Miguel, neo-soul singer of the sleeper hit first album All I Want Is You and hit second album Kaleidoscope Dreams, is back with his third album Wildheart. As the title indicates, this album is about unrestrained love, but it is equally a place for Miguel to find his identity and to showcase its nebulousness and boundlessness; in finding his own identity, he stubbornly refuses to be labeled as one thing or another.
Miguel's flexibility and changeability is apparent especially in "DEAL," a seemingly straightforward and mellow pop-funk tune, which sets itself apart from other songs like it with its use of subtle synths and moderately heavy reverberation on the vocals. Toward the end of the song, the repetitive chorus suddenly gets slowed down until the sound sounds both syrupy and unrepentantly robotic. Though this part of the song only lasts about forty seconds out of four minutes and seventeen seconds, it still characterizes Miguel's innate rebelliousness; none of his music is simply one thing or another. Everything is slightly, delightfully skewed.
The singer also deals with his identity crisis explicitly in "what's normal anyway," where he frets out loud, naming the places where he feels he does not fit in. "Too proper for the black kids/Too black for the Mexicans," he sings. He goes on to lament his own selfishness, saying that he has always been too busy to even spend time with his family. It is in songs like these that Miguel lets down his sometimes-vulgar, always-powerful persona, allowing something a touch more vulnerable to emerge.
Miguel's wild heart is certainly present in the form of uncontrollable lust in his song "the valley," though that song also explores the voyeurism and power dynamics of sex, therefore exemplifying the conflict that this album explores. The vulgarity of "the valley" would almost be comical if not for the resolute, unwavering confidence in Miguel's voice; we swallow any laughs. We humbly accept his music how it comes. This goes for "FLESH," which is in some ways the sequel to "the valley" with its similar understated yet heavily electronic production and sexual subject matter. In "FLESH," Miguel is almost incomprehensible, sighing and slurring his words together as if overcome. His ability to approach his music with absolute confidence and solemnity while at the same time not burying his sense of humor is part of what makes this album so unforgettable; his charisma makes us listen...makes us want more.
There are few notes that Wildheart does not hit. "coffee," one of the first songs released off the album, eagerly extols new love, while "leaves" attacks nostalgia, regret, and the inevitability of change. "face the sun," featuring Lenny Kravitz, is a ballad of loyalty, as firm and steady as a promise ring. Miguel, using both variety and pure force, has pushed the boundaries of modern R&B, setting an impressive bar for other artists to reach for.