If I’m being entirely honest, I expected this album to be incredibly dull. I’m not a fan of your average R&B and that’s what I thought this album would be, based on songs and collaborations by Miguel that I heard in the past. But, wow, this is an experimental mix of R&B, pop, funk, rock, soul and pretty much everything under the sun.
The album opens with “a beautiful end,” a song that’s driven by… I can’t even tell. It could be guitar or it could be distorted bass or even a synthesizer. Talk about being an impossible track to categorize! But I can tell you one thing for sure: it’s highly addictive and the perfect song to open the album with. Interestingly, Miguel’s vocals are almost off in the background here. They’re totally understandable and have a nice melody, but whatever that persistent instrument driving the track is, it’s definitely louder. Same for the drum beat.
Some funky, fried bass dominates “DEAL,” which finds Miguel singing, “Give me the bass.” I detect a strong Lenny Kravitz influence here and that’s hardly surprising considering that Lenny is featured on the album’s closing track, “face the sun.” Normally, I would think that a singer/songwriter’s album would’ve started off with a melody then vocals/lyrics with the music then being based around that, but this one gives me the impression that the music was written first, with the lyrics and vocal melody coming last. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just different, but, then again, this whole album is.
“the valley” is a song that only someone from the Los Angeles area could write, being that it’s all about porn and the porn industry. Granted, anyone could write about porn, but you have to drive through Van Nuys and that area of the valley to truly appreciate this. (I lived in L.A. for three years.) “Lips, tits, clit,” Miguel sings and it’s looped throughout most of the track, giving it an almost eerie and very trippy vibe. “I wanna fuck like we’re filming in the valley,” goes the chorus and it’ll have you downloading more porn than you can possibly watch in a year.
The album has a second song relating to Los Angeles, “Hollywood Dreams.” It’s a Prince-like journey that’s less about the successful and more about those still thirsting for success. “Still waiting for my big break,” he sings fairly optimistically. “For fame’s sake.” But, less you think the song is too bright, it shines a light on the casting couch, too.
I also quite like the above-mentioned Lenny Kravitz collab, which has one of the album’s most prominent vocals. Strangely, it sounds less like a Lenny Kravitz track than most of the rest of the album with its finger-snapping, hand-clapping-sounding percussion and flourishes of jangly guitar. OK, so that sounds like a Lenny Kravitz song, but the beats are usually much more boisterous in a Lenny Kravitz song (and the guitars play a considerably more prominent role as well). “When it’s time to face the sun, I know that you’re the only one,” Miguel sings. It’s a simple sentiment, but it’s universal and it’s something you can appreciate even if most of the record is too far out there for you. Although I can’t imagine that you’d still be listening if you found it to be a turn off early on. And even if you were, you’d probably be so put off that you’d be seeing red and wouldn’t be able to enjoy this late nugget anyway.
The bottom line here is that this album is an experimental music lover’s dream come true, but if you prefer your songs to be more paint-by-numbers then stay the hell away from it.