Review: Miguel – “Kaleidoscope Dream”

October 19, 2012 2 comments

“”These lips can’t wait to taste your skin, baby, no, no
And these eyes, yeah, can’t wait to see your grin, ooh ooh baby.”

These are the first words sung on Miguel’s sophomore album, Kaleidoscope Dream. Many will instantly recognize this excerpt as lyrics from “Adorn,” yet another Miguel single that has gone on to dominate urban radio. But what you make not recognize is the song’s larger relevance to the album’s overall theme; a point that is important to demarcate.

Critics have already correctly pointed out the similarities between “Adorn” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” But the connection extends beyond the rudimentary examples concerning each song’s brash call for lovemaking. For every line like “giving yourself to me can never be wrong” in “Let’s Get It On,” there’s another two in “Adorn” singularly concerned with Miguel’s desires. In almost every aspect of the track Miguel remains the subject of the courtship, while his target merely benefits from his attention. It is his fists that “will always protect ya.” It is in his mind “that you will never be neglected.” It is his whole world that is “in your eyes.” Don’t be mistaken, the lady might be the object of Miguel’s adornment, but he is fully in control of it’s execution. But that’s the beauty of Kaleidoscope Dream though; it is undeniably the world through Miguel’s eyes.

In placing himself at the forefront of this new project, Miguel conjures a freshness and rawness that can only be attained by selfishly ignoring the wants of others. Gone are the potentially unyielding suggestions of “you could be the lover” or “you could be the quote.” On the contrary, the eccentric singer rarely speaks in language that could result in anything but a “sure thing.”

This adoration of power imbues many of the album’s tracks in their lyrical content. On “Don’t Look Back,” Miguel positions himself as the shameless womanizer. Crooning lines like “I feel the night approaching, The moon calling me,” Miguel defends his wandering eye by likening his desires to those as natural as the earthly phenomenons surrounding us. To Miguel, his behavior is unacceptable, but expected. It’s his nature, but he is afforded a cloak of humanity by warning his lady about his actions. These warnings are short-lived, however, as Miguel suddenly changes his tone and reignites his relentless tempting of his lady with lines like “Don’t you run, don’t you run” and “Has it taken, the time to show ya all the things you need to live.” In mere seconds, Miguel has gone from encouraging his disposal to making himself indispensable. And the change in the instrumental places further emphasis on the character shift.

“Use Me,” on the other hand, finds Miguel grappling with his desire for control. He finds himself wanting to concede dominance to his lady, but he is unsure about its eventual effect. Still, even in his most vulnerable state, Miguel finds time to suggest, “Just let me show you how to touch me, I could teach you.”

“Kaleidoscope Dream,” the song, professes the power of Miguel much less through its lyrics and more in its musical backing. Hip Hop heads will instantly recognize the Labi Saffri sample as the same one used on Eminem’s “My Name Is.” This choice is anything but coincidental. By recalling the song that effectively introduced listeners to Eminem’s “Slim Shady,” Miguel is both referencing the no holds barred nature of Em’s alter ego, while placing his own enigmatic persona on full display. In an even bolder (but welcome) move, he keeps Alicia Keys relegated to hook duties on “Where’s the Fun in Forever,” while pondering the importance of eternity.

As the name implies, the singer’s visions are made up of many components that are often reflected back on the listener as crystal patterns poised to shift at a moment’s notice. As such, the album isn’t all sex and power. “The Thrill” is a rehashing of a spontaneous moment in time. The album’s closer, “Candles in the Sun,” features an introspective Miguel questioning the world’s widespread inequality and the mistreatment of the lower class. Even so, they still manage to fit into the album’s larger narrative about power and the forces that preclude it.

Overall, the title of the album works not only in its ability to capture the effervescence of Miguel’s childlike infatuation with the things and people around him, but also the willingness with which he experiments––the latter being no more evident than on “Do You…” where Miguel bluntly asks, “Do you like drugs?” and responds with “me too.” Miguel takes risks vocally, belting in a way that is noticeably uncalculated. He shoots for notes and is wholly unconcerned with the destination of the vocal javelin just as long as it touches something.

The key for Miguel here is the emotion, probably moreso than his need to assert significance. Those emotions are sometimes unapologetic and even one-sided, but at least he’s committed to them. That’s what R&B is supposed to be.

8.6/10

Kaleidoscope Dream is in stores and on iTunes now.