“We are on the brink of a war. A literal war.”
Miguel, the R&B star best known for priapic boudoir anthems like Adorn, has had a rude awakening.
“Immigration, gun violence, terrorism. We are on the brink of a war.
“And, at the same time, we are the most advanced we have ever been, technologically.
“We have the ability to communicate in any way, at any time, but you only cause more havoc.”
He doesn’t say it outright, but the singer speaks of Donald Trump’s Twitter tirades.
Let’s talk about the 9 October, the day after the US president tweeted “only work” in dealing with North Korea. Speaking with The Guardian in the same round of interviews, Miguel has been found fretting about the possibility of a nuclear war.
The intrusion of reality in his otherwise comfortable life, is a fundamental theme of the star’s fourth record, the War and the Free time.
In the spirit of the Prince of 1999 and a record of the book of revelation; where Miguel acid-drop funk is tempered by anxiety.
Also, in tribute to His Royal Purpleness on the Pineapple Skies, a wonderful psych-soul jam with the lyric: “we can look in on, look up, child, There is the pineapple purple sky / Promise everything is goin’ to be all right.”
“The energy,” says Miguel. “Want to figure out how to stay positive and be creative, knowing that there is great things in the world that does not want to party and have sex and have a good time.”‘We have become lazy
The star also addresses Trump’s “CEO of the free world” – the album’s closing track, Now.
“It is clear to see a man of integrity / By the way he treats those who do not need,” she sings, quoting the response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and Houston; the Black Lives matter movement; and the contaminated water scandal in Flint, Michigan (which actually took place under President Obama’s watch).
It concludes with an appeal for normal people to put aside their political differences and help each other.
“It’s pretty direct,” he says. “I am very proud of this song. In reality it is very urgent.”
Explaining his political awakening, Miguel says: “My generation has been lucky. We have experienced a couple of decades of mostly peace. We were very far away from everything that was a threat, except for 9/11.
“We had quite easy and we have become lazy. But now we are adults, so we don’t have the luxury to sit back and watch.”
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Miguel was born Miguel Jontel Pimentel 32 years ago in San Pedro, California, to a Mexican American father and African American mother.
They divorced when he was eight years old, and he was raised by his real estate agent mother, a strict, religious family.
The family went to church three times a week and, as a teenager, Miguel would go door-to-door to preach the gospel.
At school, his abstinence from drink and drugs in combination with his mixed heritage made him an outsider.
He then poured in those years in the song, What is Normal Anyway, in which she sings: “Too correct for kids black / Too black for the Mexican / Too square to be a hood nigga / Too broke to rich guys.”
Squirreled away at home, his passions were Star Wars and a “great” Lego habit.
In fact, for all his Grammy Awards, the star says one of his main goals is to attend a Star Wars convention in costume, as Lando Calrissian.
“Lando was always my guy,” he says with enthusiasm. “OK, betrays Han solo, but, you know, has made the best decision in his position. He was trying to take care of his people. You’ve got to give it to him.”
(By the way, is not bitter that fellow musician Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, gets to play Lando in the new Han solo movie. “He is perfect for this,” says the star. “I don’t think there is anyone better.”)
But in the midst of all those church services and Star Wars marathons, Miguel was dedicated to music. He idolized soul singer Donny Hathaway, and studying its intonation and pronunciation, and soon informed his mother of his intention to become a street artist.
“She said, ‘You can be what you want, you just have to have good grades,'” he recalled.
So the teenager “borrowed” his uncle’s four-track tape recorder and began to create his songs. It didn’t take long before he was signed to an independent label Black Ice, but his debut album was unreleased.
The singer walked away from the project, and signed to Jive Records, but the Black Ice sued him for nearly a million dollars in expenses, leaving Miguel’s career in limbo for almost three years.
He occupied himself by writing for other artists, including Usher and Alicia Keys, and then release All I Want Is You in 2010.
Fairly conventional R&B album, just mentioned polymorphic musical galaxies had to create the follow-up, Kaleidoscope Dream, and Wildheart.
Where the modern R&B is largely in the electronic domain, Miguel, music is all rough edges and fluttering guitar licks, by digging deep into the funk and soul of his father’s record collection.
His father is Mexican heritage inspired the new album too, after Miguel took a trip to the family’s home in MichoacÃ¡n, on Mexico’s pacific Coast.
“I had the opportunity to meet my family out there,” he says. “It was very moving. And it seems to have always known.
“And I felt really compelled to go back. And I was like, that’s The only way I’m going to do is that if I create music in this language.'”
The result is Carmelo Hard, his first song sung primarily in Spanish. The language lends itself to the come-hither curlicues of Miguel, more sensual side, as he purrs, “regalame un little de azucar” (give me a little bit of sugar).
He is aware that his public image is rather how to say… Racy? Insatiable? Voracious?
“Always sexual,” she says. “Always that.
“Not to knock on wood, has brought me no harm. But I want people to understand that there is much more for me.”
The war and the Free time goes in some way towards the solution that balance with his new awareness policy with “foo” and songs such as ” Sky Walker and the booty-call anthem, And Cold.
“It is these opposing forces pulling us in every moment”, explains the tension between the songs. “You may feel a push and pull between the desire to be aware of, and trying to remain positive.”
And, although the album has just been released, Miguel was inspired to go back into the studio.
“The events are just moving so fast, and the way we consume music is so different now [that] to continue, it is necessary to keep the registration.
“For those who want to remain in the minds of his fans, and not to get lost in the constant bombardment of information and new material, you must be consistent.
“It’s important now.”
War & Leisure was released by RCA Records.
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