Traditional R&B, from a mainstream perspective, is dead. Nowadays, you rarely hear any ballads or slow jams played on the radio and modern “R&B” artists are sounding more like explicit rappers rather than softhearted crooners. I get it, it’s the evolution of music, but sometimes I just want songs that I can horribly sing in the shower or I can slow dance to (do kids even slow dance at school dances anymore?). However, the flipside to R&B’s evolution, which I really enjoy, is the new wave of artists who are leading the genre in unconventional directions. People like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and this editorial’s featured artist, Miguel, are adding an avant-garde twist. It’s not the “traditional” R&B we know, but their music is still encompasses the same essence.
To celebrate the release of his third solo album, Wildheart, Miguel performed a small show in collaboration with NPR’s First Listen series at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. Admittance to the show was free, so obviously it sold out in less than 1 minute. It’s great to see how successful and popular Miguel has become. I remember catching Miguel at Coachella 2011, where he didn’t really have the matador hairdo and practically opened the festival on the very first day, which meant a meager crowd. Now he’s a recognized artist with hits, famed collaborations, and awards. And we can forget about that heinous incident where he dropkicked a person in the face.
When I first heard Miguel’s lead single “All I Want Is You”, I curious of who this soulful singer was. I’m a sucker for vintage sounding voices, and this person reminded me of some old Motown acts from the 60s. Miguel came into his own when he dropped his second album Kaleidoscope Dream because his really showcased his personality and artistry, rather than trying to fit a typical R&B mold. From there, his growth can be heard in his music and especially with Wildheart. Wildheart has a very old school blues, funk, and rock sound, which is an interesting direction, but Miguel’s vocals really stand out above the guitars. I’m not a critic, but I highly recommend Wildheart, as it’s a pretty good album.
Miguel’s show at Le Poisson Rouge was so damn good. Even if the sound system at the venue was subpar, it was exciting to see Miguel sing with so much passion. He performed a few new songs off Wildheart, like “Leaves”, “Face the Sun”, “Waves”, and of course, “Coffee” for the first time. Being that it was a very intimate show, Miguel took advantage of the situation and really interacted with the fans and melting the hearts of female fans in the front row. One thing I noticed that he didn’t have any backup singers, which exemplifies his ability to carry an hour long set by himself. I just found myself being constantly impressed throughout his set because he is just naturally damn good stinging. He closed out the show with his biggest hit “Adorn” and a thunderous round of applause.
Go get Wildheart by Miguel. It’s worth your time.
Photos by Ebru Yildiz for NPR