Miguel‘s music has an appeal that reaches far outside the usual scope of a traditional R&B crooner. He could have stayed in the serenader lane—his voice is soothing and hits the perfect pitch on nearly every track, just listen to his latest single “Adorn”— but he hasn’t. He has his sights set on changing up the redundancy in R&B, and if you don’t believe him, take a listen to tracks like “Pussy Is Mine,” where he can make lines like, “’Cause I don’t ever want to imagine/All the other n***as like me/Ever had chance, to get in your pants” sound absolutely beautiful.
The California native made a name for himself with his debut album and hits like “Sure Thing,” but despite his success, he’s not the type to brag about popping bottles in the club. As he gets more comfortable with his place in popular music, it’s becoming even more obvious that Miguel is very different than most chart-topping singers, and his second album is going to play a big role in making that clear to anyone with doubts. Pigeons and Planes spoke to Miguel on his upcoming album, creating his own lane in music, and whether he listens to his own music in bed.
Interview by Lauren Nostro
Let’s talk about your upcoming album that drops on Oct. 2, Kaleidoscope Dream, why did you chose to release the previews in three parts?
Kaleidoscope Dream is all about my lifestyle, it’s pretty much the soundtrack to give people a better insight to the person that I am and what I’m really into. I chose to release it in three parts because different people consume music in different ways now. If you’re like me, you find music online on your favorite blogs, favorite magazines, and from your friends and it lends itself to consuming music and introducing ourselves to new artists in smaller doses. For those people who are like me, I wanted to give them the option to consume the album in three parts, in smaller doses. For people that enjoy the albums in the traditional sense and like to wait for the album and want a complete project, they can wait until Oct. 2. It was just a way of engaging different music consumers.
Did you change up your sound a lot on this album? I know your music was starting to sound more alternative, it was your progression in music. How have you created a more alternative sound?
I think more than anything, I just wanted to create music that inspired me and life and art—not to be cliche—they’re kind of reciprocal and so my lifestyle is really where I was coming from. The sound of it, I wanted people to feel the grittiness, to feel the darkness.
The first single, “Adorn,” ….
”Adorn,” the idea for it came to me on a plane on the way home and I just couldn’t wait to get home. I had been playing with this word ‘adorn’ and I came home, dropped my bags, and it’s a song that wrote itself.
Ma$e, Busta Rhymes and Wiz Khalifa have all remixed it, what do you think about their takes on your track?
I think it’s cool, I think it’s flattering more than anything. It’s really cool to see other artists that jump on it. It’s appreciated.
There’s a song that hasn’t been on the released EPs that you’ve been performing live, which is “Pussy Is Mine.”
I mean it really came from that feeling, wanting to hear it. I said it, I say it, all my music really comes from a personal place. “Pussy Is Mine” is really just about wanting to feel in the moment, it really belongs to you even if you know it’s not.
You’ve had a girlfriend for around seven years, what are her thoughts on you singing about sex and women in songs like that?
The beauty of being in love with someone is that they keep with who you are and they understand who you were before you met them and she’s always been very respectful of my creativity and she knew from the beginning that my music is really my outlet and because I do write from a very personal perspective, and I chose to incorporate my life into my music. That was something to be expected. Anything that I think of, it’s my place to be completely vulnerable like that and be honest.
That’s an important thing in your music is your honesty on love, sex, and personal issues. How do you balance being a lot of women’s fantasy but you have a lady at home that you’ve been with for so long?
It’s not really hard you just keep things in perspective.
I came across this interview with Usher, who says he listens to his own music while he’s having sex. As an R&B artist, I have to ask you the same. Do you have sex to your own music?
Absolutely not. [Laughs] It’s kind of like—listen, Usher is my boy, that’s my friend—whatever works for him, it’s all good. But I don’t know, I don’t listen to my own shit in the bedroom. I don’t do that. [Laughs] I feel like for me, I’m just not that cool to pull that off. For me, I feel like I would look corny, but anyone else can do that.
You also have a long time girlfriend so she would probably think it was corny because she’s known you for so long.
Well, yeah, absolutely. It just wouldn’t…unless she’s like, ‘Babe, put this song on.’ That’s different. But if that’s something I would ever do? Nah, not my steez.
How did you meet Nazanin Mandi? Seven years is a long time, I’m sure a lot of women would be devastated if you two got engaged but it seems like you’re both very committed to each other.
