The Musical Evolution of Miguel


Since Miguel Jontel Pimentel’s debut LP All I Want Is You, he’s been heralded as the second-coming of Prince—from bold prints to complete creative overhauls on his own aesthetic. Four four albums into his career, the musician has the musician has proven that that he’s the master of his own reinvention. On his latest record, War and Leisure, Pimentel takes his R&B crooning into new territory.

“This album is the most upbeat overall,” the 32-year-old tells CR. It’s perhaps a nod to the point he’s at in his personal life—as he plans his upcoming wedding with fiancée Nazanin Mandi priorities have shifted. But the new album doesn’t ignore the current political climate—it’s socially conscious, reflective, and is critical of our current culture. With it, Pimentel is trying to make a statement as he ventures into new territory.

Born to an African American mother and a Mexican father, culture has fed into Pimentel’s career and life. From the start, he has never been afraid to experiment with Latin influences, chillwave, electronica, and R&B. With, War and Leisure, once again the creative processes guided him. This time around, however, external influences had a significant impact on his music as well. “There’s a lot of irony in the current time that we live in,” Pimentel says. “We all have the ability to elevate our human level to a more empathetic and conscious existence, and we’re still faced with a lot of the same almost antiquated problems we’ve been dealing with in our entire human history.” He uses technology as the primary example of this: how we should be propelled into a more symbiotic, positive way of life through education. Instead, society is moving further away from that kind of advancement.

With that sense of irony comes political moments, but Pimentel is hesitant to say it’s a politically-charged record. “There’s definitely one specific moment that’s overtly political, but overall War and Leisure is more of a description as opposed to the title,” he explains. The part of the LP Pimentel referring to is the final song, “Now,” but it poses more of a social question. “Shock And Awe,” a bonus track, is a bit more explicit as it centers in on foreign policy. “I wanted to create a summary of what I am living through now for myself in the future—to take a snapshot of all of the energy that I’m dealing with,” he adds. It’s what he needed to feel overwhelmingly positive.

For Pimentel, self-expression has been key to his image—it’s something that has been magnified with his style as well. “I’ve been a fan of fashion because growing up it always represented an elite level of expression on a visual level,” he says. Looking through his uncle’s issues of GQ and watching Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld inspired him to dream and experiment. He found a freedom to the lifestyle of it all. “Fashion somehow always had an amazing way of combining all of my favorite things, art, music, and culture,” he adds. “I looked up to fashion and started to try to hone in on my own. I always knew I had it.”

Following trends has also helped Pimentel refine his musicianship. He thinks very critically about the different types of recording artist you can be, and he wants to be one who stays relevant. “We consume music and art and culture differently now, so I think I have the ability to just kind of maintain a more frequent pace with releasing music,” he notes. Furthermore, he’s adapted his creative process when it comes to the frequency of releasing music. It’s also helped him foster a distinct perspective in his music. “That’s what stands out the most to me is artists that have a real perspective and a unique perspective,” says Pimentel. It’s something he looks for when it comes to collaborators; people who have a similar intention in their music and have a point of view. For Pimentel, it’s working with people with like Dave Sitek, Happy Perez, Steve Mostyn, Raphael Saadiq, and Jeff Bhasker who assisted him in fleshing out the optimism of War and Leisure.

At the end of the day, the new album’s positivity stems from Pimentel’s desire to encourage empathy and solidarity. It’s that kind of perspective that drives his sonic narrative. He says, “I think one of the best ways we can do that is through music, and upbeat music somehow brings people together in my experience.” Here’s to hoping he’s right.


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