Kaleidoscope Dream (to be released Oct. 2, 2012)
If you want to gauge the impact an artist is having in the industry, look no further than the fan base.
My beautiful wifey, a lifelong fan of R&B, has practically given up on the genre now dominated by watered-down pop and mind-numbing dubstep. The only relatively fresh face in R&B that holds her attention is Miguel, who wowed her with his 2010 debut All I Want Is You.
Trust me, if Miguel can reignite her love of R&B, he must be doing something right.
Nearly all the tracks in Miguel's sophomore set have made their way online in some form over the past six months. Just ask the wifey, she has 'em all on mixtapes. But unlike tracks from the recent G.O.O.D. Music compilation, most of the leaked tracks have flown under the radar so there are plenty of surprises for casual listeners.
First single "Adorn" is about as close to "traditional urban R&B" as you will get here. That's not a slight - "Adorn" carries a visceral passion that missing from a lot of today's hollow offerings. The remainder of the album, though, lives up to its billing. Miguel invites listeners into a spacey world where his dreams become reality. "Don't Look Back" is elegant and ethereal, as are the guitar licks on "The Thrill." Miguel's vocals on "Use Me" soar as he begs his woman to defile him before diving into the drugged-out haze of "Do You." The title track gently thumps over Labi Siffre's "I Got The" (the same sample used by Eminem's "My Name Is.") as Miguel rambles about journeying across the moon. Is he talking about sex? Drugs? Outer space? Who knows, but it sounds great.
Miguel's influences are clear as Purple Rain on "Arch & Point." Thankfully, it sounds more like a Prince homage than a flagrant carbon copy. And like Prince, even when Miguel is horribly vulgar ("P**** Is Mine") the gentleness of his voice will force you to let your guard down. He's got the art of seduction down to a science.
Kaleidoscope Dream only occasionally stumbles. "How Many Drinks" features an impressive falsetto but the lyrics are pretty pedestrian compared to everything else on the album. After using a hazy dreamscape to woo women, it's kinda lazy to resort to the ol' "getting girls drunk in the club" routine.
There's no sophomore slump here: Miguel's Kaleidoscope Dream is just as cohesive and alluring as his debut. Just ask the wifey - if you can tear her away from the album, that is.
Best tracks: "Adorn," "Use Me," "Do You"
4 stars out of 5