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“There’s a war on love, just look around you, it’s hard to know who to trust.” — Miguel, “Banana Clip.”
If it’s true that love is the most powerful weapon against the forces of fear, greed and tyranny, few are prepared to take on the present onslaught with the same open-chested firepower as Miguel. The LA funk/pop/R&B/rap/rock auteur has already built an impressive career by creating sonically dynamic, syrupy send-ups to the allure and wonder of carnal pleasure, but on his latest album War & Leisure, he’s decided to move out of the bedroom, stepping into the harsh light of the real world; a landscape beset by missiles soaring over the sky of his city, and with a malevolent CEO fumbling with the levers of power.
War & Leisure is not a political statement per se. Rather, it’s a record that’s informed by our bewildering reality. I’d hesitate to say that Miguel has become full-on “woke,” but, as is true for many in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, it seems it’s become impossible for him to not at least to address how topsy-turvy our present dilemma has become. “I think War & Leisure in general is more about, not even the political aspect but just energy,” he told Paper Magazine. “It’s what’s permeating my reality, it’s what I feel and what I’m experiencing. I am more aware of what’s happening politically, socially and whatnot. I’m a lot more sensitive to it now.”
That sentiment comes into stunning relief right from the first track on the album, a guitar-reverb drenched banger called “Criminal.” Centered in a bouncing, frenetic wall of sound, Miguel’s voice rises from the din in search of a “a lunatic just like me.” He realizes the only currency in the world is finding someone you can trust, who can “Paint the sky with a brush fire.” It’s interesting to note, that even in a song as personal as this one, the outside world manages to find it’s way in. In his guest-starring role, Rick Ross toss in the first of the album’s two separate references to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest. The other one comes courtesy of J. Cole on “Come Through And Chill.”