R&B sensation Miguel stops off in Norwich


Miguel - Credit: Archant

It's not often one of the hottest new US soul artists — a five-time Grammy nominee, tipped as the new Prince, no less — stops off in Norwich, but super cool Miguel is about to. SIMON PARKIN on why you shouldn't miss him.

Having ended 2012 touring his homeland playing prestigious venues including LA's Nokia Arena and Madison Square Garden's Theatre in New York, it might be something of a shock for US soul sensation Miguel when he steps out on to the decidedly smaller Waterfront stage.

However it is a credit to the young R&B superstar, whose latest album Kaleidoscope Dream has taken the US soul world by storm following its release last autumn, that he is willing to work his way up from the bottom on this side of the Atlantic.

Where other artists similarly feted by in-the-know tastemakers and super-cool style bibles — and mentioned in the same breath as other 2012 breakthrough artists like Frank Ocean — might have resisted their UK appearances to trendy London clubs, Miguel is putting in the effort with a small selection of live shows at slightly less fashionable venues, including his Norwich date.

Raised in LA, Miguel Jontel Pimentel spent his childhood influenced by his parent's wide-ranging musical tastes, exposed to the sounds of R&B, funk, hip hop, jazz, soul and classic rock.

He pursued an interest in making music from an early age and at 14 years old he was already songwriting and developing ideas.

He initially worked with LA hip-hop production duo Drop Squad, before being signed with independent record label Black Ice in 2004. Despite initially being urged to follow a hip-hop direction his manager submitted several songs in a more soul direction — including Sure Thing, which Miguel describes as a 'highly personal…arecord that no one was ever supposed to hear' — to major labels and he eventually signed to Jive Records.

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There's no doubt that 2012 was his breakout year, at least in the States. Following the promise on his 2010 debut album, All I Want Is You, Kaleidoscope Dream earned high praise from critics and fans alike, who unanimously seemed to agree that Miguel was part of an exciting crop of artists intent on saving a dying genre.

'[Frank Ocean's] Channel Orange, [Miguel's] Kaleidoscope Dream, and [The Weeknd's] Trilogy rescued the art form from the monotony of 'baby, baby please' as Ocean, Miguel and Weeknd casually re-created it in their own images,' wrote Rebecca Thomas at MTV.

Debuting at No. 3 in the US Billboard 100, the album has amassed almost a quarter of million sales already and bagged him five Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year and Best R&B Performance for Adorn, and Best Urban Contemporary Vocal Album.

After his UK dates he also has a high profile spring tour line-up with Alicia Keys suggesting 2013 will see him further build on his breakthrough.

Miguel's sound is undeniably eclectic; an assault of the senses beginning with his rich soulful and sweet vocal, combined with a fusion of electro-tinged R&B that has a hip-hop edge and all the balls of rock.

It's a musical palette that has seen just about every music journalist who has written about the young R&B dynamo has put the 27-year-old's name in the same sentence as that of Prince (as I have now also have too).

'I'm offended for Prince because I'm such a huge fan of his and you can't compare anyone to Prince,' Miguel is reported to have responded. 'But if I'm associated with any ounce of greatness then that's a huge compliment — and that's what I think of when I think of Prince; I think of greatness, I think of timelessness, creativity, longevity, just unapologetic and unwavering sense of self. I can only hope to remind people of greatness.'

Like Prince there is no doubting Miguel is prolific. He may have flown a little under the radar a little here in the UK, but Kaleidoscope Dream was his fourth release in 2012, tying together the loose ends of a trilogy of EPs titled Art Dealer Chic Volumes 1-3. Those tracks were rough and sometimes pretty off-the-cuff; but despite an occasional sense of incompleteness, they still ranked as an exciting step up from his 2010 debut All I Want Is You, the underwhelming response to which had prompted the artist to vent his frustration on Twitter.

'Despite the commercial and radio success of the singles, like Sure Thing and Quickie, my peers weren't paying attention to my music,' he recently recalled. 'When I say peers I mean like-minded people, those who are always searching for great new music, who don't really listen to the radio, they're always asking themselves, 'What's the new avant-garde rock or soul or funk or folk s***?' They're the ones who work at ad agencies and the ones who write for magazines and blogs that college kids are into.

'They weren't listening and paying attention and I was trying to figure out why and I came to the conclusion that I wasn't feeding them. So I was like, 'You know what, I'm just gonna put music that I love and produce out, I'm gonna shoot the videos, I'm going to paint, I'm going to design the art work.' It was a very personal thing; it was my way of marketing myself.'

The self-released mixtape series helped build anticipation. Miguel himself attributes the success of Kaleidoscope Dream to a few variables. 'Timing would be the most important factor,' he says, 'but then also on a more personal level, I wanted to set the tone for the kind of music that should be expected from me in the future. It was me trusting my instincts. If my music is any reflection of who I am as an individual, then it's about finding like-minded individuals.'

t Miguel plays the Waterfront on January 19.

t Kaleidoscope Dream is out now.

t Further listening: www.officialmiguel.com