Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream: Album Analysis

Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Miguel • Kaleidoscope Dream • RCA • US Release Date: October 2, 2012


Miguel (Pimentel) is a member of an elite group of R&B singers.  Where Usher and Chris Brown are aiming for pop/electro crossover tactics as of late, Miguel is a member of a league that includes Frank Ocean positioning them as the new “Bohemian” movement of R&B.  A hipster who looks to blend the best facets of soul, pop/rock (a la Prince), and clever songwriting, Miguel is the face of the new R&B movement. This new movement is not limited to neo-soul sensibilities alone as the last great eclectic movement was (comprised of heavyweights D’Angelo, Angie Stone, and Maxwell among others), which may expand its overall scope.

In 2010, Miguel released his first effort, All I Want Is You, which introduced Miguel’s more ‘eclectic’ approach. Prior and during the release of his solo debut, Miguel has written songs for other artists, establishing himself as a songwriter.  While his

pen was/is a gift, his voice is equally so.  He sounded soulfully assured on All I Want Is You, racking up hits with “All I Want Is You” featuring J. Cole and more impressively with “Sure Thing” and the reggae-tinged “Quickie.” If Miguel seemed to be commanding on his debut, he is on ‘autopilot’ on its sensational follow-up, Kaleidoscope Dream.

Kaleidoscope Dream was exposed in a non-traditional manner to its audience. Released in two distinct parts, fans essentially were treated to half of the album prior to its full materialization October 2, 2012. Single “Adorn” has already made a gargantuan splash in R&B circles, while the other five selections of the pre-release all reflected the forthcoming consistency of the effort as a whole.  The positive aspect of the promotion of Kaleidoscope Dream was on iTunes, people could complete the effort with little more cost out of pocket (it cost me a cheap $2.25 + tax after buying the two ‘previews’).  Time will tell how this factors into album sales.

Kaleidoscope Dream gives Frank Ocean’s channel Orange a legitimate ‘run for its money.’ The equal of the ‘word of mouth’ following. The songwriting is superb, the production unique, and Miguel’s pipes soar.  Slated for a no. 3 debut (50,000 copies estimated), hopefully lead single “Adorn” will help propel Miguel further into the spotlight as he is a talent deserver wider recognition.

The Selections

“The Water Preview”

“Adorn” opens Kaleidoscope Dream with an old-school R&B sound mixing 80’s sensibilities (particularly the drum programming) and soul-leaning cues. Miguel’s vocals are lovely, yielding superb nuances and spot-on falsetto. The songwriting is chivalrous and exceptionally penned, with the chorus being simple but quite effective (“You just gotta let my love…adorn you…know that I adore you/just that, baby). Separating the parts of the song, a tweak of the harmonic progression on the bridge (“The same way that the stars adorn the skies…,’ etc.) adds distinction. “Adorn” is nothing sort of excellence epitomized.

“Don’t Look Back” reminds me of the work of indie R&B (neo-soul) singer Bilal, particularly a song entitled “Restart” from 2010’s Airtight’s Revenge.  Utilizing synthetic sounds (keyboard pads) and dusty, somewhat subdued drum programming, the production is top-notch.  Vocally, Miguel sounds phenomenal, yielding more irresistible falsetto.  Songwriting remains superb, particularly on the chorus: “If I (If I), Don’t make it back before the sun (the sun)/all you have to do is run (run)/just promise you’ll run (run) and don’t look back/don’t look back/don’t look back/and promise me you’ll run…” Adding to the valedictory nature is a clever Outro, which lifts off of The Zombies’s “Time of the Season” (“…I really want to know/its the time of the season of lovin’…”)

“Use Me” continues the consistency, even if it is shade less enthralling than juggernauts “Adore” or “Don’t Look Back.” The songwriting is notable because of excellent form (structure). Vocally, Miguel continues to shine, exhibiting sound control and killing falsetto.  The production is busy, dusty, and mysterious, all things courting an ‘eclectic’ cut.  Passionately, Miguel sings “And every wall I built up/has come crashing down/don’t the waves pull the sand/don’t the moon pull the tide baby/I’m yours…” He goes own encouraging her to “Use me, I’m gonna give you control,” in full sensual flare.

