Album Review: Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dreamby Rahul Pandya on Oct, 03 2012
Miguel took an interesting approach with the release of his sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream. At the top of the year, the singer-songwriter released three separate EPs Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1, 2 & 3, each with three new, original, free songs — a warm up for the album, if you will. The idea was based on the fact that many people can only digest new music in small doses. In June, he continued that thought process with Kaleidoscope Dream: Water Preview (and later Air Preview in August); two sets of three songs that would end up on the actual album, released on iTunes so that listeners could digest the new material bit by bit. It was an unorthodox approach that seemed to embrace technology and the evolution of the music listener.
Miguel has really always been a little left-field, though. After years of appearances on songs by L.A. underground rap favorites like Blu and U-N-I, he released his debut album All I Want Is You in 2010. The result was kind of incredible. Aside from a couple missteps, the album, with songs like “Sure Thing” and “Quickie” (both very successful singles), introduced a sound that combined classic R&B and alternative rock. It incorporated songwriting that was based in romance, and not rainbows or unicorns (Frank Ocean) or drugs and masochism (The Weeknd), that still transcended the R&B sound that seems to pigeonhole artists like Trey Songz, The-Dream, or even R. Kelly. It pushed Miguel into a category beyond the standard, with music that was still accessible, even if not everyone was paying attention.
Kaleidoscope Dream avoids the mistakes from the first album and builds tremendously on the foundation it created. Thematically, the writing, which Miguel is solely responsible for throughout the project, goes beyond the simple romance scope. He still croons away (“Adorn“), but he also finds fun in the moment (“Where’s the Fun in Forever”), skips passed the simpin’ (“How Many Drinks?”) and claims his territory, of sorts (“Pussy Is Mine”) — the trifecta. “I taste you in infinite colors”, he whispers on Kaleidoscope‘s title track, establishing both his unruly side and his subtle, inspired side. Even aside from the writing, there is a vibe that ties the album together rooted not just in sonics, but simply in a soul that exists within the music.
The growth of Miguel as an artist is evident in the sheer composition of the songs. He and his team take chances, placing gaps in the music, properly using his falsetto, and making the production bigger overall without outdoing themselves. This is most evident in the album’s opus “Candles in the Sun”, an existentialist decree over live guitars and drums that fittingly brings the synesthesia that is Kaleidoscope Dream to an end.
The concept of R&B as a genre is a polarizing subject. There are artists that move away from it, that don’t want to be considered it, that feel like it doesn’t properly exist anymore, and Miguel seems to have bypassed any preconceived restrictions or holier-than-thou mentalities to make what will almost certainly be the R&B album of the year.