Miguel is having a breakout moment. The 25-year-old is leading a wave of artists aggressively pulling away from the conventional boundaries of R&B by championing edgier, genre-blending productions while maintaining soulful melodies.
With a subdued groove and emotive croons, his left-of-center gem, "Adorn," has been a fixture on the R&B charts for the last seven months, including four weeks at No. 1. His sophomore disc, "Kaleidoscope Dream," opened to critical acclaim and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and he recorded with Beyoncé for her upcoming record. He also confirmed an upcoming joint tour with Alicia Keys set for next year.
Born Miguel Pimentel, the L.A.-based avant-soul singer is currently on R&B heartthrob Trey Songz’s Chapter V tour, which comes to the Nokia Theatre on Sunday.
Sitting down with The Times for a recent feature, Pimentel opened up about his big year.
We talked during your 2010 debut, when you called your sound “eclec-tric” and said you were still “pioneering and developing” it. Do you think you’ve figured it out?
What I’m doing now, this is the music that I was talking about making. Back then I was in the midst of a completely different album. Maybe I was still learning how to get here, knowing this is where I wanted to get, just figuring out the path.
What got you to this place where you’re doing the music you’d envisioned?
Experience. I learned quickly that the things that I do and say are being seen now. The way I see it, all my favorite musicians lived and thrived in a time where live music was where it was at. I always wanted to be that kind of artist. Whatever little monies we were making, I was trying to make the statement that I should be on this stage. I feel like we’ve gotten to a place where it feels like an experience.
Your live show has gotten a great deal of attention and allowed people to discover you. Did you feel a disconnect before then?
That was the culmination of me being frustrated with the disconnect. I felt like the music deserved a broader audience. The misconceptions. The fashion blunders. The questioning of my sexuality. All of that was taking away from the authenticity of the music, and I didn’t feel like I had an audience with my peers … and it bothered me.
Why put out so much free content, such as “Art Dealer Chic,” before the album?
[Initially] I was over the mixtape idea. To me, it was such a good way of devaluing music. On one hand, you are making your music accessible to everyone, so you are broadening your music. It’s inviting that it’s free. But at the same time, to give away an entire album at once, almost makes it seem like “Why buy your music when I get it for free?” I wanted a way to not sacrifice my music, but also to reconnect.
“Adorn” came from “Art Dealer Chic.” Do you think the project opened people up to your music?
That series is what brings us here. Any kind of anticipation or any kind of new-found acceptance really comes from that. Me being this obscure artist … It's so surprising. The fact that [the song] was off of “Art Dealer Chic,” I still trip out that it’s a big thing.
Your year has been huge. Do you think people finally get what you’ve been trying to do with R&B?
I think there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m really excited for where we are now. But there’s still a bit of speculation as to who I am.