Singer Miguel was one of the breakout stars of 2012, but many know him best for his most public mistake.
In 2013, the performer born Miguel Pimentel made the news when he leapt over the heads of fans during the Billboard Awards. Instead of sticking the landing on a runway a few feet away, he came up short and sat down awkwardly on a fan’s head.
He was performing his hit “Adorn,” which earned him Grammy nominations for song of the year, best R&B song, which he won, and best R&B performance.
The song also topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart, his third to do so, but when video of his ill-conceived leap went viral, much of America knew him better for landing on a fan than for a successful year.
The album presents him as a soul man but one who loves Prince as much as Marvin Gaye and sex as much as both. He has a boldly libidinous imagination throughout the album and particularly in “The Valley.”
That’s not news. 2012’s “Kaleidoscope Dream” has its racy moments too, but Miguel wants more than the woman’s body this time.
“Pillow talk turns into sweet dreams,” he sings with genuine tenderness in “Coffee.” “Sweet dreams turns into coffee in the morning.”
On “Wildheart,” we know they’ll have that coffee somewhere in Los Angeles. Southern California is present throughout the album, and Miguel’s attitudes toward it are as mixed as all his other ones.
In “Leaves,” he grouses that the leaves never change colors, which allows winter to sneak up on him. “Sweet California, sour California, sweet California, bitter California,” he sings.
Miguel gave The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan co-writing credits on the song when he realized it bore a strong resemblance to The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979,” though he insists the shared guitar line was a subconscious borrowing.
The sense of place makes “Wildheart” feel like a complete musical statement — a true album and not simply a collection of songs. In what feels like the year of streaming, Miguel has given traditional music fans a thing they feared was dying out, though rapper Kendrick Lamar and R&B artist D’Angelo also made grand, coherent musical statements in late 2014 and 2015.
The centerpiece of “Wildheart” is the song “What’s Normal Anyway?” which puts Miguel in the identity conversation. He isn’t trans-anything, but he grew up “too proper for the black kids, too black for the Mexicans,” he sings.
He was born to a Mexican-American father and African-American mother, and the song dissects all the ways he never fits in and how alone he feels despite his amorous adventures.
He has a geographic home in Los Angeles, but a thousand books have been written on how easy it is to feel alone there.
In the song, Miguel still yearns for a place where he feels like he belongs but not at any cost. “Don’t let them change you; just be who you are,” he sings.
“You deal with your adversity and literally figure out, reassure, assure and confirm who it is you are, what you stand for and what you’re willing to sacrifice,” Miguel told idolator.com in June. “That kinda gives you hope and a direction.”
Miguel touched on many of these themes on “Kaleidoscope Dream,” and every scandalous phrase and entendre and a half on it and “Wildheart” is intentional.
“Adorn” is often chivalrous, but even knights can think dirty thoughts.