“Do You” opens with Miguel asking his girl the question, “Do you like drugs?” He goes onto with his inquiries (“…Have you ever felt alone/do you believe in love”) before diving into the well penned chorus: “But do you like drugs, do you like drugs? Yeah, well me too…do you like love, do you like love? Yeah well me too…it’s what we gonna do.” Taking a soul-driven approach, the cut begins with rhythm courtesy of electric guitar before pummeling drums and a fat bass line anchor down the standout cut.

On “Kaleidoscope Dream,” Miguel and co-writer Salaam Remi sample British soul artist Labi Siffre quite effectively.  The effect is one with dusty, soulful drums and a heavy bass line anchoring things.  Miguel’s vocals possess the sensibilities of neo-soul artists who came before him (D’Angelo and Maxwell).  The harmonized vocals in particular stand out, particular on lyrics “I tasted your infinite colors/collide in a fountain…”  The most notable lyrics are “Yeah, body language like piano keys/allow me to provoke thee/like you sing a melody/every single stroke baby/as I kiss your third eye/bet you’re going to scream…” Miguel doesn’t miss a beat.

“The Thrill” may be the weakest of the second division of Kaleidoscope Dream but calling another solid, ‘A’ worthy cut weak is trivial.  “The Thrill” gives Miguel more of a pop/rock soul sound, contrasting more overt soul showings in “Do You” or the title track.  At only 3:02, the brevity is certain conducive to the cut’s effectiveness.

Cuts We Hadn’t Heard

“How Many Drinks” gives Miguel a contemporary sounding groove, intact with production featuring electric piano, big bass line, and some 808 thuds.  Add a soulful sample, and you have another great production. Miguel’s falsetto is wide here and his vocal nuances soar above the production.  The songwriting compels in this ditty about taking a girl back to the crib after getting her wasted, even if this subject has been written/rewritten a million times over.  Miguel even allows himself to sweat a bit on the spoken bridge section: “No, no, no/I ain’t judgin’/if you decide that you might be f*ckin’ tonight, what? More power to you if you decide that you might be f*ckin’ tonight/le-le-let me dig that out like a fossil/damn baby that a$$ is colossal/Pilates a mill did that body so good/you’ve gotten a pair I wish I could…” Get it Miguel, casanova!

“Where’s The Fun in Forever” brings an assortment of co-writers in for one of the album’s very best, most notably Alicia Keys.  If you take a listen, you can definitely tell Keys’s signature writing style is present here.  The drums are dusty and soulful in a hip hop-soul idiom, intact with a largely compressed soul bass line.  Miguel is full throttle here, allowing his vocals to be overt and pop atop the production.  The chorus is incredibly well thought out: “Tomorrow’s just a day away yea/tomorrow’s just a day away…and tomorrow isn’t promised/where’s the fun in forever? Celebrate.” A personal favorite.

“Arch & Point” features prominent use of guitar against gargantuan clapping drums.  Miguel channels sensibilities of Prince perfectly.  Sensual without being offensively so, Miguel is clever: “Yeah baby, you know I don’t suppose/oh that every good girl know, yeah/oh all that every bad girl know/baby arch your back and point your toes…”

The end of the cut is an interlude that segues into cut “Pussy is Mine,” which is salacious, though perhaps less salacious than expected.  Miguel is accompanied only by electric guitar, the occasional synth, and eventually a thudding 808.  He wants to claim ownership “…Cause I don’t wanna believe that anyone is just like me…”  Regardless if it is ‘too much,’ he performs the risqué cut as if it is “Amazing Grace.”

Closing cut (on most editions) “Candles in the Sun” is soulful and passionate, taking on a socially conscious approach (“Diamond in the bag, babies on crack/Kick in the door, wavin’ the 4-4/White collar, war, crime, money gets spent/just candles in the sun, blowin’ in the wind/sun goes down, heroes often get shot/It’s just long and forgot…”  The iTunes edition of the effort adds a Remix of “Adorn,” featuring Wiz Khalifa.

After having the pleasure of partaking of Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream, it is easily one of the year’s BEST albums.  Don’t let the skeptics proclaim R&B dead just yet.  Add Miguel to elite company with Frank Ocean to introduce the new movement in R&B.  I just wish that Miguel could move more than the 50,000 copies projected; this is a must hear album.

Favorites“Adorn,” “Don’t Look Back,” “Do You,” “Kaleidoscope Dreams,” “Where’s The Fun in Forever”


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