Review: Miguel “”

Half African-American, half Mexican-American R’n’B singer Miguel born as Miguel Jontel Pimentel in Los Angeles, California embodies a bundle of explosive and contrasting energies. He acquired international renown for his ambitious live performances and entertainer qualities, that could easily let him claim for the title “hardest working man in show business” of at least the modern era. In his long list of accomplishments there is barely anything missing: He is being compared to “his royal badness” himself Prince, won a Grammy in the category “Best R&B Song” for his breakthrough single “Adorn” and recorded a beautiful song with the critically acclaimed songstress Janelle Monáe. Now after Miguel’s widereaching success with the Grammy-nominated longplayer “Kaleidoscope Dream” in 2013, Miguel dropped a free surprise EP with the title “” via Soundcloud, for all his true supporters to enjoy and to not end the year of 2014 in complete silence.

The conceptual tone of the EP is already set with the first track “N.W.A”. In its title the song refers to the legendary Compton hip hop group formed by its protagonists Eazy-E, Dr Dre and Ice Cube. On a second level it implicates a sonic depiction of the gangster rap attitude being represented by the beforementioned rap artists in the early 90’s. Musically, the song is based on a mellow, laid back G-funk beat and features none the less than Snoop Dogg’s partner in crime Kurupt. Although the song is enriched by an (for Miguel uncommon) ego-driven hood mentality and worn out macho phrases, it does not appear hypocritical, but rather as if he internalized that “O.G.” spirit during his Los Angeles upbringing. Miguel’s crystal-clear falsetto voice reflects seductively on the stereotypical imagery of the “West coast way of life” including smoking weed, having a fling and glorifying how much “N***** With Attitude” are admired by the female sex. “N.W.A” is therefore lyrically not too deep, but instead a well-rounded, atmospheric ghetto anthem.

In contrast “Hollywood Dreams” is a rather contemplative song daring a critical view on the home of the rich and famous. It tells the story of a girl who is obsessed with the thought of gaining fame, getting abused and betrayed on her way up. With his decisive, but silky vocal style and accompanied by a melody presetting electric guitar and a mid-tempo tom-tom beat solely, Miguel intones the realistic and therefore tragic fate of a fallen, drug addicted, tyronic starlet. “Coffee” is more of a poetic love song in which Miguel uses ingenious metaphors to describe a sexual relationship developing into a deep connection. In the chorus he sings “wordplay, turns into gun play / and gun play turns into pillow talk /pillow talk turns into sweet dreams /sweet dreams turns into coffee in the morning”. With “Coffee” Miguel showcases his natural talent for storytelling and emphasizes his often well-reviewed signature sound of rock-heavy themes and a reduced instrumentalization leading to a heavy, melancholic mood.

The EP as a whole leaves one with the notion of it being a homage to the West Coast and its heritage. This impression ranges from the cover artwork showing a man’s hand tattooed with the word “WILD” in an old English font that is widely associated to gang life, to Miguel’s unexpected hood mentality and critical words for the dream factory Hollywood. For the first time the listener gets to know the facets of Miguel, is exposed to his true personality and thoughts derived from his origins and the sceneries he therein used to be confronted with. “” is obviously an appetizer for the longplayer that will be released later this year. Now after being enticed with this three-track EP, the listener will surely anticipate to be fed with the whole meal.