If there is an artist who has mirrored their career after Prince, it has to be Miguel. He emanates everything that Prince is — smooth sexual lyrics and guitars strumming into a perfect falsetto.
Miguel’s fourth album “War and Leisure,” is infused with a mix of 80s celestial sounds which leads to an enjoyable listening experience. In early November, he told Billboard that “War and Leisure” is as a means of escape and a way to shake loose from the chaos occurring today.
The album kicks off with the song “Criminal” that features hip-hop star Rick Ross in a playful and innocent song about power and sex. It then transitions to Miguel’s homage to Prince, “Pineapple Skies.”
The album is not only about escapism, but it also acknowledges the troubles society is seeking relief from. “Come Through and Chill” features J. Cole, who delivers a verse addressing Colin Kaepernick and police brutality.
Miguel seems to be a bit more on edge this year with his music, but can fans blame him?
He has played with the idea of guns as sex in metaphors before in 2010’s “My Piece,” and 2015’s “Coffee.”
On the fourth track of “War and Leisure,” he swears that he would do just about anything for his love, including homicide. “M-16 on my lap, missiles in the sky, no matter where I go on the map, you got my protection, banana clip on my love for you, let it ring like braapp,” Miguel sang.
Not every song on the album is politically motived though, “Sky Walker,” featuring Travis Scott is the most pop-sounding song. There’s something odd about Miguel sounding so modern, but the contrast was still enjoyable. With the help of Travis Scott, this song merges modern R&B harmonies and rap aesthetics.
Miguel, who is African American and Mexican American, channels his roots on the upbeat song “Caramelo Duro,” where he sings in Spanish and is assisted by Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis. His impressive vocal depth places him in a different musical lineage. The song’s beat has a bachata feel and is paired with falsettos.
The darkest song on the album is “City of Angels,” and it is very post-apocalyptic. This song is mixed with dark vocals and unique lyrics. Miguel sings about doing a woman wrong, but for a deeper meaning.
“Wolf,” featuring QUIN is another interesting track. It begins with an electric guitar over a bluesy backtrack. “Hide your kids, hide your wife, tonight I’m killing on sight,” Miguel sang, sounding like he is waiting for war.
The song manages to create a different world for listeners, as so many emotions are being poured out of Miguel’s soul.
As the album ends, Miguel gets back to being his typical sensual self and is no longer the savage wolf. The song “Harem,” is laced with the sweetness of his vocals as he sings along hard percussions and intense vocal arrangements.
While “War and Leisure,” may not put listeners under the same love spell that some of Miguel’s previous work has, he enthusiastically pushes the boundaries of his sound and image.
This was one of Miguel’s most eclectic albums yet. It is powerful but at the same time subtle, and his social commentary makes it worth the listen.