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Miguel's sophomore album puts him on the map

By Tom Teixeira
On October 3, 2012


I never really cared for Miguel. His first album "All I Want Is You" was adequate. His vocals were smooth, the music was well produced and his lyrics were smart. The album sounded like a polished version of 90 percent of contemporary R&B albums in circulation. In 2010, "All I Want Is You" met expectations for an album in the stuttering R&B genre.

Since then, much has changed. In 2011, new artists The Weeknd and Frank Ocean helped transform R&B with creative releases that infused life into quiet, traditional genre. Ocean's "Nostalgia," "Ultra" and The Weeknd's "Balloons Trilogy" raised expectations for a genre that now is at the forefront of modern music in terms of both thematics and sound.

Miguel has proven himself to be a competitive man. In February, he released the first of three free EP's in his Art Dealer Chic series. The series not only signaled Miguel's return to making music, but announced his dramatic transformation as an artist. Volume one's first track hit listeners with so much force that it was subsequently chosen to lead off his second commercial release, "Kaleidoscope Dream."

"Adorn," the album's first track and single, showcases Miguel's maturation as an artist. The track begins with loud, distorted, echoing piano keys. 808 drums accompany the primary sound and Miguel provides a light looping background vocal as part of the track. He begins his first note and a brain-rattling bass kicks in. Miguel's powerful, echoing voice commands the track. On such a musically busy instrumental, most would get lost, but both due to his lyrics and vocal ability, Miguel triumphs.

"Adorn" begins an album defined by its consistent sound. Miguel's echoed vocals consistently feature on "Kaleidoscope Dream." The electronic sound that defines "Adorn" fades entirely from the album with the exception of "How Many Drinks" and Miguel assumes a more rock-pop sound. If his new haircut wasn't a cue, "Kaleidoscope Dream" certainly alludes to Prince's influence on Miguel's artistry. Guitars dominate the instrumentals for the bulk of the album. Teaming with spacy, acid-drop electronic sounds and Miguel's eerie, yet seductive vocals, "Kaleidoscope Dream" sounds both unique and cohesive.

With the exception of "Candles In The Sun," an attempt at a more socially conscious R&B song, "Kaleidoscope Dream" is a thematically traditional R&B album with a double shot of a Prince-like, at time humorous, at times in your face sexuality. "Arch Point," "Use Me," and even the title track, "Kaleidoscope Dream," are to varying degrees, tracks about love, sex and romantic experience more broadly

Miguel also succeeds in his lyrics, which impressed on his first album and are again outstanding on "Kaleidoscope Dream." If you open the album's booklet or search for the credits, you'll find something outstanding and almost extinct in modern music. With the exception of Cameron Thomaz (Wiz Khalifa) and Alicia Keys (the album's only two features,) Miguel Pimentel is the only person credited as a writer. This is unbelievably rare and in 2012 is an accomplishment in and of itself. The fact that "Kaleidoscope Dream" is a lyrical blast serves as frosting on the cake. I now not only care about Miguel, I'd highly recommend him.  

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