I’m SO sorry..
This makes 3 music video posts in a row but MY GOODNESS have I found a new favourite winter track. This dude’s music is dripping SWAGOO and the epitome of a crooner is in this one track:
For much of the past decade, contemporary male R&B has been the genre of the calling card, of familiar songwriting perspectives, sounds, and vocal tics being plumbed by prolific auteurs until a song are unmistakable even on first listen. But the fall in popularity and prolificacy of stalwarts like R. Kelly, The-Dream, and Ne-Yo has dovetailed with R&B’s embrace of– or forced marriage to– David Guetta’s brand of house music, which in turn has elevated safe and malleable singers like Usher and Chris Brown above the genre itself. Even Trey Songz, the current male R&B star who has seen a rise in popularity despite foregoing a move towards dance music, is oppressively vanilla. The niche has been filled partly by rappers like Drake and J. Cole, who let their love of R&B and songwriting seep deep into their music, with the former, of course, often singing himself.
If there’s any light in the tunnel, it isn’t coming (yet, at least) from artists like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean, both of whom have presented singular points of view, but have only flirted with the radio and are still regarded by mainstream audiences as curios. But there is Miguel, a 25-year-old Los Angeles native who is currently a minor pop star trying to prove his staying power. He isn’t a callback, though, to guys like Kelly or The-Dream, who, at least temporarily, reworked the lexicon of R&B. In fact, the most unique and magnetic thing about Miguel’s music is how hard it is to pin down, and just how deep and diverse his bag of tricks seems to be. This became starkly obvious on three fantastic singles (released across summer 2010 and spring 2011) from his debut album. “All I Want Is You”, the lead, was dark and dusty in a way that recalled when hip-hop and R&B started to approach each other in the 1990s; “Sure Thing”, its follow-up and his biggest hit to date, nodded at neo-soul without losing its modernity; and “Quickie” refixed reggae into something distinctly post-coital.
The key with Miguel’s music is that nothing comes off as an experiment. Instead, he leaves you with the impression that he loves music and exploring his own mind equally. It’s an approach that is refreshingly uncynical, and he carries it over to Art Dealer Chic, his recently released series of EPs. The three volumes comprise nine songs and just about 30 minutes of music, and despite a total throwaway track and two others that he reprises from earlier mixtapes, they contain some of the best R&B music of the year, as well as further evidence that the man with no calling card isn’t about to get lost in the shuffle anytime soon. Across the releases he’s lovestruck, horny, self-centered, insecure, apocalyptic, and suspicious, and he impressively traverses almost enough sonic territory to match (although Prince does loom large).
Let’s hit the showstoppers first. “Adorn”, the lead track off volume one, has the slink, sheen, and falsetto of the 1980s, but it’s the way in which Miguel cuts through the grinding, whirring bass with radiant backing vocals that makes the song so beguiling. At just over two minutes it’s a straight rush of endorphins. Then there’s “Arch n Point” and “…ALL”, the first two tracks from volume two, which encroach a bit on the Weeknd’s cornering of dark, conflicted R&B. The former is the project’s sexiest song, with Miguel imagining fishnets and bottle service. It’s built on stacked, heavy guitars that he softly ratchets up in intensity toward a subtle climax that indicates a confidence in his own songwriting (a more unsure artist probably would’ve unleashed an ill-advised solo). “…ALL” is Miguel’s take on clubby R&B, but instead of opting for the meathead bleat of Dr. Luke, he dips into organ-house as he finally turns his pen on himself, singing about his thirst for success, then questioning whether he’s selfish before finally concluding, “fuck it, everybody’s selfish.”
Volume three doesn’t quite scrape those heights, but it shows that Miguel can retain his singularity even when he’s at his most referential. “Party Life” is a rather overt homage to Prince’s “1999”, but the track is constructed and sung in a way that acknowledges the Purple One fandom without donning a white blouse. There’s also “Candles in the Sun, Blowin’ in the Wind”, a political, Marvin Gaye-ish track that wins out over its slight hamhandedness by using the vocabulary of hip-hop and approaching something like political corruption in the first place. The third volume, like the other two, contains one track that isn’t up to snuff, and it’s only that forgettable one-third that drags the entire collection down.
But the highs here are very high, and in whetting the appetite for his presumably forthcoming sophomore album, Miguel has maybe inadvertently set expectations sky-high. But if there’s anyone who can handle it, it’s this guy. While his peers are mostly either shamelessly chasing trends or burrowing deep underground, Miguel is straddling the line with songwriting that achieves singularity through its unpredictability. On “…ALL” he belts, “I ain’t afraid to fail/ Can’t you tell?” and very rarely do you see an artist sum up his or her own appeal so succinctly. Everyone in the major-label music business is scared as hell of failing; Art Dealer Chic is what happens when you’re not. What a breath of fresh air.