South Side Music Hall, Dallas
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Americans of mixed race are confronted with a weird dichotomy. Too often we’re pushed to identify as one race or another, looked at as foreigners by whichever group we most closely associate with. We never quite fit in, always on the edge of society and trying to figure out who we truly are.
Even a popular artist like Miguel faces these issues, and in front of a mixed crowd of African Americans and Latinos, he took a break from his almost two-hour-long shirtless lovemaking session at South Side Music Hall Saturday night to ponder them. He recalled how his mother, an African American, met his father, a Mexican immigrant, and his own youth in Los Angeles, before launching into the inspirational “What’s Normal Anyway.”
It was a rare serious moment from an artist whose sole motive often seems to be placing his listeners into bed with each other. Miguel’s merch booth was selling Wildheart (Miguel’s latest album) branded condoms at two for $5 alongside the usual T-shirts and CDs, and let's hope attendees took his advice and dropped the $5.
Youthful exuberance is a key part of Miguel’s music and act. If you’ve seen the video of Saturday's performance that's been circulating, you might assume he had a little, um, help, when he took the stage adorned in white, ready to dance and wearing a smile that lit up the room, saying, “Baby, I’m a star.”
The rumors make for a great meme, but one thing is for certain: Help, or no help, Miguel had one hell of a time on that stage. And the crowd had just as much fun.
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Miguel's choice to stick mostly to material from Wildheart was met with support by a vocal crowd. They knew every word, they knew every beat and they knew when to shake their asses at optimal speed.
Miguel, with his flawless, glistening abs and million-dollar smile, ate this up. In between songs he gave speeches about believing in oneself, on why Wildheart was the perfect name for his album and about how lucky he was.
That's not a unique move for a pop star; they know that being inclusive and heaping praise on their fans is a way to maintain fans' loyalty, which is fickle at best. But Miguel has nothing to worry about. Hits like “Sure Thing” really didn’t need him on stage; the crowd was more than happy to sing the hook for him. And when he delved into the weirder psych-rock aspects of Wildheart, fans cheered along at deafening volumes.
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Wildheart has a unique sound for a pop record, and it's a captivating career move for an artist like Miguel. It’s psych-rock done pop, and probably not the path most were expecting from Miguel after a few years spent guesting on tracks and watching the landscape of popular R&B change. Miguel deserves his place on the forefront of R&B's new sound alongside Janelle Monae, the Weeknd and his newly minted rival, Frank Ocean. Saturday only proved this as Miguel was able to fully translate Wildheart into a live setting with the help of an ace live band backing him.
It helps that — like the artist he’s most compared to, Prince — Miguel is a perfectionist. The stage and lighting design evoked the same imagery as the mildly controversial cover of Wildheart. His band joined him in wearing all white, and even when Miguel veered from his usual programming to surprise the room with a cover of TuPac’s Digital Underground-era hit “I Get Around,” he seemed totally in control of his message, his music, his image, the night and, most important, the crowd.
“I want to feel like I belong somewhere,” sings Miguel on “What’s Normal Anyway,” and the truth is he belongs on that stage. In fact, he belongs on an even bigger one. Miguel is a star and he knows it. The people in attendance Saturday night know it. And soon, the whole world will know it. Let’s just hope we have enough condoms to keep everyone safe.