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Miguel Mixes Sensuality and Social Consciousness in New Album War & Leisure

2 minute read

Miguel has always been a lover, not a fighter. On his 2012 breakout, Kaleidoscope Dream, he earned comparisons to Prince, while 2015’s Wildheart showcased his talents for introspective, edgy R&B. But on his fourth studio album, War & Leisure, out Dec. 1, he finds new depths of sensuality, making use of distorted rock influences and a sharp social consciousness.

Los Angeles-raised with black and Latino roots, Miguel—born Miguel Jontel Pimentel—was always skilled at blending sonic and cultural influences, but here he pushes further. “Wolf” explores animalistic desire over a driving downbeat; “I love the taste of your flesh,” he groans. J. Cole collaboration “Come Through and Chill” is a glorified late-night text that oozes swagger, then name-checks Colin Kaepernick. He shines when exploring his mix of falsetto, reverb-heavy guitar riffs and hazy funk-pop with Latin swing, like on Spanish-language “Caramelo Duro,” which is layered with candied come-ons.

He’s also more political than he’s been before. Album closer “Now” is a dark lullaby that morphs into a gunshot-splattered battle cry, making a plea to the “CEO of the free world”: “Should we teach our children hatred? Chase the innocent and shoot them down? … Is that the sound of freedom?” As much as War & Leisure is about desire, it’s also a reflection of this woke moment, a statement about seeking refuge from the world in the comforts of love. In times like these, even the king of bedroom records can transcend pursuits of the flesh.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com