Review Summary: Miguel steps up the funk factor in his latest splurge of R&B jams and pop—this time emitting his most political work to date.
When Miguel released lead single “Sky Walker” in August of this year, it wasn’t exactly a return to the artist’s usual unique splashes of R&B. Instead the summer track embraced a certain change in feel, most notably making use of its mere typical but exquisitely produced trap beat through its ‘living it up’ lyrics; even throwing in a verse from hip-hop artist Travis Scott. For better or worse, it’s hard to decide—”Sky Walker” is nonetheless a fun, self-applauding jam, and one that’s easy to throw a party to—so, of course, it’s almost an interjecting moment in a far funkier and natural instrument based album. Miguel even commented on the song saying how the track’s lyrics were written in the moment, which in hindsight, can also be said about his latest album of freedom, war, confidence, sex, and care-free fun.
The artist approaches War & Leisure with aplenty funk, psychedelic, and R&B goodness, and even if it isn’t as daring as his previous efforts, it’s still rooted with his knack for majestic melodies and party jams. “I want my music to be a place for my audience to go and be able to feel good,” Miguel spoke to Entertainment Weekly, later adding some meat to it by stating “it’s about feeling good and staying positive, but it’s also not doing it mindlessly.” As a whole, War & Leisure almost feels like one big party interrupted little by little by the real truths outside of the party—where each harsh fact seeps in until the whole thing is burned down—and yet there’s an undeniable sense of hope and positivity surrounding it. There’s a feel of political undertones throughout, which the singer explained as “what life feels like right now”, after stating “I always try to take a picture of what’s going on in my life.”
“Banana Clip” seems to be the most upbeat slice of anarchic society on the album, singing about a fun, trusting love in the center of a fictional war. Miguel’s laugh perpetuates one of the track’s catchiest moments, straight after the words “it’s like I’m trigger happy”, further cementing the readiness he shares with protecting his love in a chaotic, violent world. “Pineapple Skies” is another upbeat track, perhaps the most optimistic one on the album, slamming high with a smooth beat and repeated jingle—the amount of fingers snapping to the song’s tasty bassline make it that much more fun—it’s almost the best representation of the album’s cover. Miguel serves up what he calls “the quintessential Miguel song, but in Spanish” on “Caramelo Duro”, representing his Mexican heritage in a fun, flirty jam with the artist’s natural flavor for catchy melodies. It’s probably the album’s grandest party track.
Even on the slower “Come Through and Chill”‘s simple, repeated instrumental, Miguel brings the track together with his flavorful melodies that rather outweigh the verses of rapper J. Cole. The song features an almost incredibly laid-back Miguel, who’s more interested in kicking back and spending the night in with a lover than he is on mentioning the gloom going on outside. Despite the lack of obvious sexiness that’s very much accustomed to Miguel’s persona, it’s still predominant, but fairly toned down; on “Anointed” he gets the most erotic he’s been since 2015’s Wildheart, refraining the lyrics “your body’s ready for war, and my body’s built to endure”. The track could have well been pulled from the album’s predecessor.
It all comes to a close in one of Miguel’s most moving and political tracks, “Now”, addressing Donald Trump’s relationship between Mexicans and Americans, almost examining and asking man’s integrity if this is the look of freedom. The song closes off War & Leisure in a profound way—after all these parties and upbeat times, there’s still always something to wake up to and something in the way—yet, when Miguel demands that the time is now, not later, to act for all the people in Puerto Rico, Houston, Michigan, New Orleans, for all the black lives lost and all the dreamers that came to America, it’s more than just relevant.