Miguel could have easily titled his latest album Easy Rebel Soul. He has solidified his signature sound on his fourth studio album, War & Leisure. This time, he has perfected his marriage of soft, melodic vocals with heavy, jagged guitar riffs. Miguel recognizes that he shines brightest when he’s in his soulful Rock element. The new album, produced primarily by Miguel and Happy Perez, is sure to bring him some more classic singles.
Take the album’s unofficial buzz single,”Pineapple Skies” for instance. The song is a feel good reassurance that tells a woman he loves that everything will be ok. Rick Ross drops by with a memorable verse on the slow thumping confirmation of loyalty, “Criminal”. “Sky Walker” featuring Travis Scott, the album’s official lead single, has an infectious hook and addictive bass line. Part of Miguel’s musical appeal is that he has never tried to be someone he’s not. He proves he functions well when he marches to the beat of his own drum.
Of course, the stakes are high this time around. “Adorn” has been played at virtually every wedding since it’s release. That song is arguable the most influential male R&B song of the last decade. However, if you think he has stopped there, think again. “Banana Clip” treads in similar waters, with clever lyrics (“M16 on my lap/Korean missiles in the sky/No Matter where I go on the map/You got my protection”) and a promise to his woman that he has a banana clip on their love. The song is simultaneously smooth, gangster and vintage. Hands down, it’s the best offering on the album.
Miguel is more intentional this time around. The theme of War & Leisure is much more cohesive than his previous works. Nonetheless, he manages to dodge monotony thanks to the bluesy Raphael Saadiq produced “Wolf” featuring Quin and the eclectic boogie of “Told You So”. Miguel is one of many artists who clears sculpts his style after Prince. Thankfully, he pulls it off well and in good taste while still keeping his own identity. “Told You So” sounds like a carefully calculated love child of Prince and Kelis.
“Caramelo Duro” (which means Hard Candy in English) featuring Kaliuchis is a sure fire Spanish hit. Think of it as a sexier version of the hit”Despacito”. The song’s first verse is in English and then finished out in Spanish. There’s really no way you can sit still to this one. Salaam Remi is featured along with J. Cole on the slow groove, “Come Through And Chill”. Salaam Remi, who is one of the most underrated producers, also produced the track. The guitar and bass laden track is simple, yet one of the most poignant tracks on the album.
Whether he’s at war or reveling in leisure time, Miguel plays both sides well. He has not only become one of the most popular singers of the last decade, he is also an in demand songwriter. His music gets better like a fine wine. “Now” the album’s closer, really highlights his growth and maturity. The ballad directly speaks to the conditions of the world today, natural disasters and politics. I don’t think the world will be ready by the time he reaches his sixth studio album. War & Leisure sneaks in as one of the most solid albums of 2017.