Miguel has always been smooth, but over the last few years as he’s allowed some rough edges to show, he’s become all the more interesting because of it. At the beginning of his career it felt a little difficult to determine exactly who Miguel was and where he stood amongst other male R&B singers. As good as his second album was, Kaleidoscope Dream still felt a little empty, and it wasn’t until 2015’s Wildheart that we began to really get an idea of Miguel as an artist. The soulful, layered production with a strong hip hop influence was refreshingly quirky, which are all traits that continue on War & Leisure, his most focused effort to date.
On the summery single ‘Pineapple Skies’ the singer namechecks Stevie Wonder, but it’s Wonder’s former labelmate Marvin Gaye (as well as Sly Stone) who is a more apt vocal comparison, as Miguel sounds silky smooth with just the right amount of raw soul power.
The production manages to create a pleasing balance between crisp programmed drum sounds, layered instrumentation and ample use of delay and reverb effects that help create a sense of space. Caribbean influences also find their way into several of the tracks, such as the laid back soul of ‘Banana Clip’, while the Travis Scott-featuring ‘Sky Walker’ continues the woozy psychedelic feel showcased on Wildheart standout ‘coffee’. Guitar, nearly always highly distorted, also features prominently, resulting in a old school blues rock feel when combined with the rawness of his delivery, such as on shouter ‘Wolf’, or the slowburn anthem ‘City of Angels’, though the production never feels anything but modern.
Miguel has never sounded as sure of himself as here, his sexual come-ons less sleazy and more mature, even when chanting “I want f…all night, say it!”, on ‘Come Through and Chill’. Though the subject matter is reliably bedroom focused, the album finishes with the overtly political ‘Now’, a stripped back ballad in which he addresses the “CEO of the free world”, though the statement doesn’t get much deeper than that.
Published in Beat Magazine.