With fizzled record deals and forced image makeovers in his past, a frustrated Miguel Jontel Pimentel took control of his career and creativity on Kaleidoscope Dream. As a result, his second album not only sounded utterly singular—a swirling, moody mix of hip-hop, rock, and psychedelic soul—but it also placed the Southern Californian singer in a vanguard of new artists redefining the idea of the male R&B star (see also Frank Ocean, the Weeknd). Though just as sex-obsessed as the smooth lovermen who came before him, Miguel here projects a far more fractured and colorful view of romance tinted by deep self-reflection, hallucinogenic augmentation, and spiritual yearning. All of which tracks for a guy who grew up idolizing artsy types like Prince, Bowie, and Hendrix, but whose voice happens to sound like crushed velvet.
To that last point, there’s “Adorn,” a tribute to wholehearted love that evokes Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and shows just how sweet a Miguel album of simple, throwback R&B would be. But Kaleidoscope Dream is not that album—and it’s better for it. The next song, “Don’t Look Back,” lays shuffling ’60s pop over throbbing electro-house as Miguel warns a partner to run before the moon turns him into a womanizing beast. And then comes “Use Me,” where, over a plush blanket of grinding guitar, he cops to being nervous in bed. Whether he’s likening coitus to ballet (“Arch & Point”) or vamping with Alicia Keys over a tumbling drum loop (“Where’s the Fun in Forever”), Miguel proves himself a thrillingly unpredictable host. It’s no wonder this breakthrough LP led to sonic trysts with artists as wide-ranging as Kendrick Lamar, the Chemical Brothers, and Beyoncé.