Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • All I Want Is You [Jive, 2010] B+
  • Kaleidoscope Dream [RCA, 2012] A-
  • Wildheart [RCA, 2015] A-
  • War & Leisure [RCA, 2017] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

All I Want Is You [Jive, 2010]
The Afro-Chicano love man front-loads his Prince-channeling debut album: five hooky tracks--two romantic ones linked by an ambivalent interlude to one about a prostitute and another about a quickie--followed by six pleasant tracks and capped by two hooky novelties, the second of which delights immatoorly in the old "piece"-"peace" homonym. But there's a treasure hidden in the middle. With supplicant's songs rare enough in a genre that makes its nut promising untold pleasures, "Teach Me" is unprecedented, laying out the truth that, as Norman Mailer put it in one of the few useful sex tips in his orgasm-mad canon, "the man as lover is dependent upon the bounty of the woman." Who knows what pleases her? She does, she alone, and Miguel craves to be let in on that shifting and enthralling secret. If only he'd hung a top-drawer melody on the sucker he'd have a "Use Me" or "Sexual Healing" he could sing forever. B+

Kaleidoscope Dream [RCA, 2012]
He's major now, and musically, this locks in top to bottom. "Adorn"'s throbbing, garbled hook is one of 2012's signature pop moments, and even when he settles for an ordinary tune he devises a way to trick it up. Lyrically he goes for it too, including a "Use Me" he can sing forever. But that doesn't mean anyone else will, and I do wonder why the two most memorable lines by this certified improvement on R. Kelly are "Do you like drugs?" and "How many drinks would it take you to leave with me?" Final track--they always save it for the final track--he bids for redeeming social content with a song bearing the nicely turned title "Candles in the Sun." Here's hoping--and half believing, because he's a bright, decent dude--he improves on it. A-

Wildheart [RCA, 2015]
It's sloppy to slot this as the latest in r&b's endless succession of sin-versus-salvation struggles. This Angeleno is more secular than that, and also less desperate. So ". . . goingtohell" is about romantic love and human mortality, not eternal damnation, and "gonna die young" addresses not the brutalities of the thug life but the perils of the fast lane like Frank Ocean and the Eagles before it. Nor is the chiseled Afro-Hispanic the pure sex symbol some assume--that's why the porn-inspired "the valley" is followed by the domestic morning-after of "coffee" before it's trumped by some dickish fuckery he hands off to Kurupt. You could even say this recalls one of rock's endless succession of coming-of-age struggles. The straightforwardly confused "what's normal anyway" sums it up nicely. He is normal--because he ain't. A-

War & Leisure [RCA, 2017]
More leisurely than the title might make you hope, believe, or fear ("City of Angels," "Sky Walker") **