Just when you thought there were no new ways to say "I love you," here comes Miguel Pimentel: "I'm gonna do you like drugs tonight." With this pledge, Miguel proves that he is, easily, uninhibited enough to inherit the tradition of eccentric R&B freakiness handed down from Marvin Gaye to Prince to R. Kelly. He rubs his shadowy croon against electronic gurgles ("Use Me") or electric guitar ("Pussy Is Mine," which is not about a cat), keeping his tracks spare and unpredictable.
For singer-songwriter Miguel to create a straight-up R&B album (in today's musical climate, no less), putting forth a specific creative vision that manages to transcend the hip-hop pop swill presently produced by his so-called R&B brethren, yet avoiding coming off as pretentious is a crowning achievement in and of itself. The fact that the 11-track project actually warrants Best of Year discussion is nearly a moot point. After operating on the underground R&B fringes with the poorly marketed and criminally overlooked Sure Thing in 2010, Kaleidoscope Dream goes for broke.
Elements of Miguel's second album started to reach the public around the time "Lotus Flower Bomb," the singer's collaboration with Wale, began to overstay its welcome on mainstream urban radio. From late February 2012 through that April, Miguel released a trio of free three-song EPs dubbed Art Dealer Chic. Altogether, the material was funkier and weirder than that of All I Want Is You.
Since his debut in 2010 with the outstanding "Sure Thing", the young Los Angeles singer/songwriter Miguel has been something of a for-the-R&B-heads-only sleeper star. He showed up armed with a guitar, an endearing croon that is both virtuosic and everyman, a coiffed haircut, and a slightly retro sensibility. His voice is an elastic thing that's rarely used to excessive effect; he avoids the histrionic R.
Usually, the record label is one of the least interesting nuggets of information on the back of an album. But in the case of Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream, the ancient stamp of RCA Records is indicative of the 43 minutes awaiting a listener. Miguel’s raspy R&B croon, his homages to past music greats, and a strong adherence to the “four minutes or less rule” for pop music would make Kaleidoscope Dream feel at home in any decade since the ‘60s.
It's rare that an artist uses their commercial breakthrough as a springboard to radically change course – but that's exactly what Miguel Pimentel has done following his 2011 US R&B No 1, the irresistibly smooth Sure Thing. Beginning on his free Art Dealer Chic EPs earlier this year and more so again here, Miguel has carved out a headier aesthetic. Faded psychedelia (as on Do You … , with its promises of narcotic trysts) blends into startlingly intimate experiments in Purple Rain-esque rock: at times, it feels as though it's just you and him in a vast stadium.
In interviews to promote his first album, Miguel Jontel Pimentel positioned himself as an ambassador from R&B's future, a place where classic rock, funk, soul and electronic sounds join forces to rid the radio of Auto-Tuned dance-pop. But despite standout singles, All I Want Is You often slipped lazily into R&B convention. Miguel's second album delivers on the L.A.-based musician's early promise, taking the best ideas from the debut - slow, lilting grooves, layered electric guitars, darkly squelching bass lines, meandering falsetto - into a more expansive, emotionally varied and personal sound.
It's hard to fault a young artist for putting out a record that sounds like vintage Prince; it's been too long since Prince himself released one that did just that. The often-hypersexual subject matter here is no doubt one of the contributing factors earning this 26-year-old soul singer comparisons to that R&B statesman. (Really, how many other artists could croon out a track titled "Pussy is Mine" with a straight face?) Miguel rarely wastes time with lyrical—ahem—pussyfooting when being direct or explicit is an option.
Miguel is down for fucking tonight — know this. And know that Miguel, through the majority of his excellent sophomore LP, Kaleidoscope Dream, minces very few words on the subject. “I’m gonna do you like drugs tonight” are some, and “tell me that this pussy is mine” are others, all mapped out in precise maxi-pop vocal lines. Best may be the magnificent bridge on “Use Me”, where Miguel — after he drops the hi-larious line “forgive me, it’s my very first time” — climbs up a ladder of sweet nothings until he screams for her to “devour me/ defile me.” It’s a moment that would surely raise Simon Cowell’s eyebrows and load a “dawg” into Randy Jackson’s chamber.
On paper—as on record, in their careers and ambitions, and even as people—Neurosis and Miguel Jontel Pinmental are absolutely unlike each other. There’s been a lot of musical cross-pollination, synthesis, and general boundary blurring over the past twenty-five years or so that Neurosis have been active and Miguel has been alive, but even in 2012 (where there’s such a thing as Jeff the Brotherhood and Insane Clown Posse recording a piece of Mozart doggerel produced by Jack White—holy shit that sentence fragment is a statement of fact and not a Mad Libs outtake) it’s hard to imagine these two cohabitating the same planet, let alone the same playlists. This is compounded by the fact that both are beloved in such a way that would seem to resist assimilation into more general, or pop (or, mine) audience.
One of the finest pop vocalists of the moment, with a terrific second album. Hari Ashurst 2012 It's difficult to argue against 2012 being the year of RnB. From Frank Ocean's star-making channel ORANGE, a return to yearning for The xx and the continuing rise of The Weeknd: the big stories have revolved around interesting mutations of the genre. By comparison, straighter-laced RnB singer Miguel has flown under the radar a little.
He may like drugs and hugs, but Miguel Pimentel must love good press too. After a tentative 2010 debut album still managed to send 'Sure Thing'-one of the greatest singles of the last ten years to not do a thing on pop radio- to the top of the R&B chart, the range of sonic ideas, fully realized songs, and prodigious vocal talent on Kaleidoscope Dream arrives as the most pleasant of shocks. A shock, yes, but we were warned.