With the release of his third album Wildheart Jun. 30, Grammy-winning singer-songrwiter Miguel takes alt-R&B to a higher level. Here, the Los Angeles native, 29—who’s earned a reputation as “this generation’s version of Prince”—reflects on baby-making music, sex as “a spiritual thing” and the Purple One’s lasting influence on his music.
“I wanted to describe a beautiful blur of a night. You’re not really sure what you’re in for. But your instincts are at their highest level. There’s vice, but it’s rooted in real connectivity. You’re into her, she’s into you. You end up in these places, wake up in the morning, and are like, ‘Did all that just happen?'”
• “A BEAUTIFUL EXIT”
“This was initially supposed to be an admonition, a warning, an encouragement, all wrapped into one for a journey that is inevitably a crazy balance between hope and desperation. Over that journey you’re going to deal with adversity. There’s a line where it’s basically saying, ‘Don’t mute your colors because the rest of the world is very muted.’ I say, ‘Don’t worry about that. They don’t dream in colors. We do.'”
“There’s no way Prince could not be a musical influence of mine. I grew up not only looking up to him as a musician but as an icon, someone who was pushing the boundaries in his art. For me, every song is an extension of how I perceive the world—and how I want to perceive the world. This song is a description of that dynamic. In ‘Flesh,’ I’m trying to describe my character and her character in the throes [of sex]. I’m trying to bring you into my world.”
• “FACE THE SUN” (FEAT. LENNY KRAVITZ)
“We recorded separately. But after listening to it [initially], I was like, ‘I still want a solo!’ Lenny’s tastes resonate with mine. On top of that, he’s a badass musician. And he has just stood out, done his own thing. That’s what I’m about.”
• “NWA” (FEAT. KURUPT)
“It’s all attitude. But not in the gangsta way that was meant with [the hip-hop group] N.W.A. More confident. A little cocky at times. But you have to be. Wild-hearted people have to have that belief: ‘You should roll with me. I know what I’m doing. I’m in control.'”
• “#BEAUTIFUL” WITH MARIAH CAREY (2014)
“It’s the first song I worked on for [my 2012 album] Kaleidoscope Dream but I just couldn’t finish it. The chorus, verse, and music were pretty much done. It was one of those songs where I was like, ‘This is pretty much all the story I have. There’s nothing else to this story. Maybe this is more of an interlude.’ I didn’t understand then, but I obviously understand now: I needed Mariah Carey. The song found her. And she finished it.”
• “ADORN” (2012)
“I don’t remember writing the song. I remember starting it, the music, the time, the circumstances. But it’s just one of those songs that wrote itself. There was no conscious thought. It just came out. My favorite songs I’ve written are like that. I don’t know where that s— came from.”
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1371/1372, on newsstands Friday, July 3.