Miguel War & Leisure ByStorm / RCA
At his album playback at a London hotel, in between sips of tequila Miguel Jontel Pimentel explained that his fourth album would be political, but not overtly so. As the son of a Mexican immigrant father and a black mother, the LA artist is eager to inject some political discourse into his style of psychedelic, sexually-charged RnB.
Tackling a boner-killing topic like the current political climate does seem like a risk – 2015’s lauded album Wildheart came dripping with carnal desire. But rather than sounding like a BBC news anchor has entered the bedroom, with War & Leisure Miguel strikes a balance between the political and the personal. The album’s two Colin Kaepernick references are made by featured artists – Rick Ross and J. Cole – while Miguel’s own allusions are less specific.
His politicising feels most powerful on Caramelo Duro where he licks out his lines in Spanish, given the context of him connecting with his Mexican roots and recently protesting at LA’s controversial Adelanto Detention Centre. Now, he’s explained, is an imagined conversation with Trump about hurricane victims, dreamers and immigrants. “It’s plain to see a man’s integrity/ By the way he treats those he does not need,” he says to the “CEO of the free world”. Putting ‘war’ to one side, the ‘leisure’ aspect of the album isn’t neglected – there’s still enough sex metaphors, drugs and gloss to please the Miguel fans who’ve been there from the start.
War & Leisure seems to reinforce the idea that in the current climate we should cling onto our identities and freedoms more furiously than ever. If the world needs a musical mouthpiece for social justice, it could do a lot worse than the man currently vying for the title of Prince or Michael Jackson’s successor.