Earlier in the year, Mark Pitts, the president of urban music at RCA and CEO of ByStorm Entertainment (a joint venture with RCA) made me somewhat worried about Miguel’s third album. In an interview with Billboard, Pitts spoke of Miguel’s vision of the album, and part of that vision seem centered on correcting suspicions about the Los Angeles native’s sexuality. Pitts explained, “He wants people to understand who he is. He’s tired of people asking ‘who are you, what’s that, do you like girls?’ He tells me, ‘I want everyone to know I am wild, funny, edgy and love women. I need this album to connect.’”
It sparked my concern because based on Miguel’s solid debut, All I Want Is You, the excellent follow up, Kaleidoscope Dreams, or any of the mixtapes that have been released before or after these works, I believed fans (and he has plenty of those now) already had a pretty good idea of who Miguel was as an artist, and more or less, a person. To those who were unfamiliar with him prior to his breakout hit, “Adorn,” maybe there was a sense of pause (the outfits, I guess), but that’s more about their own stupidity and their limited idea of what a man – particularly a Black one in R&B – looks like. Why cater to that?
Besides, how much more convincing of one’s heterosexuality can a man who recorded a song called “Pussy Is Mine” do before he says “f**k it” and stop trying? Particularly a man who takes many cues from Prince, a guy who has worn stilettos, exposed his butt cheeks to the world, and yet, whose sexuality is as clear as the coos of the lead singer of Vanity 6. How are you going to channel Prince and worry like Mariah Carey, 2015?
If there’s any criticism to have of Miguel, it is that he is prone to overcompensation.
When you listen to Wildheart, you do get the sense that Miguel desperately wants you to know he’s straight. There seems to be a bit of an emphasis on proper pronoun usage on select tracks. Perhaps the intent to is to cement his sexual preference as previously advertised, but it can make doubters align with doth protest too much indeed. Thankfully, though, it is not as distracting as I feared.
The album is very much themed around libido, as evident in songs like “The Valley,” where the 29-year-old sings about his desire to “f**k you like I hate you.” The song is also a shout out to the Los Angeles metropolitan area that is home to much of the state’s porn industry. There’s also the modestly titled “FLESH,” which features Miguel seductively moan, “Woman, put me right where I belong.” And Wildheart’s lead single, “Coffee,” a playful ode to the morning after a sexual encounter.
Although the singer’s interest in sex (HETEROSEX WITH WOMEN) is the dominant theme of the album, it does not come across as obnoxious – which distinctly separates Miguel from his contemporaries. Miguel is not doing pop music. Miguel is not trying to take you to the rave. Miguel does not want to be a rapper. Miguel is an R&B singer with varied influences in terms of sound, which makes his brand of R&B daring and genre-bending and authentically him.
You hear this in “Face The Sun” with Lenny Kravitz, the previously released “Simple Things,” “…goingtohell,” among others. There are no songs that immediately standout the way “Adorn” or “Sure Thing” did, but the album itself is a slow build and will likely age quite well. What works for Miguel is that he is thoughtful, even when being a little too pressed to prove himself. That, along with his voice and overall musicality, makes him a leader in R&B – especially among the men. My only wish is that his thoughts be less focused on convincing us of whatever he or those around him appear to think we need convincing of.
On “what’s normal anyway,” which chronicles Miguel’s trouble fitting in thanks to his dual Black and Mexican heritage and class reasons, he sings, “Don’t let them change you. Just be who you are. You can’t please them all.” It’s a lesson I hope he takes to heart with future recordings. It can only make him and his art stronger.