Near the end of his third album, Miguel smoothly croons, “Still waiting for my big break.” He’s painting a picture of typical Hollywood delusion, not his own story arc: The 29-year-old R&B futurist is coming off a critically beloved gold album (2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream), a pair of breakthrough singles (“Adorn” and the Mariah Carey assist “#Beautiful”), and his first Grammy victory.
Having arrived, the question then becomes “Where do I go now?” His muse led him back to his hometown of Los Angeles, and Wildheart, his most adventurous album yet, is a series of glowing salutes to the sunbaked culture that raised him. Though Miguel’s mind is on more than corporeal pleasures this time around, his subtly powerful tenor remains an intoxicant best fit for bedroom jams like the lothario-friendly single “Coffee” and “The Valley,” where he describes all the porn scenes he’d like to reenact. But there’s also a compelling darkness: Opening track “A Beautiful Exit,” with its crunchy guitars, spins a fatalistic fantasy about speeding through the night and leaving behind a pretty corpse. And on the standout tune “Leaves,” he basks in regret when he should be soaking up perpetual sunshine. Miguel recognizes both the romance and the risk embedded in the City of Angels, a clear-eyed balance that makes Wildheart as bracing as a plunge into the Pacific. A–
What’s Normal Anyway