It’s interesting watching all the big players in contemporary RnB gradually enter their own lanes. Frank Ocean occupies that delicate soul-destroying lane of heartbreak and vulnerability, a lot of the other big players enter the lane of self-loathing and narcissism that comes with sex like The Weeknd, others use sex as a weapon that they can use to get what they want like FKA Twigs. Naturally all of these big players are lazily compared to each other frequently, but like Miguel has just said in regards to the Frank Ocean comparisons, ‘Don’t compare apples to oranges’.
It’s true that we’re entering an age where RnB singers are experimenting with the way they approach their music and a lot these artists tackle dark themes that often are tied together with sex, yet the approaches are all so different and more importantly, some are so much more believable than others. The Weeknd’s approach to the way he tackles sex is that is that he’s either a victim or he’s inflicting pain on others with the way in which he’s so cold; he can often be melodramatic when he delivers these songs to the point where it can become slightly overbearing. As many others have pointed out Miguel puts the focus on the female he’s with and the songs are delivered with the voice of someone who cares and will show vulnerability towards his counterpart.
Sex is something that Miguel uses to show his vulnerability, even on the song ‘The Valley’ when he’s singing ‘I wanna fuck like we’re filming in the valley/ I want to push and shove and paint your hills and valleys’ the focus is to fulfil the woman’s desire, despite the fact that the gesture seems to be a vulgar one (have sex like they’re filming a porno? Not the most attractive thing). On the song ‘waves’ Miguel is pleading his lover to carry on moving in the way she is, asserting his confidence in pleasing her as well as complimenting her while doing so. These songs are more graphic in the way in which they present their lyrics than Miguel’s last album ‘Kaleidoscope Love’ but on this album they feel a lot more focused like the sound of someone who knows exactly what he wants to present.
Elsewhere on the album Miguel addresses some of his own insecurities like on the song ‘what’s normal anyway’, where he talks of the well-told tale of not being able to fit into any crowd in particular. Although the lyrics don’t particularly bring anything new to this style of song-writing it’s always interesting to hear someone laying their soul bare when singing about this subject matter. On the track ‘Hollywood Dreams’ Miguel explores the perils of constantly wanting more; he sings of a girl who’s obsessed with becoming famous but not for any particular reason, just because she feels she should have it – he describes her as a ‘lost angel’. It’s not the only time he calls people out for being sinners, on the track ‘going to hell’ he literally says that because of his love for a woman he’s going to hell, he pleads her to stay with him because she’s the only one that can clean his dirty soul. It’s interesting how many different subjects Miguel can somehow relate to his companion or any female on this album.
Much like other contemporary-RnB singers and like on Miguel’s last album, this album is covered in dark instrumentation and production values. Unlike other artists he kind of darts all over the place mostly losing himself in psychedelia but he flirts with solid guitar lines one minute and warm synths and bass the next. On some of the more explicit songs the reverb that turns up a lot on this album can enhance the experience and help you feel like you’re losing yourself along with him, while some of the more harder, more straight forward cuts on here like ‘Coffee’ and the aforementioned ‘The Valley’ and help assert some confidence into his music. The track ‘NWA’ sees Miguel taking on a very minimalistic instrumental with some smooth guitar lines and some tribal drums finding their way into the song. He describes how it’s okay to be a crazy girl in the bedroom stating ‘she just wanna fuck crazy’, it’s almost like an opposition to how he describes making love in ‘Coffee’ where he wishes he could ‘paint our love’. With Kurupt’s smooth rhymes in the background the song eases its way forward making it one of the highlights on the album.
There are unfortunately moments littered throughout the track-listing where elements do feel mismatched though. While the grooves that are akin to something D’Angelo would do on ‘DEAL’ are passable, the songs’ subject of Miguel calling out the people in power who can literally buy themselves women and sex for the night is lost with the wishy-washy sound effects and reverb. Miguel sounds like he’s extremely confident in singing on the track but his vocals should have been right at the forefront which would have made his vocal melody a lot clearer. Miguel does tone down the extremely poppy hooks on this album and as a result it does make some of the tracks feel short-of-breathe when they don’t amount to much in terms of the song-writing, like on the track ‘destinado a morir (enter.lewd)’ which plops along for a minute and a half without really going anywhere.
Even with all of it’s pitfalls ‘Wildheart’ is an interesting exploration of sex that’s not afraid to show both the ugly and pretty side of love. Neither is it afraid to let the male place the focus on the actual woman rather than it sounding like he’s using women as a way of masturbation. ‘Wildheart’ is an imperfect album, but one that shows that as an outsider in contemporary RnB Miguel is doing just fine and has found his particular lane, and plans to expand himself in that lane.
Best Tracks: A Beautiful Exit, NWA, Waves, Hollywood Dreams
FUNNY STORY: When I first listened to this album I thought it was the worst thing I’d ever heard in my life and then I got about halfway through the album and realised my headphone wasn’t plugged in properly.