Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Miguel: Pop Pleasure

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always on the top 40s bandwagon the way that other people might be. I rarely go to clubs where the formulaic beats of some of these tunes blare. I dedicate a whole lot of my free time to investigating sounds and uncovering musical rarities, sure, and yes – my lack of sleuthing around the pop billboards or one-month-too-late discovery of “Gangnam Style,” of course, has a little to do with my own personal bias. It’s safe to say I’m not overly pleased with a lot of popular music channels today, as well as the kind of noise they often inundate us with – looping back and forth between the same sounds every commercial breaks.

But I always give the new stuff a listen, regardless of which radio station or website I’m dialled into. It’s just up for debate how many times I’ll give some of it a listen.

Amidst a lot of the meaningless clamour on the pop charts, however, there’s been some incredibly redeeming moments in pop music lately. Katy Perry fascinates me – with her wacky character-driven and likable uninterrupted streak of number ones. Bruno Mars, the twinkly toed boy wonder whose tender voice matches the romantic persona, is a bit of a dream. Adele brought heart and soul back, along with other unprecedented emotions resulting from her proud balladry. She’s not even poppy, necessarily – but she’s popular as hell, and we’re thankful for it.

New kid on the block, Miguel, actually reminds me of Prince. It’s always amusing to scan reviews or press releases to see who the pop artists’ draw a self-proclaimed comparison of themselves to. Or who the critics will note as their obvious influences. Sometimes you want to slap your palm to your forehead. Sometimes you can’t. When a headline read that the 26 year-old recording artist drew obvious comparisons to Prince – the multi-Platinum pop legend who practically trademarked R&B and funk-infused pop laden with sexually suggestive lyrics – I was, of course, a little unconvinced based on my thus far brief interactions with fragments of Miguel’s debut. Until I heard “Do You...”, the gorgeously sultry second single from his critically-acclaimed sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream - a ballad laced with enough soulful groove and velvety declarations to weaken your grandmother at the knees. “Do you like drugs? Do you like love? Me too,” he creamily croons before revealing “I’m gonna do you like drugs tonight”; frank (and frankly, wonderfully off-putting) song writing that earned a rewind to see if I’d heard him correctly. I did.

After being passed along Kaleidoscope Dream, two handfuls of heavily earnest odes to what one can only assume are his many ladies (wrong – he’s in a happily committed relationship), I couldn’t help but mentally flag the several points I’d have to skip past if I ever was in the presence of someone who I wasn’t confident could handle the racy tracks. Romantic, yes – but in a very new age (and Prince) kind of way. His trained vocal murmurs (rarely amplifying to his full falsetto potential, but dreamy when he does) and the evocative sexual narrative heard on “Use Me”, “Arch and Point” and the muggy title track sway effortlessly above thudding beats, panging funk guitars and synth effects. Although you feel a little naughty taking part in Miguel’s fantasy-caked pop pieces, it’s an R&B thrill the young gun confidently delivers.

If the rest of pop artists continues to live up to their comparisons, or, better yet – live up while carving their own stylistic path – then I’ll, most definitely, change the channel less often.

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