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CD REVIEW

Miguel: War & Leisure

by Emily Zemler on January 10, 2018
On his fourth album, Miguel enlists some of hip-hop’s more relevant artists to accompany his smooth-talking R&B numbers. Rick Ross joins him on “Criminal,” War & Leisure ’s opening track, where the rapper counterbalances Miguel’s sultry croon with a few grit-laden rhymes. J. Cole and Salaam Remi appear later on “Come Through and Chill,” lending an edgy tone to the otherwise silky ballad. It’s not that Miguel can’t hold his own— he can —but it makes the singer’s evocative vocals even more effective when he juxtaposes them with something sharper. The singer maintains his love for soulful, funk-infused R&B throughout, particularly on songs like “Pineapple Skies,” a rollicking, ‘70s-esque tune and on “City of Angels,” a bluesy number with a subtle Southern twang. The musician is at his best on the slower moments where his emotional intentions can come through in every note he sings. “Anointed” is sparsely wrought, allowing his voice to carry the melody, and there’s an intensity to the singer’s enactment. It’s sexy, but not blatantly so—a sense that carries over into album closer “Now.” This final track, with its moody appeal, has a distinct intimacy. It’s stripped of heavy pop production and feels like an in-the-moment performance in a small, shadowed room as Miguel murmurs “Is that the look of freedom, now?/ Is that the sound of freedom, now?” It feels like you’re there with him, which is a memorable way to conclude an album. He doesn’t need his peers here, but their presence only makes this last moment so much stronger.
Authors: Emily Zemler
Artist: Miguel
Album: War & Leisure
Label: BYSTORM ENTERTAINMENT/RCA