Dating back to 2010 Miguel is one of my favorite artists. I recall telling my dad about him after the release of his debut album. Although a sleeper hit, All I Want is You was a solid rookie effort. I predicted that Miguel was the new Usher. In the seven years since my claim the Californian singer has not disappointed. While he has yet to eclipse Usher in terms of popularity, Miguel has made better albums. His 2012 album Kaleidoscope Dream turned heads. It is a top-five R&B project to come out this decade. Miguel toes the line between pop and R&B, balancing the two perfectly. 2015’s Wildheart saw Miguel go down an artsier route. However, after two years’ time, it fails to hold the same longevity. Despite that, it is still a wonderful album if you’re a fan. This time around, I somewhat knew what to expect from Miguel.
When his Travis Scott-assisted single “Sky Walker” released in the summer, I worried. As catchy as that song is, it didn’t truly impress me. Yes, I know, I am a stick in the mud. Lots of people love that track. It’s not bad whatsoever. Just a little underdeveloped for my taste. The radio edit is actually better, in my opinion. The second-half beat switch makes me cringe. It isn’t horrendous; it simply reminds me of what disappoints me about this album. Thematically, War & Leisure is out of sync. Although there are some political undertones, leisure heavily outweighs war. Not every album has an intricate concept. This title feels bland nonetheless, much like a handful of the tracks here. “Sky Walker” proved to me early how average this project would be compared to Miguel’s discography. Nothing here is very exciting or noteworthy, which is unusual from Miguel.
He’s using deep voice ad-libs like everybody else. He’s trying too hard to be sexy like everybody else. And the dreads? It’s not my place to comment on them. But I will anyway. They’re a generic move. Of course, hair has nothing to do with music realistically. Nevertheless, it is an omen for an artist’s current mindset. This album has an aura of ‘good enough’ surrounding it. Everything here has solid production. All these sounds are strategically layered. “Banana Clip,” “Criminal,” and “Come Through and Chill” are dope tracks. If I hadn’t already heard Miguel’s solo version of the latter, I would praise it more. I hate when a previously released track is the best on an album. As much as I love it, I prefer the solo version. J. Cole’s verses are entertaining however. It’s always fun to hear these two link up.
All in all, War & Leisure is a step in the wrong direction for Miguel’s artistry. He was once on the cutting edge of mainstream R&B. His sound strayed from the norm yet moved the crowd. Here he is more forgettable than ever before. These twelve tracks feel like hold-over songs for a real, inspiring album. Alas, no such project is in the works. Miguel opens and closes the album well. But even the Trump-inspired closer feels typical. I never thought I’d place the word complacent next to Miguel’s name, but now I must. In spite of his illustrious vocals and cohesive production, this album has little to no voice. I waited time and time again for songs that will last into the new year. Nearly all of them blend into the pack, though. I wish there was more to rave about here but there isn’t. Guess I’ll keep waiting…