphere that is a respectful nod toward The Weeknd, Wildheart
is a varied R&B album that ends up being the breakout that Miguel has been striving for.