I met Naz at my very first video shoot, she interviewed me, seven years ago. What I will say is that we’re not together just because we like to hang out. The purpose is finding someone that you can spend the rest of your life with, for me anyways. I think we both are working towards that goal. When that is, I can’t tell the future but I can say that that’s the purpose, right?
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You’ve always been really honest about yourself in your music and are a self-proclaimed freak, is that the real you or does this play into your persona as an artist?
I think if you’ve ever seen me live, if you ever had a conversation, there would be no question. At the end of the day, I don’t give a fuck what people think about me because anyone who knows me, would never question anything I do. My music is such a true and honest extension of who I am and an honest projection of who I am, I don’t care. All these people have opinions about my personality and have never met you. I don’t really give a fuck about people’s opinions. I’m more keen on creating music that’s exactly who I am.
In other interviews, you’ve said you were competitive and you were defensive about other people staying out of your lane as an artist. What makes your lane different?
That was a general statement more so about people being creative. That’s another thing, in context of what I was saying, what I really meant by that is at this point in time, the redundancy of repetition and the same fucking sounds, the same topics, the same bullshit soulless R&B is over. I’m tired of it. I think most people are tired of it. I think that’s why this alternative sound—it’s not one sound, but it’s all alternative. It’s not what’s expected from the passive R&B listener. I think that’s why it’s appealing. What I was saying is that for those artists who are looking to make a career out of music, find your own place. Discover yourself and make yourself and your honest perspective a part of your artistry and your creativity. Don’t look at me and do what I’m doing or the next person to do what they’re doing—do what you do. The moment we stop trying to copy each other, this genre will just become a stereotype because people kept copying each other. That’s what I meant by that.
Speaking of the amount of repetition in R&B, your music is not in that lane—it appeals to everyone, even people who aren’t R&B fans. What do you feel like you did to be different and not have the same sounds that became redundant?
I don’t really know how to answer that, I just said what I was thinking.
Overall, the R&B scene has changed a lot recently. What can we look forward to on your upcoming album?
As far as what I’m trying to get across or communicate with this album I think more than anything it’s about who I really am. It’s about what I’m into. It’s about my lifestyle, I just wanted my music to sound like my life. I wanted the textures, I wanted the colors to be as true as possible to what I live through, my thoughts. My friends, even. My peers. The settings that I find myself in. All of that.
You mentioned there wasn’t going to be many features on your album, either. You want to stick to it being your music.
I believe in the music and I feel like the music speaks for itself. I’m coming to a place where who I am and my sound cuts through where it’s recognizable but at this point, I just wanted to make people get more familiar with me.
What makes your live performances so intimate? You just performed at MoMA PS1: Warm Up and now you’ve lined up a few shows before the album drops.
The PS1 show was fun, it was more than anything a great introduction to people who have no idea who I am. A different crowd. But, my real live show is a lot more dynamic, a lot more passionate, more so because I have my full band and that’s what inspires me. Definitely a bit more space on stage too because I didn’t really get to move. [Laughs]
Like you said, you’re introducing yourself to new crowds and your fanbase is really diverse because, as I said before, your music appeals to so many people. You’ve gone beyond R&B, and I feel like this is happening in R&B in general, and that’s what we’re hoping for with your new album.
I’m so happy. Going to The Warm Up last year was really like, ‘Man, how ill would it be to perform?’ This is something I would be at, my friends are there, it’s where I’d be anyway. I thought it’d be dope to play music there and I think that’s another thing, I didn’t feel like my music was touching my friends—the people I hang out with, the people who live similar lifestyles and have similar interests.
Why didn’t you think your music was touching your friends?
More so, because of how it was being marketed. It wasn’t that the music couldn’t connect to them, it’s just that it was being marketed in a way that wasn’t appealing.
How did you feel it was being marketed?
As traditional. It was frustrating but at the same time, I did a lot of learning and that’s why this time around it’s very important to get the people around me to step outside of the box and to see I’m not to be put in one, and neither should the music. So, that’s why an opportunity like that was so cool. Jamie xx going right after us and all sets from the DJs. The Warm Up is always so much fun.
Do you feel like your friends will be able to relate more to your new album?
I think my friends have always supported my music—my real friends—but what I’m saying is my peers, the ones that go to the same dive bars. We’re not bottle poppers. We don’t go to the club and get tables. We like live DJ sets with actual turntables. We drink Jameson or Jack Daniels. I’m trying to describe the sensibility.
So you’ve been living a completely different lifestyle than you were marketed as.
Exactly. That’s what was important this time around was that I was touching the people with similar interests and sensibilities.