R&B has been in R. Kelly’s shadow for a long time. Even with new volumes of Trapped in the Closet out soon, Kelly’s grip has been loosening as of late.
Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream, his second album, steps away from the neo-soul revival that Kelly produced on Love Letter, and revivalists like Sharon Jones and her label Daptone have been churning out. Instead, Miguel’s voice echoes around the album as if he is, well, in a dream.
His lyrics are typical R&B fare: sex, love and countless other vices. Yet, while Jones is gritty, almost a realist, and Kelly is the tainted wild love-animal, Miguel can be heartwarming and delightfully raunchy at the same time.
Take “Arch & Point” where he proclaims “Fishnet body suit birthday cake, whoa fetish is a pleasure you cannot be faked whoa, oh but when it feels this good then it just comes natural.” That’s certainly not something you’d say to your grandmother or want your children to hear, but Miguel’s rising and falling tempo phrasing and breeziness makes it sound harmless.
“Do You…” asks the listener “do you like drugs?” just as simply as if Miguel were wondering if you liked cheese on your hamburger. The album comes to a point on “How Many Drinks?” and “P**** is Mine.” I don’t think you need lyrics from these songs to get the gist.
What sets the album apart is its varied production style. In a music world where sounds are often repeated, Kaleidoscope Dream stands on its own. It’s never too rock n’ roll, too pop or too hip-hop. It flits here and there with bouncy bass lines that slow down into synths washing over you more like a Flaming Lips record. “Don’t Look Back” has a grandiose futuristic sound, with a pulsing bass drum that twists into an old timey blues riff, then back again.
Miguel’s not content to just sing cheesy love songs over the same old horns and soul drums. The varying styles make Kaleidoscope Dream fresh while the lyrics keep you going back and asking “did he just say what I think he said?”