When a male artists goes from the close-cut popped collar R Kelly/Chris Brown R&B thug look to the puffy haired tight black leather jacket Prince/Bruno Mars look it’s a sign that their management is strategically grooming them to be the number one artist of their time. Usher and Chris Brown have survived over a decade of musical evolution keeping R&B alive by acting as extension cords between the powerful fist-pump movement and a dying melodic breed of Hip-Hop/R&B mixed hits. Singer/Songwriter Miguel broke from the shadows with single “All I Want is You” featuring J. Cole.
Putting two newcomers on a track with a huge push for a video and radio airplay is just a trick up the sleeves of music execs. The industry likes to toy with audiences by dangling new artists in front of us to see what we’ll bite. Miguel’s second single “Sure Thing” pushed his debut album up the charts and fired up the goodyear blimp reading “LONG LOVE R&B!” The tale of “How R&B was saved” is not done yet. Miguel has figured a formula that I imagine will become the mechanism by which artists that follow him will adapt into their unwritten “indie to mainstream” bylaws. How did Miguel go mainstream and end up #1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop Airplay chart in 2 years?
- Androgynous Music and Appearance: Great musicians know to let your eye and your ear define their work for you. Miguel’s initial look was clearly heterosexual urban male and his genre was clearly R&B. He has now evolved into a look where his sexuality can only be defined by your perception. While Frank Ocean proclaims his sexuality in blog posts then leaves the world to judge his music, Miguel leaves the world to judge his look and makes the music he wants. Smart man.
- Patience and Production: In a microwave society patience is not just a virtue it’s a magic trick wherein the magicians know that the more magic they produce the more fancy the magic looks. Miguel released 3 EPs early this year including Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1 in February, Art Dealer Chic Vol. 2 in March, Art Dealer Chic Vol. 3 and in April. He then proceeded to release his CD in 2 EP parts including Kaleidoscope Dream: The Water Preview, Kaleidoscope Dream: The Air Preview. His sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream was released in October and is a combination of both Kaleidoscope Dream EPs plus five new songs. Most artists want to own the Summer while Miguel just focuses on owning the year!
- Videos: The formula for success in the music industry has always included music videos. Miguel’s videos have a underlying themed use of shadows, blank space and him. While the videos he has created thus far have not been particularly story oriented they make you feel like they fit the song. This is evidence that as artistic as Miguel may be he recognizes that the imagery necessary to grab an audience has to be complimented with a touch of the song’s reality. For example, in the video for “Adorn” he only actually shows signs of adornment for the one woman in the black veil. He realizes that as much as he would love to go crazy with concepts he has to ease fans into it. I imagine that the videos will be a lot more weird/cool in the future.
- Cloning: Pablo Picasso said it best “good artists copy, great artists steal.” Stealing in this case is an intentional deed meant to develop a creation that spreads to a crowd that the original artist didn’t reach. Miguel’s hair, tight clothing, black leather jacket, video woman in a black veil, video color schemes, rhythms and topics are all stolen from Prince, namely his video for 1986 hit song, “Kiss.” The great thing about this is that he does it right in front of you without reservation and does it well! He is the epitome of what Picasso meant in the sense that no one will complain about a great artist stealing from a great artist all in the name of greatness. The fans of the R&B thug Miguel can’t help but transition into the puffy haired tight clothing Miguel because either they or their parents are most likely fans of Prince. Prince is undeniable therefore, being high above average and looking “Prince-like” is a win!
Basically you would be silly to publicly call Miguel gay, whack, or corny without acknowledging those things as totally cool and acceptable. R&B is not dead yet. In fact it will take a conscious yet imaginative grind life artist like Miguel to help keep it alive. His recent hit “Adorn” has been released 3 times, once on his EP Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1, once on his EP Kaleidoscope Dream: The Water Preview, and finally on his sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream. Now Adorn has placed him at number one on the Billboard Charts for Hip Hop/R&B Airplay. This is only the beginning. Watch his method work the madness. If you’re not a fan of Miguel now, soon you won’t really have a choice.