By Ryan B. PatrickFor singer-songwriter Miguel to create a straight-up R&B album, putting forth a specific creative vision that manages to transcend the hip-hop pop swill presently produced by his so-called R&B brethren, yet avoiding coming off as pretentious, is a crowning achievement. The fact that the 11-track project actually warrants Best of Year discussion is nearly a moot point. After operating on the underground R&B fringes with the poorly marketed and criminally overlooked Sure Thing in 2010, Kaleidoscope Dream goes for broke. While there are a couple of overly indulgent outings, Kaleidoscope Dream is a statement that Miguel has arrived.
What are your thoughts on the reception of Kaleidoscope Dream? It's really dope to watch people embrace an album that's so different than what's expected from R&B. I think that's something really special and says a lot about the kind of music that can be lucrative and marketable. It says a lot about what time it is and what people want. I really appreciate that; I really do.
It's an endless debate with R&B: it's going through an identity crisis, whatever. What are your thoughts on R&B as a genre and why it's been missing on the mainstream/commercial stage? I think, overall, the legacy and influence that R&B has had on music has almost been forgotten. I think somehow we've forgotten that soul music birthed rock and hip-hop; it's the reason we have flourishing genres today. Instead of being true to the soul, which really makes R&B what it is, somehow the genre or people creating music that defines the genre have been chasing the success of other genres. They've almost got it backwards; you know what I'm saying? We've kind of lost our way, in that sense. I think, more than anything, I just want to be the kind of artist that's unique, but still true to soul. I have always made soulful music and been a soulful artist, and I just wanted to do it my way. Funkadelic, Brothers Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Hall & Oates — none of these bands sound like each other and they're all soulful. I think that is what we've forgotten: you can still be true to a genre and the essence of a sound and still be yourself, creating a sound that's unique to you.
In releasing this album, you came out with teaser EPs and videos. What was the mindset or marketing strategy behind this? It was very deliberate. More than anything, it was to engage. The marketing plan I came up with after studying a few of my friends in the business and watching how they were "super-serving" their audience online and engaging them in that way and how that affected their reach and how relevant they were because of it. I was so frustrated because I felt like my music hadn't reached the audience that it should have with my first album and I was struggling to figure out why. I was looking at some of the missteps made and I decided to reconnect with my peers: the ones that read the same literature, go to the same blogs and are interested in the same things I am. Basically, those that would be into the music but didn't get it mostly because of the way I allowed myself to be marketed. That's what it was: I used this as a vehicle to put free music out, as opposed to doing the mixtape thing, which I think is played-out. I wanted to do micro-EPs and videos and put them out monthly to showcase the kind of artist that I am and let my image take a backseat to the music. It's been a phenomenal experience watching how that's affected my career and fanbase.
Seeing how the last album was received, how did you balance the artistic and commercial considerations in creating this project? There's no separation; I don't know why being creative shouldn't be marketable. That's a business thing. That's people who look at numbers and don't listen to music — they say things like that. That's their approach; they sign and put out music that's solely " marketable" and "trendy." Truth be told, [these artists] do make a quick dollar, but the music is interchangeable. I can guarantee that I can pick out two or three records right now that sound very much alike and you could take one out and replace it with another and you wouldn't miss it. That's how artists get lost because there's nothing special or unique about them. Let me tell you something: my father's Mexican and my mom is black and I've never been able to identify with any one thing. I've always had to decide who and what I represent. When it comes to creating music, this mentality lends itself to the creative process. I don't feel the need to live up to any specific stereotype.
That said, how are you defining success, both on a personal and professional level? I think success… my perspective on success changes based on the goal. I want commercial success; I want to create music that is timeless; and I want to be an artist that you can feel. I want people to come to my shows and experience things that they've never experienced before and remember it for years to come. I want to be an amazing businessman, but I never want to sacrifice my integrity. I don't see why I should have to sacrifice integrity for monetary success. I think that beyond that, success is about wealth. Life is about being wealthy and living life in abundance in every way — relationships, spirituality, culture, economically, so on and so forth. We're created with the propensity to enjoy life in abundance and that's true success, to me.