A few years ago, Miguel seemed like the sort of fabulously talented R&B singer who routinely gets lost in the major-label shuffle. His “All I Want Is You” was a great single, but ask Jazmine Sullivan what a great single or two have done for her. But then the whole hipster-soul wave of the Weeknd and Frank Ocean happened last year, and you could almost see the figurative lightbulb clicking on over Miguel’s head all the way on the other side of the country. Around the same time Drake was releasing Take Care, his own excellently fleshed-out take on that sound, Miguel was starting to toss out his series of Art Dealer Chic EPs for free online. Those EPs were messy and inconsistent, but the languid drug-soul at their core showed a way forward for Miguel. See, Miguel, like Frank Ocean before him, is an absolute professional: Someone who knows where to put the bridge, who knows the exact right moment to bust out his unearthly buttery falsetto. But he’s also an adventurous enough soul to use those gifts for dizzy zoned-out meditations on sex and drugs — songs that give you an idea that this guy loves losing himself completely in those things, which is what those things are supposed to be for anyway.
The most perfect moment on the Art Dealer Chic EPs was “Adorn,” a Prince-damaged slow-dissolving love-as-sex ripple that’s become an unlikely radio hit over the last couple of months. It’s not unlikely because there’s anything amateurish about it; it’s unlikely because its sort of elegant simplicity hardly ever exists anymore on rap and R&B radio. It’s been fun and jarring to watch a succession of rappers attempt to clumsily freestyle over it, never quite figuring out what to do with it. And that’s because the song is an intimate sigh, and it just doesn’t invite rappers’ attention. It’s utterly whole on its own. The track mesmerized on Art Dealer Chic, but it’s actually improved with omnipresence, its virtues standing out even more clearly on the hundredth listen. And credit Miguel with knowing what he had here. Because “Adorn” isn’t just the first song on Kaleidoscope Dream; it’s the starting point for the entire enterprise, the dry run. The rest of the album hones in on that song’s power and attempts to draw it out to album length. And, incredibly enough, it succeeds.
Read more: Stereo Gum