“I want mega, mega, mega success and I want my humanity,” Miguel said in an interview with Hunger. Wildheart feels like this sentiment is at work on every turn. The third LP from the 29-year-old neo-R&B artist is easily his most ambitious effort to date—a deeply visceral production that’s infused with rap-rock vibes and nuanced electronic twists, from a singular figure who lays it all out on the table. But Miguel finds out along the way that mega success and humanity are hard to maintain at the same time.
The album’s opener, “a beautiful exit,” begins with a harrowing guitar riff as an empowered Miguel delivers the recurring “live-in-the-here-and-now” theme of his music in the chorus: “Speeding through all of these red lights, fast life / Dreaming a beautiful exit / We’re gonna die young.” Sonically, it’s a departure from the usual R&B/pop Miguel has presented us with in the past, but lyrically it’s the continuation of the idea in sophomore effort Kaleidoscope Dream’s “We’re Gonna Live Forever,” that life and its spoils wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t finite.
Miguel is a hedonist. Where the subtle coyness of his advances lingered in the past, he crushes the notion on “the valley,” juxtaposing the trippiest beat on the album with bold imagery of porn star-like sex in the mecca of smut: “I wanna fuck, like we’re filming in the valley.” It works big time—like if a Kid Cudi song decided to go full R&B, with on-point production from Miguel and Fisticuffs in the form of a delectable wah-wah effect stacked alongside decadent layers of Miguel’s voice.
The stumbles on the album seem to only come when Miguel is aiming for that “mega stardom” bit. Wildheart’s closing track, “face the sun” with Lenny Kravitz, is one of its drabber moments and relies on a monotonous beat, which is only held up by Miguel having to over-exert himself vocally. On “...goingtohell,” produced by Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco, the rock vibes work, but the guitar bridge throughout the song wears on the palate as much as the simple drum break.
Interestingly enough, when Miguel works within Rapahel Saadiq’s production on “FLESH,” the result is the best track on the album. It’s Miguel displaying the visceral and vulnerable character he sought out to command on WIldheart. “FLESH” paints the picture of a demi-star who’s in control of his emotions with permeating undertones that he’s still a little bit lost within his inhibitions. And this is Miguel—an artist whose moments in the “mega success” light have seemingly been for the wrong reasons. Whether it be drop- kicking a spectator in a doomed-from-the-start stage leap at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards or just this week comparing himself to Frank Ocean, proclaiming that “I make better music, all the way around,” he’s certainly garnered his share of mainstream attention.
Listening to Miguel’s commentary on Kaleidoscope Dream, namely the story of how he originally wrote “Where’s The Fun In Forever” for Alicia Keys, provides perspective on him as a part of the modern R&B fraternity. While he’s a seemingly hot mess at times, Wildheart is nothing short of a determined foray into an uncharted musical scope, and for that, it has considerable staying power.