Of the sixteen tracks on Miguel’s R’n’B chart topping third album ‘Wildheart’, at least ten of them are set to what seems to be the perfect tempo for a mid-club ass to crotch grind. This is no accident. With the cover a photo of a glistening bare-chested Miguel holding a sexy naked lady at his feet, he’s not letting anyone get any false ideas of what this album is primarily about. Sex. That’s it. More specifically, fucking.
With the likes of Pitbull and other prime servings from the commercial toss-pot continually spraying their desperate ‘masculinity’ everywhere with requests that we talk dirty to them while performing the perfect twerk, you’re probably thinking “so what?”while metaphorically disinfecting your ears. The difference between Miguel and the others though – and listen up, it’s a big one – is that Miguel does it well. He’s completely barefaced about his intentions and as such corny allusions and poor clichés don’t take over, while his vocal, musical and lyrical prowess make this album delicious in the face of pretty much all commonly held principles. Take ‘valleys’. With a chorus opening ‘I wanna fuck like we’re filming in the valley, I wanna push and shove and paint your hills and valley’ to backing vocals of ‘lips, tits, clit, slit’,romance is the last thing on Miguel’s testosterone addled brain, yet it’s still an utter chooon.
While it’s often the chorus which packs the biggest grunting verbal thrusts in these sort of songs, Miguel’s apparently got the stamina to plough on in this vein through the verses as he rhymes ‘while you masturbate’ with ‘OBEY like I’m your master babe’, while making real clear that he wants to ‘fuck you like I hate you baby, I wanna sweat you out’ across the song’s two verses. It’s brutal, it’s unflinching and it’s uncaring. The sexual aggression and misogyny aren’t subtle, they’re not hidden under profanities and excessive male bravado but the thing is, it’s contextual. This, in this moment is what Miguel wants. He wants a porn ideal, he wants physical excess and objectification to a grinding, seedy beat and he’s got it.
But then as this hateful war cry segues straight into ‘coffee’, everything becomes a bit more palatable. The violence as representative of physical excess is still there, acting as the passionate undertone to a normal morning as he deliciously croons ‘wordplay, turns into gun play, and gun play turns into pillow talk’ as they ‘laugh over shotguns and tongue kisses’. Opening the song with ‘I wish I could paint our love, these moments in vibrant hues’, ‘coffee’ isn’t a U-turn from ‘valleys’ but the aftermath. Miguel’s body wanted what he wanted in ‘valleys’ and he doesn’t give a crap about telling us about it, but ‘coffee’ depicts the calm after the ‘gun-play’ storm.
Miguel sounds honest, and what he’s describing sounds like an honest interpretation of a certain type of love. He wants to fuck like he hates because he loves, he’s violent in the passion of his songs, and this comes out in the lyrics sung in his deceptively sweet tones and the intensity of the instrumental collages of news-report samples and luau guitars trilling across the album. As the completely unrelated Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel once wrote, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference”, and it’s this indifference which Miguel’s music seems to combat, albeit in a less book-club worthy manner. Many of Miguel’s songs are musically beautiful with the arguably ugly lyrics only noticeable after you’ve paid some real attention, which he’s using to depict his idea of love. ‘valleys’, ‘N.W.A.’, and ‘waves’ are all about banging to some sexier than a dark-chocolate fountain type beats and they do it well, but then they’re contrasted by ‘Coffee’, ‘What’s Normal Anyway?’, and ‘Hollywood Dreams’ which really show off the mind under the membrane and his struggles with being an outsider and his perceptions of fame. Miguel is controversial, beautiful, shocking, courageous and probably to some pretty loath-able, but at least he’s anything but indifferent.