Miguel – Soul Redefined
Call it a renaissance for Miguel Jontel Pimentel, a rebirth; a reintroduction of sorts. It was less than two years ago when the Los Angeles-bred crooner found himself in a quandary with his debut album release, All I Want Is You. As he describes it, his former self was a “traditional R&B” artist manufactured and branded for the mainstream ear. As a result, although musically sound and cohesive, the project debuted at 109 on the U.S. Billboard 200, and sold a mere 11,000 units its first week. The Miguel we find on this new album however is more refined, a risk taker, a sartorial maven, and essentially, his true self. Perhaps it’s also no coincidence that his first single “Adorn” off of his new album Kaleidoscope Dream was now #1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. And while “Adorn” serves as Miguel’s most successful single ever, it’s only the beginning of the evolution taking place in R&B. Listening to his sophomore project, the tone Miguel has in Kaleidoscope Dream is quite different from the one we were introduced to almost two years ago with All I Want Is You. You will find a man projecting his life and reality of who he is in the vortex that is Kaleidoscope Dream. You will also find a boy growing up to Motown classics, jazz standards, The Beatles, old school Tony! Toni! Toné!, and his father's guitar. This eclectic and diverse combination of influences pulse through every bar and note of arguably the most complete and balanced R&B album to hit the shelves this year. Capturing his experiences – the places he’s been, conversations with the ladies he’s had, lost, and been bewildered by – the 11-track opus is resonant and feels like the soundtrack to a new metropolitan man. Miguel has become ubiquitous, and more embraced than ever from the fashion world and his peers in music. It’s been a tempestuous road, but Miguel has finally found his place, and to him, it’s a kaleidoscope dream come true.
What is the main source of influence behind your music?
My biggest influence is the need to express myself. I think in regular, everyday interaction, I’m less apt to expressing how I feel about something. I’m a lot more guarded, a lot more filtered at times, and music being a creative medium is probably the place where I feel where I can just say whatever the fuck I think. I just express what I’m feeling with no filter, no pretense, no repercussion. It’s just me and my thoughts. My father playing the guitar were some of my earliest recollections with music; the first times hearing some of the jazz standards my mom would play, my father playing The Beatles, George Clinton’s Funkadelic. As I got older, there was a lot of soulful music in my life as well, listening Tony! Toni! Toné!, Boyz II Men, The Temptations. Motown was a hit at home and that’s where it really began. The soul in that music was what really made me feel I can. So I wanted to create the same kind of music that moved those types of emotions in people the same way it moved me.
How would you compare the Miguel from All I Want Is You to the Miguel from Kaleidoscope Dream?
I think the biggest difference is I’m studier as a person. My desire to take risks and being comfortable enough to show people what I’m hearing in my head. Being as true to my lifestyle as possible, and I would credit that to just being comfortable with myself.
What has helped create the overall style of songs you’ve written?
I think it’s those certain experiences in life that move me. The places, the conversations, the kind of people I surround myself with. Life is a lot about sensibilities, and I think the art form is reflective of life, so I ask myself “why shouldn’t the music I make mirror my lifestyle?” The answer to that is there is no reason why it shouldn’t – the reason is why it should. My lifestyle isn’t to pop bottles, take my shirt off, candles lit, in the bedroom cookie cutter shit. It’s just not how I live. I’ve kind of walked that fine line of being a little bit of hip-hop, being a little bit of rock, but always remaining soulful. That’s what it’s all about and it’s where it all comes from, and it especially takes precedence in my new album. It’s a projection of my life and the reality of who I am.
Do you ever find your music influencing other aspects of your life, such as fashion?
More than ever now, it all makes sense together. I feel everything I do aesthetically is what I would do whether there are cameras on me or not. It’s who I am, it’s natural. But I just think across the board – everything one does, it all has to make sense because if it doesn’t that’s when people can read through the bullshit.
What makes you feel most at home?
I feel most at home in a leather biker jacket, or in my fucking bed, with my girl (laughs). And as long as I have my biker jacket I’ll be good! If not working, it makes me really happy to spend time with my family and my girl. Real simple.
If one day you decided to leave music and pursue another career, what would that be?
I would be a photographer. I’m not saying I would be a good photographer (laughs), but that’s what I would be. And I would shoot beautiful women all day. Ask yourself, what other medium are you going to be able to meet, be around beautiful women, and be part of the creative process (other than music)? I’ve always loved photography, and when I’m writing I often have images on display that inspire me. It’s an art form I’ve always appreciated.
Are you involved with any other projects at the moment?
Musically, there’s a few releases on their way. We have a single with Ludacris, I’m going to be doing something on J.Cole’s new album, and I’m also looking forward to working with Wale again. I have a song coming out with Big Sean for his new album as well. Speaking of Big Sean, I ran into Kanye West last night at the airport, and he’s been telling me he’s real psyched about that single. He also commended me on my new album, and told me it’s the only album he has been playing on his iPod lately, and it was all just too surreal. Non-musically, we’ve been doing collaborations with Deer Dana, who is a designer. More recently, her ‘Basquiat’ T-shirt was worn by Jay-Z during his infamous train ride to Brooklyn. So I’ve helped create some designs with her focused around timeless, musical icons, and ultimately narrowed it down to Sade and Grace Jones this season, which will be released through Opening Ceremony in limited quantity.
If you were to work with two artists, one from the past and one from the present, who would they be?
Today, Imogen Heap and for the past, James Brown. I admire Imogen Heap’s ability to create really dense, but concise lyrics to describe her emotion. And James Brown because of the innovation in his musicality. I think the juxtaposition of working with those two and me just being a really straightforward, shoot from the hip guy when it comes to approach, would be a great balance and make for something dope.
What are some embarrassing songs I might find on your iTunes?
Here’s the thing about me, I can always find something dope in every kind of music in every kind of genre! There’s not a certain genre I can’t appreciate. With that said I do have “How High” by Afroman in my iTunes (laughs). That shit is so dope, but every kind of music has its place and its time, it’s just all about where you place it.
Do you feel fashion is just as important as musical artistry in order to make an impression in the industry?
Because our lives are so visual now, absolutely. How you present yourself visually, it’s a foreshadowing of how people identify with you personally and through your music. And whether they understand it or not could either enhance or detract whether or not they can or cannot take you seriously. I had to learn that the hard way.
What kind of influence do you want your music to have on people?
I want my music to inspire individuality and creativity through any walk of life. Inspire fearlessness, nobility, opportunity, desire and drive to be one’s self. Never conforming to the expectations of your creed, color, orientation or economical status. It’s all about finding yourself and not letting what’s around you define you.
What sort of lasting impression would you like to leave behind in your musical legacy?
Expectations are meant to be met and exceeded. Someone who was fearless, someone who was dangerous because he was fearless. I want my music to transcend any expectations based on ethnicity, based on socioeconomic status, and I want my core audience to be quantified and defined by sensibilities and not by any other reason.