War & Leisure marks Miguel’s fourth album, two years after his critically acclaimed Wildheart. Upon news of an upcoming release, I expected nothing but consistency and something that will always be great to listen to. For some Miguel fans, Wildheart was too ‘classic’ but a departure from the Miguel they knew. For others, it showed his capabilities in reaching the artists influencing Miguel’s artistry. War & Leisure is an interesting title, but with changes regarding its initial single line-up, and hoping to speak more on the state of us and beyond, Miguel marks this piece a balance between the two spaces.
Overall the album continues to show off Miguel’s artistry and even key artists that complement his work. There’s the hypnotic, alt-r&b track “Wolf,” with upcoming artist QUIÑ (Sticky Situations feat. Syd), who uses her sultry vocals to exclaim at Miguel’s revelations to his chosen, and the willing Red. There’s the sweet-titled “Pineapple Sky” and upbeat production from Detail (Beyonce, Wiz Khalifa, Akon), and soul influence on the recurring riff amidst the electronic influence, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” (the song credits the original writing team as well). And then there’s the return of noted rapper and collaborator J.Cole, for “Come Through and Chill” in a jazz+rap track, and pearl-clutching and politically charged lyrics. Who else is able to compare the debate of American patriotism and racial identity, to thinking of someone at odd hours, for odd hours and being slighted?
The Stand Outs
Miguel’s art and its production is always something to admire and appreciate. With his continued involvement, and support and direction from key artists like Salaam Remi (Nas, The Fugees, Amy Winehouse), Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Fun.), Happy Perez (Miguel’s “Sure Thing,” Frankie J’s “Obsession”) Raphael Saaddiq and Kali Uchis (also featured on the tracks “Wolf” & the Spanish seduction of “Caramelo Duro” respectively), this album is rated R for “refined.” And there’s synth, which is always a tool for a dynamic track, a key element in “Told You So,” a bravado-filled, quirky yet ominous track reminiscent of something from the Tom Tom Club (“Vision of Love”) and plenty of apt guitar playing. Always a 10!
The yin and yang of Miguel’s musical spirit, the dichotomy of the passion of humans, and the effects of it are clear in this album. Miguel explores more on the state of humanity with references to the Flint Water Crisis, Standing Rock, and protesting blind patriotism in “Now,” but stands strong with his appreciation for the form of someone he loves (“Anointed”), or once loved (“City of Angels”). If you’re looking for a taste of unfiltered and modern soul r&b, pop for any time of day, this is the album to get into.
Miguel isn’t for the faint of heart, but the world isn’t either; you can see this latest release as his, and perhaps our, latest confessions and preparation for something more. His solidification as an artist continues to be undisputed, and this album marks a proper release, keeping current and ahead.
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