The relief comes early in the morning. After the smoke has settled and both sides have risen their flags. At such high stakes, meticulously finding the power and firearm to fight the war with transparent support becomes increasingly difficult. The offbeat sound explodes early. With an unwavering leverage on death, we carry this history like garments. At times, we wear water like it cannot drown us: wading in this water, cutting loose the familiar ties to trauma. At what point do we reclaim back our bodies before it feels criminal?
For love, pain is a good disguise. It is an easy way to claim heaven in someone. For Miguel, he returns with his third studio album, War & Leisure, a desperate call for revolution in love and politics. Before the weight of two hearts seems overbearing, “Criminal” seeks ironic trust from a romantic partner and a twisted political system, forgetting we are stagnantly picking pieces of society to help. In Prince-like inspiration, Miguel progressively fights for freedom of speech and fabricates a stream of intimate conversations with the womyn of his dreams.
Intoxication is guerilla warfare. Taboo tendencies find “Pineapple Skies” at sinister crossroads; bassline explorations compare sex and politics for more than just self-discovery.
Spirits escape like R&B psychedelics, while a rapidly disheveled Miguel holds on to time and the distant memories he regrets. Guitar melodies feed optimistic pride on “Skywalker,” a claim at self-consistency. More than merely actor and movie references, Miguel gives us some edge on fear. To expand the boundaries of our comfortability in exchange for the chance at risk. Keeping in mind the things we want and the time they may take, it is important to keep alive the dreams we hold and to chase them, on clear or misguided direction.
A new year approaches the front footsteps and the feeling becomes somewhat familiar. Resetting the promise of freedom, protection rings harmonies on multiple occasions; the body remembers scars before they can heal, and the trigger pulls at Miguel’s heartstrings again. In a recent interview with Billboard, Miguel spoke of the intentionality of the now. Thus, in comparison to his previous kinetic, sexual and even misogynistic roles in previous projects, War & Leisure challenges the political consciousness with a powerful jab at funk and existential blues. A crescendo climax follows a man willing to do anything for love on “Banana Clip,” a mid-tempo romance with anything but surface-level commitments. Miguel is willing to risk it all as he sings, “M-16 on my lap/ Missiles in the sky/ No matter where I go on the map/ You got my protection/ Bana clip my love for you/ Let it ring like braaap.”
For some, the fear of commitment is a dark impulse to escape. Even against all odds, unknown agitation navigates Miguel’s thoughts through a perpetually distinct world. Yet behind the staggering impulses of doubt within himself, he has no problem in letting us know his boastful animalistic transition. “Wolf” alludes to the tale of The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood with an appetite ready to attack. An album that is closely weaved between smooth and raspy harmonies tightly moves with concern for the mind and body. Every night, the dreams float away with no real benefit but sleepless nights. Instead, clear concerns about associations forget love for quick relief. In the song “Harem” — a term commonly used in zoology to describe a female who is associated with one or two male counterparts — Miguel forgets set standards and instead invites her into close association, “Just follow me, follow me oh, harem / Let me show you where you wanna be.”
Missiles aimlessly strike a nuclear site on “Told You So,” an electric feel of forthcoming. As the year replays like a bad memory, Miguel gives us an album addressing the dark realities of exchange and connection. This is much more than political; it is the first time we are exposed to hate this closely. What could we say of the world today without the endless protests? Would our history forget us the same way it has been erasing the past for centuries now? With minimal control over the greater decisions of our country, Miguel is much more than a suggestive songwriter. In this instance, the ultimate effects linger like heavy weight: Doubt crumbles and rebuilds itself again for the next battle.
It is no surprise how easily we are divided. Compelled at times to keep silent. The battle has continued across boundaries for decades now. I notice this in the conversations my parents ask, or the answers they are too afraid to know. Numerous stories of migrants deprived of life and liberty flood our dinner table. Perhaps it is my own way of forgetting the trauma of home, how differently it looks when both sides are warzones. Miguel’s recent efforts to bring dialogue to the harsh living conditions of detention centers date back to his grandmother’s first steps on American soil. His close ties to his Mexican-American identity take turns on “Caramelo Duro,” an upbeat collaboration with Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis. Miguel explores the depths of language and musical bloodlines. A personal favorite resonates with layered emotions the feelings of desire and uncontrollable cravings for the eyes across the room. Alike, “Come Through and Chill” keeps the connection close, all night long. J. Cole’s addition to the song references numerous political pieces of a failing puzzle.
The luck of freedom is undeniably selective. But in times of need, where do we find common ground to keep humanity alive? Have immigrants always been in the way of economic success in a system built on isolation? “Now” is reminiscent of early mornings in the middle nowhere. An hour north of the border, the sky floods with white light by 6 a.m. I run early in the morning because freedom is temporary. Similarly, Miguel’s current feelings regarding immigration and Donald Trump’s relationship with Mexicans breaks cyclical silence. Weeks prior to the album release, Miguel’s #SchoolsNotPrisons petition program led concerns of the High Desert Detention Center, the largest immigrant prison in California. Footage of his visit and performance in Adelanto, Calif., are featured in the official video.
“CEO of the free world now” strips down the records of pride. In wide and gripling pieces of self-discovery, Miguel’s War & Leisure continues to pursue the luck we must create for ourselves in the world. An intimate stand for spiritual and physical freedom offers some much needed assurance that the timing is right. Loopholes bend between genres and Miguel succeeds in fighting the war, even if it may mean losing at the first blow. In quick explosions, War & Leisure stands tall against the smoke, building new bodies from the same struggles, for a new form of freedom.