Going into Wildheart, I was pretty much unfamiliar with Miguel. I knew he was in the leagues with guys like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean and I knew he accidentally gave a leg drop to a girl like he was Hulk Hogan. Oh, and he was sampled in a PARTYNEXTDOOR song my ex-girlfriend likes. Jokes aside, I’m trying to say I went into this album almost completely blind. Now usually after saying something like that, the writer would go on ahead and say he/she was blown away with how great the album was, but sadly I can’t really say that for this album, not to say that it is bad.
We start off with three of the album’s best tracks, ‘a beautiful exit’, ‘DEAL’, and ‘the vallety’. ‘a beautiful exit’ starts off with a news clip sample leading into a dirty guitar riff as Miguel gives reassurance to his love interest in the song, comparing his journey with this girl to a police chase (tying back to the opening sample), driving through red lights with no care in the world as they know they’re gonna die young. It’s a great intro to the album that really sets the pace for the next track, ‘DEAL’, which starts off somewhat slow in the intro mixing guitars and synths changed quickly with an ‘OH!’ as the song kicks into high gear with a killer bassline as Miguel puts himself into a position of power due to his riches. This track, along with ‘a beautiful exit’, seem to be in a fantasy world he’s created due to his vulnerability (which he discusses in a recent interview with Pitchfork)
The track he was especially talking about was ‘the valley’, which sees Miguel in a position in a power once again, the opening line “I’m your pimp, I’m your pope, I’m your pastor baby” out right stating this. He takes control of this girl like she was in a porno and he was the cameraman. If someone mentions this album being “pure sex,” this is definitely the track they’re thinking of. Although, it isn’t really the most “pure” as well, it’s porn. While Miguel’s vocal performance and the way he delivers such slimey lines like “I wanna taste your sweat, force my fingers in your mouth / Fuck you like I hate you baby, I wanna sweat you out” are extremely confident, there’s this feeling of disconnect throughout the song, like real porn.
‘coffee’ is almost a complete 180 as it’s a near breakdown of the last track. It sees the progression of a relationship, going from just trying to get some to falling in love. It’s a beautiful song about Miguel’s self-described perfect half. He’s finally found someone he can be comfortable around with, he doesn’t have to put up any fronts with this girl. The song resonates with me a lot as the feelings Miguel presents in the song were similar ones I had whenever I fell in love with a girl. While my relationship with this girl is over, the song makes me nostalgic for how things were.
‘NWA’ slows things down a bit more with a smooth but sly sex jam ala R. Kelly for the bad girls out there, with a verse from West Coast legend Kurupt who, surprisingly, fits the song pretty nice. The pace is kicked back up once again for ‘waves’, which uses a number of ocean and beach metaphors for sex. It’s a little cheesy, but it embraces it and makes up for it with an infectious beat and a fun vocal delivery. If you didn’t notice already, the album is very inspired by Los Angeles. Whether it’d be references of San Fernando Valley (the porn hub of LA), N.W.A. (Ice Cube is sampled in the intro of the song named after the group), or the beach, the album soaks itself in the wild world of California.
Now, here’s where my problems with the album starts. We go from a series of consistent sex jams/ballads to a sudden tonal shift on “what’s normal anyway” where Miguel speaks upon his identity issues. While the song itself isn’t necessarily bad, it feels out of place on the album sonically. In theory, taking a break to look into his past issues of loneliness due to his race/personality to see how he became a “wildheart” (which is overall what the album is about, I mean, it’s the damn name of the album) works, Miguel’s songwriting isn’t strong enough as the song comes off as corny. While I’m not trying to hate on Miguel for having these problems as I believe they come from a real place, he just doesn’t do the subject matter justice (see ‘Chum’ by Earl Sweatshirt as a good recent example of how to present the subject matter in this song). For a song that’s supposed to be the centerpiece of the album and really get people, it fails.
‘Hollywood Dreams’ isn’t really much better as the production becomes surprisingly generic with bland and boring guitar riffs to fit the subject matter of the disillusion of Hollywood. Similar to how I felt about the mixing of Tyler, the Creator’s Cherry Bomb, purposefully bad production is still bad. While looking into the lyrics, it’s a biting and sad satire of coming to Hollywood and failing to follow your dreams, but due to the meh production and the somewhat off vocal delivery, the song fails to reach me. However, the album does make a slight comeback for me after two of the albums worst songs back to back.
‘destinado a morir’ takes a step back and re-introduces some of the themes of death on ‘a beautiful exit’, expanding on them with great vocals and high-pitched synths. ‘…goingtohell’ is just as good as the first three tracks, further expanding on themes of death by adding the afterlife and religious themes (similar to the religious themes seen on ‘coffee’). The guitar work and especially the pounding drums really add to this mood of the song. The vocal delivery and lyrics are conflicting in the best way possible as Miguel seems to know the fate of him and this girl, which he accepts. At the same time though, he hopes this girl will save him from this fate, a fate he won’t know until the end.
‘FLESH’ flips Miguel’s original ideas of being in powers, as he’s now the one desperate for sex from his lover (“I’m a slave to your flesh / Woman put me right where I belong”). It’s an interesting song as it not only flips Miguel’s impressions in the first few tracks, it’s a message to many of Miguel’s current contemporaries in R&B, who are sex-obsessed and misogynistic, with most not really being self-aware enough to realize it. ‘leaves’ is the breakup ballad of the album, which faces the problems I had with ‘what’s normal anyway’ and ‘Hollywood Dreams’ as the instrumentation is somewhat generic and the vocals/lyrics are somewhat off, mainly due to the fact that no matter how powerful Miguel’s voice gets, I still don’t think this song comes off as genuine.
If I forgot to mention it, the album is mostly inspired by 80’s rock, and with that, comes with one final cheesy ballad to end all cheesy ballads with ‘face the sun’, a tribute to his long-time girlfriend, model Nazanin Mandi. No matter what problems he has with his girl and no matter what problems she has with him, he knows she’s the one. Featuring some powerful vocals and great falsetto, Miguel loves his girl and wants everyone to know, as Lenny Kravitz’s (who’s featured on this song) guitar becomes more and more intense as does Miguel, before cooling down and ending out the song. Like I said, it’s cheesy but it embraces it whole-heartedly, and for that I don’t mind it.
Overall though, this album is pretty conflicting for me, as the best songs on this album are some of the best I’ve heard all year. However, the worst songs really do bring down this album as a whole, and for that I cannot really give this album super high praise. It’s definitely worth checking out as it’s a nice progression from Kaleidoscope Dream, but the album is sadly too inconsistent, as the quality can seriously suffer track by track. Again, this album is worth checking out, but hopefully you have a taste for cheese.