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Sexy and spiritual, Miguel wants to be a thinking man's artist, too
Gushing over the phone from New Orleans, Miguel proclaims that he's "on a whole other cloud right now, man."
And that's certainly saying something.
The 29-year-old R&B singer and songwriter -- and, yes, sex symbol -- from Los Angeles has been flying pretty high since his first album, "All I Want Is You" came out in 2010. His 2012 set "Kaleidoscope Dream" topped the R&B/Hip-HOp Albums chart and made it to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 while also being certified gold. The double-platinum single "Adorn" won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, while Miguel took home a BET Award for Best Male R&B Artist in 2013. He's also appeared on hits by Mariah Carey ("#Beautiful"), J. Cole ("Power Trip") and A$AP Rocky ("Everyday").
But going into his third album, "Wildheart," which debuted at No. 2 in early July, Miguel felt there was even more to achieve.
"I set out to make an album that was real in my life right at this time, to make a clear representation of my taste and my perspective," explains Miguel, who was born Miguel Jontel Pimentel and raised in San Pedro, where he was influenced by his parents' taste in R&B, funk, jazz, hip-hop and classic rock and began recording song ideas when he was 14 years old.
"The album is all about who you are and where you stand and hopefully inspire others to take the time -- if they haven't already -- to do that for themselves, to figure those things out."
That high-minded concept, Miguel explains, is predicated on the idea of "being real with yourself," which he acknowledges is not an easy feat.
"We're distracted all the time," Miguel notes. "We carry the biggest distractiion with us in our back pocket; the cell phone is like a portal to the entire world now that you can keep yourself preoccupied with. And on top of that you have all the marketing and advertisement we're being bombarded with that's trying to influence us in different ways. It's just all around us.
"It's just so easy to not pay attention to yourself and you almost forget what you own voice sounds like -- in a figurative way."
So how does he keep the noise out of his own head? "There's a lot of meditative things I do," he explains. "Really it's a mind-body-spirit type of thing. You've got to keep up with those things to be in tune with yourself, to know when something's not right, when your energy is off -- whether it's (through) meditation, whether it's working out. Even a conversation can be meditative.
"It's crazy that sometimes we're our own worst enemies, 'cause we're having a conversation with ourselves," he adds. "The moment you say it out loud you kind of realize, 'I don't need to hold on to that thought so much. I can just let it out,' and that helps."
But that doesn't mean Miguel sublimates the sexy side of himself on "Wildheart," whether he's high-minded about it on "FLESH" or aggressively carnal on the explicit "the valley."
"I'm a very sexual persona, and I think that comes out in my music -- and always will," he says. "Sexuality and spirituality, for me, are very much connected. I think ti really has so much to do with the layers of emotion behind the action of intimacy, and the dynamic that is all happening in between. I'm interested in the vulnerability and the contrast of being in complete control and not being in control. I really like to explore those things."
That's an aspect of Miguel's music, of course, that gets a lot of fan focus, and he certainly plays to it in his shows. But while it's a significant part of his image, he's patient enough to wait for listeners to recognize what lies beyond the sex appeal.
"I just like to say that time soon comes, y'know?" Miguel notes. "The general population is gonna know you by your last hit song, so to a lot of people I still am 'Adorn.' That's who I am to them, and most of them didn't get deeper into 'Kaleidoscope Dream' and see the dynamic of my personality and my artistry and whatever.
"And that's OK. I plan on doing this for a long time. I think with time and consistency, the understanding of the range and dynamic will be a lot clearer. So I jsut put my head down and do what I love, and the music will find the people that want to hear it and find its way to the right ears."
Miguel and Dorothy
Wednesday, Aug. 12. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Royal Oak Music Theatre, 301 W. Fourth St.
Tickets are $32.50 in advance, $40 day of show.
Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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