ALBUM REVIEW: Miguel – War and Leisure

With War and Leisure, Miguel has deliberately fused the energies of nascent political commentary and unapologetic sensuality.

A few weeks before the holidays, the enigmatic Miguel has dropped his fourth album, War and Leisure. At just over 48 minutes, he continues his penchant for delivering short albums. There is something for everyone on Miguel’s newest album, from racy ballads to plucky anthems. Those searching for the funk on this album will be surprised to find a healthy dose of rock influences woven throughout it. Miguel has never shied away from blending genres together;  he takes chances and seems to intentionally blur the borders of R&B/Soul music.

War and Leisure opens with “Criminal”, a collaboration produced by David Sitek that pairs Miguel and Maybach Music Group bawse, Rick Ross. While Ross needs no introduction in the world of contemporary hip hop, many fans might not be as familiar with Sitek. He is best known for his indie rock productions for his band TV on the Radio, as well as numerous one-off remixes and singles for Beck and Nine Inch Nails. The stringy soundscape provided by Sitek is a worthy compliment to the song’s slinky vocals. As the song opens, Miguel sings longingly for a partner in crime that can both understand and match his level of eccentricity. He wonders if the current object of his desire is that woman, singing proudly in the chorus about their relationship being “so good, it feels criminal”.

The Salaam Remi-produced banger, “Come Through and Chill” will probably be the song that stays in everyone’s rotation. Remi is no stranger to creating hot music, having been a staple in the game since the early 90’s, working with The Fugees, Toni Braxton and others. This song is a catchy, soulful set that includes an iconic Dilla sample (from Crushin’) and one of Miguel’s regular partners in crime, J.Cole. For some reason, these two are simply magic when they make music together. According to Miguel, he is a fan of both J.Cole the artist and J.Cole the person, and this affection helps to amplify their work together. Miguel freestyled his part of the song on a rainy day, during a bout of writer’s block. After playing around with the guitar riff for a short while, Salaam passed Miguel the mic and just told him to “let it out”. Remi also co-produced “Pineapple Skies” which is as elegant a tribute to Prince as you’ll find in current music.

Another standout track is the breezy “Now”, produced by both Miguel and Nathan Perez. Miguel drops some political insight on “Now” which is nice to see, given his usual formula for success; he’s been often criticized for being overly sexual and not as concerned about social commentary. Apparently, he’s heard these criticisms, valid or not, and he’s decided to let some of his feelings be known:

‘Cause it’s plain to see a man’s integrity/By the way he treats those when he don’t need them
And it’s time we talk about it/Let’s not waste our common ground
We will fall for standing and watching, all this silence/Dear Lord, are we numb? Where we going right now?
 

War and Leisure further solidifies Miguel’s spot on the current list of dope artists and dependable tastemakers.

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