London Student

Miguel – War and Leisure: “Caught up in Miguel’s euphoria”

“I genuinely believe I make better music [than Frank Ocean], all the way round.”

Miguel does not make better music than Frank Ocean, but he is good. If Miguel has a problem, it’s only that he thinks he’s a genius when he isn’t. But that’s ok. He doesn’t need to compare himself to Frank Ocean. He has something that Frank doesn’t have – fun.

Miguel’s lead single ‘Sky Walker’ does what a good song, and what good singing, should do – make you feel. And, in this instance, the feeling is ecstasy. The high notes in the chorus make you giddy and it’s easy to get caught up in Miguel’s euphoric energy. Kind of like the things he says in real life (apparently, life is about the “frequency” on which you live it), the lyrics are more than questionable. Within this song, and later on in the album’s closer, Miguel tries too hard to be the artist that he isn’t. For instance, in between lyrics about “babes” in a “bathhouse” and being “cool as a breeze”, Miguel sings “Don’t sleep/you gotta stay up!”

I thought I got the picture: Miguel has babes in a bathhouse, he’s cool as a breeze, he’s staying up late. I get you Miguel. I stay up late too. But he has since explained that, though he’s not the kind of person “to be like, I’m woke!’ or whatever… that, if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” So that’s what “gotta stay up” meant: being woke. But it’s completely incongruous with the song. Unfortunately, it’s this kind of pseudo-deep politico-spiritual commentary that Miguel sabotages himself with often on this album.

The follow-up, ‘Told You So’, is an electric ‘80s hit, though I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about. I don’t think anyone does – Miguel, perhaps maybe. The music video sees missiles launch in the background to Miguel dancing and being generally cool and handsome. Some speculate that it’s about a nuclear fallout but, superficially, the lyrics are just about Miguel giving “pleasure” to (yet another) “babe”. What to take from this? Miguel is hormonal no matter how radiated the environment? No matter. It’s worth a 1000+ listens, regardless.

The latest single, ‘Pineapple Skies’, debuted on Snoop Dogg’s ground-breaking YouTube series “Double G News” (GGN. to those in the know) – which is perfect. For there is, worth-while opinions note, no better show to…*

*There is no better show.

This is Miguel’s it’s-going-to-be-okay song and it succeeds in making everything so. The only real criticism of this song is its place in the album. It should certainly have been first. The album’s opener “Criminal” is good. Rick Ross is Rick Ross, the piano keys are hard and the concept works. However it is just that: good. But ‘Pineapple Skies’? Spectacular.

‘Banana Clip’ is the epitome of what the best of War & Leisure’s Miguel is – fun, vibrant and uplifting. The proceeding song, ‘Wolf’, is less good. The tone seems more blatantly ripped off. It’s the kind of generic effort that seems better placed on a car advert with too much budget. ‘Harem’ is okay, but the manipulated vocals towards the end are unnecessary and unpleasant. Lyrically, the song is about – you guessed it – another one of Miguel’s babes. PSYCH! It’s actually about a Harem – of babes. Indeed Miguel asserts the Harem mantra “love is free, love is free” repeatedly. I’m sure this isn’t what J-Lo meant when she said “love don’t cost a thing”.

‘City of Angels’ is amongst a number of tracks on War & Leisure on which Miguel tries to toy with genres outside of his comfort zone. In this instance: rock. And it works! Miguel is a rockstar and the suit fits him well. It’s his attempt to then transfigure into a Latin American Superstar on ‘Carmelo Duro’ that upsets. Similarly to ‘Anointed’, it is notably not noteworthy. The album’s closer, ‘Now’, is perfect in its summation of where Miguel goes wrong on War & Leisure. Ever since Michael Jackson put out “We Are the World”, artists who feel profound (see Justin Bieber’s “Children”) think they should have a song vaguely about humanity being better people for “the children”. Except the result is consistently as profound as Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons screaming “WHAT ABOUT THE CHILREN?” Indeed, Miguel asks whether we should “teach our children hatred”. Idk Miguel. Probably not.

In summary, Miguel is very talented and War & Leisure is a very good album. But it is a very good album because you get caught up in Miguel’s euphoria, not because Miguel is the politico-spiritual leader he reckons he may be. If only someone would tell him that making people feel good really is meaningful enough.




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Joseph Lyons