Miguel, War & Leisure | Album Review
Urban contemporary standout Miguel delivers another sensational, sensual effort on his highly-anticipated fourth studio album, ‘War & Leisure.’
After a two-year-plus hiatus, Miguel returns with his fourth studio album, War & Leisure (December 1). The alternative R&B, urban contemporary singer-songwriter’s previous album, Wildheart, thrived off of sex. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same impact as Kaleidoscope Heart, an album that won Miguel a Grammy (“Adorn”). Listening and analyzing the War & Leisure, Miguel definitely has a chance to win multiple Grammys.
“Criminal” begins War & Leisure with a bang, literally. The production is lush, rich in a variety of sounds, including keyboards, synths, and electric guitars. This sound is clearly characteristic of Miguel – eclectic and sexy through and through. Vocally, he delivers a complete, passionate, and soulful performance. Rick Ross provides an excellent lift on the third verse, riding the beat like a champ. In addition to the awesome production work, the chorus is a major selling point.
“I know I’m dicey / Oh, it’s so good it feels criminal, ha / This shit’s gotta be criminal, ha / The way I keep killing you / Though I’m dangerous, ha, yeah / It’s so good it feels criminal, ah /This shit’s gotta be criminal, ah.”
“Pineapple Skies” keeps the momentum rolling. Vocally, Miguel consistently exhibits exceptional energy, soulfulness, and swag. Artistically, he’s understands his musical identity and niche, continuing to excel without a doubt. The smooth, soulful “Pineapple Skies” benefits from vintage pop and R&B cues. The eclectic script is alive and well here.
Promo single “Sky Walker” continues in all its glory. Miguel continues to deliver vocally, adding some swagger as well. Like the two songs that precede it, “Sky Walker” generally possesses the sound we associate with the musician. There are some tweaks – “Sky Walker” sounds more modern – but there’s still the sense that he still has ‘one foot in the door of the past.’ In regards to messaging, it’s all about denouncing and proving haters wrong, something that is made clear from the jump. Travis Scott guests on the second verse, playing into the message and flexing lyrically. He doesn’t break new ground, but it’s enjoyable all in all.
“Banana Clip” earns the arduous task of following up a formidable trio of hits. It doesn’t surpass the crème de la crème, but hold its own. It benefits from its optimistic sound, intact with bright production work, and enthusiastic, soaring vocals. “Wolf” featuring Quiñ is an instant highlight, finding Miguel growing animalistic in reference to his sexual desires. His vocals are steeped in the carnal, yielding one of his strongest performances of War & Leisure, as well as his career. The old-school rock-pop cues, fused with some modern touches is brilliant. Notably, “Wolf” is a Raphael Saadiq co-write.
On “Harem,” Miguel urges to “Come and share where love is free.” Clearly, he’s being sexual to the nth degree considering that a harem includes one man and multiple women. Perhaps he takes his passion and lust too far, but the vibe wins nonetheless. The brilliant “Told You So” follows, showcasing Miguel at his grooviest. While there are synths, the pop-rock guitars still play a big role in the success and overall production approach. The influence of Prince is loud and clear here. While “Told You So” sounds fresh in 2017, it also easily could’ve hailed from the 80s. Throughout the course of “Told You So,” he’s soulful, commanding, and clearly on autopilot. Thematically, amplified by the accompanying music video, this is no ‘dance party’ – it goes deeper.
“City of Angels” slackens the pace, but it’s not a slow jam. Here, the pop-rock cues are in full effect, more so than “Told You So.” The coarse, distorted nature of the vocals is a selling point. After dancing earlier on “Told You So,” Miguel drops an infectious Spanish number, “Caramelo Duro” featuring Kali Uchis. Perhaps it’s not among the elite of War & Leisure – the best of the best – but it’s worthy of some spins.
“Come Through and Chill”
On “Come Through and Chill,” Miguel is assisted by J. Cole and Salaam Remi. Remi handles the production duties, giving “Come Through and Chill” a soulful, old-school sensibility. J. Cole delivers the first verse over the chill production work, a great way to kick things off. He’s a fitting partner for Miguel, who follows up with laid-back, sexy, sexual verses. In between the verses he drops enjoyable pre-chorus, chorus, and post-choruses that keep it simple, yet effective. The best of those three sections is the chorus:
“Just say you will, will, will / Come through and chill, chill, chill / Just say you will, will, will / Come through and chill, chill, chill.”
Cole returns for another verse, adding more goodness. Although it’s lengthy, nearing five-and-a-half-minutes, it’s a worthwhile, chill lift to War & Leisure.
Keeping in line with the title and central theme on penultimate song “Anointed,” Miguel asserts, “‘Cause your body’s ready for war / And my body’s built to endure.” He goes on to liken pleasure with the sanctified. It’s blasphemous mind you, but cleverly so. “Now” goes deeper than much of War & Leisure. Here, Miguel reflects on freedom, race relations, and of course Trump’s America.
Once more, Miguel delivers on War & Leisure. Though fans had to wait two years, near Christmastime, it was well worth the wait. The production work is superb, the vocals top-rate, and the songwriting on-point. While he lets lust get the best of him at times, more often than not, he shines.
Gems: “Criminal,” “Pineapple Skies,” “Sky Walker,” “Wolf,” “Told You So” & “Come Through and Chill”