Announcing yesterday in an interview that he believes he “makes better music” than Frank Ocean, “all the way around” when asked about his opinions on the R&B star, Miguel returns to try and state that case with Wildheart, his third studio album. While I don’t want to dwell on his comments involving Ocean, it speaks on Miguel’s psyche and kind of general attitude. Sure, he returned with:
“Yes, I am competitive, we ALL have to have a level of competitiveness to put ourselves on the line day in and day out… There’s no reason to compare apples to oranges… but I also believe there’s room for all artists. That’s what Wildheart is all about: celebrating individuality.”
While it’s kind of a decent return, it’s also kind of bullshit. It seems like it would have been better for him to just have stuck to his guns. Yes, competition is great for the industry, and yes, “there’s room for all artists,” but competition in the industry doesn’t mean shit talking other musicians. Miguel could have easily just said, “yeah I love what Frank Ocean does, the R&B musicians in the industry right now are doing great things and I’m glad to be a part of the genre,” but no, he had to say that he believed he was making better music, “all the way around.”
This kind of attitude, plus his love of sex, seem to be the themes present on Wildheart, with his proposed idea of, “celebrating individuality,” nowhere to be found, really, unless you count the awkwardly placed, “what’s normal anyway,” which in all honesty sounded a little contrived in the context of the album.
Coming from someone whose favorite thing that Miguel has ever done is cover The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” at the end of Kaleidoscope Dream‘s “Don’t Look Back,” I’ve never been too much of a fan. Nonetheless, his vocal prowess is insanely powerful and his performance of “Adorn” at the 2013 Grammy Awards was immensely impressive. But besides “Adorn,” and that Zombies’ cover on “Don’t Look Back,” last year’s Kaleidoscope Dream didn’t live up to the hype I was getting from everyone who was going head over heels over the new R&B singer. On Wildheart, Miguel does go more “Alt. R&B,” as he’s begun to be described as, and while it is a grittier feel, it feels more like an act for the singer than a, “this is who I actually am: the wild, sexy, dangerous lone wolf-type.” As for the songwriting, there isn’t anything on Wildheart that seems too deep, mostly those that do feel a bit forced. His sex obsession is at least more centered on a couple, and the experience of mutual love, rather than the overheard male lust from R&B singers like R. Kelly, Usher, or T-Pain, something his “rival,” Frank Ocean also does really well, though in Ocean’s case, really excels at.
The guitars sound beautiful on Wildheart, as well as Miguel’s vocals, as always, especially the delays. There’s also some very odd percussion choices, as if the producers on the record opened up some “pop drum machine sounds” folder and didn’t change much but add some reverb here and there. The drums really only sound natural and great on “…goingtohell.” Maybe if Wildheart was produced by someone who is great at dark, sexy R&B like The Weeknd or even go more pop with Pharrell Williams or a modern rock music producer, instead of this rag team of producers, these minute production choices might not have bothered me as much as they did. Be that as it may, there is a lush and consistent sound to Wildheart that comes out every now and then perfectly, like on “Coffee” or my favorite track, “…goingtohell,” where the guitars and vocals really come together well.
As for Wildheart as a record, massively impressive vocals and guitar licks aside, Miguel’s slight pretension, like his comments on Frank Ocean, the “meaning” of his record, and for some reason naming some tracks in all lowercase or uppercase, kind of hold it back a bit for me. Nonetheless, it must be hard to be in such a genre and singing songs with these themes, with Prince as an idol, to not have a bit of a pretentious attitude, that can’t not show up in the music. For everything that I might think Miguel is or believes, I believe that Wildheart is if anything, a beautiful sounding record when I let the words drift away into its lush sound and production, and goddamn Miguel can sing.