Miguel’s second album, Kaleidoscope Dream, is a bit of a lesson in genre crossovers. Its soul is genetically R&B, but it unabashedly tinkers with house music, swims around in alternative waters, and dances cheek to cheek with classic pop and soul.
The result is a product that’s as listener-friendly as it is stylistically complex, which is a good recipe for long-term success. It’s an album that is good the first time, great the next, and even better every subsequent listen. It’s charming but devious; accessible but intimidating.
It’s easy to detect specific influences in most songs on Kaleidoscope Dream. That’s one of the first things you’ll notice. But if the “accessibly complex” duality here is any indication, five different listeners will probably give five very different interpretations of these influences.
For instance, I think lead single “Adorn” sounds like a Michael Jackson/Jessie Ware collaboration, but you might hear it as Usher and James Blake. Hey, good call on Usher, actually: Miguel contributed to a couple of his albums before solidifying his own career.
“Don’t Look Back” is a burner that rewards the listener with a sweet rework of The zombies’ “Time of the Season,” and the overt sensuality of “Use Me” would be second to none if not for the occasional Ryan Cabrera inflections (see “CRAAAASHING DAAYEEHOWWN” at 0:37 below). Lol.
Miguel has a close encounter with the spirit of Frank Ocean in “Do You…” and when he hits the falsetto, you know it’s real. There’s another Ocean-esque moment with “Arch & Point,” the “Lost” of this album, a late cut that feels almost off the cuff lyrically but has one of the most infectious melodies on the album.
Miguel’s vocals at times make the knees go weak, and his hooks are certainly memorable enough. When you consider the interesting genre niche he seems to be settling into, it’s not a stretch to imagine superstardom or something close in his near future. Kaleidoscope Dream is easily one of the better R&B offerings of the year, and although it’s not Timberlake, it’s not Timbaland either. Let’s slow burn together.
(2) Don’t Look Back
(3) Use Me
(6) The Thrill
(8) Where’s the Fun in Forever?
(9) Arch & Point