The rise of secret albums has begun to alter the relationship between artists and fans. Without big announcements, radio toppling singles, music video premieres and release dates, we are completely separated from the standard procedures, the musical timelines that once felt as natural and fundamental as the tides. In 2015, the public knows nothing, sees nothing, and hears absolutely nothing. While we question their whereabouts, they are creating in private. The longer they disappear, the more restless fans become, there’s an attraction to the inconspicuous, wanting to unveil what’s hidden. A$AP Rocky secluded himself for almost two years, completely inactive, and when he did release music it was calculated, selective, only peeking out from the shadows but never fully appearing. He only reemerged to the public when it was time to release the album. J. Cole, Kendrick and Beyoncé created in the shadows and rose like the sun when ready.
It didn’t occur to me until recently that Miguel has essentially been missing for almost three years. We are constantly bombarded with music, focusing on who’s in front, not in the distance. Unlike Frank Ocean, who took a hiatus (that we only later realized was a hiatus) almost immediately after breaking through with Channel Orange, Miguel had been soaring higher and higher since the release of his 2010 debut album, All I Want Is You. The albums sales were low, but "Sure Thing" was a number one single on Billboard. Radio adored him. He brought the flavor of traditional R&B into modern music, he sung of love and tenderness with flair and soul, conquering radio waves and quiet storm playlists. He was the new guy that showed endless promise, someone able to walk amongst the Chris Brown, Trey Songz and Usher power trilogy.
"All I Want Is You" broke the lock and two years later in 2012 his sophomore album, Kaleidoscope Dreams, knocked down the door. Not only did he further display his abilities as an exceptional singer/songwriter, he delivered two monstrous singles that became anthems around the globe. There was no escaping the sensual “Adorn” and the seductive “How Many Drinks.” Women had Miguel fever and it only grew hotter when he joined J. Cole on “Power Trip,” Big Sean’s “Ashley” and Janelle Monae’s “Primetime.” To go along with his feature streak, Drake even took him on the road during the 2013, Nothing Was The Same tour. The only blemish on Miguel’s career came during the 2013 Billboard Awards performance when a poor, thematic decision became the leg drop of the century. The internet held onto that moment like a Heisman trophy, despite our microwave mentality, the memes and videos went on for weeks. We haven't forgotton and neither has Cindy Tsai, a woman who has decided to sue Miguel and the MGM Grand for negligence despite the incident being two years old. That moment will live on in internet infamy, and in some ways it's given the impression that Miguel has been much more active over the last few years than he actually has. It may have been three years since his last big album, but it's only been over a year since his last big meme.
At the top of 2013, Miguel had the whole world in his palm much like Papoose after the "Touch It Remix," and yet he seems to have faded away before acquiring the keys to the throne. Since Kaleidoscope Dreams dropped, and especially throughout mid 2013-mid 2014,we only heard the lightest of musicals smatterings from the man. It wasn’t until one late, December night, that he emerged with a three song EP, an appetizer to calm the rib-touching stomachs that were growling for something new. I found the songs to be good but they didn’t seem to have a lasting impact. Radio didn’t add him into the rotation, no videos were made, the promotion didn’t go beyond a single tweet. If you weren’t following him on Twitter, didn’t have a Soundcloud or attuned with the daily post of blogs, that mini-release went unnoticed. He returned right back to his hidden lair, I’m assuming to work on his third studio album, Wild Heart, which is currently slated for a summer release.
The discreet release didn’t leave a huge impact, but it’s possible that Wale’s recent remix of “Coffee,” the best song from the batch, might lead a few more ears to his buried treasure. It does raise the question, where does Miguel stand in 2015? He was a promising heir to the R&B kingdom but departed before receiving the crown. He's returning to a game that's starting to get cluttered. Frank Ocean is teasing a resurgence, he even recently joined Snapchat, proving he’s serious about reconnecting with his supporters. Jeremih's career started off promising, he seemed to also disappear for a moment but has also remerged strong, his hook on “The Body” along with the recently released “Planes (Social Experiment Remix)” prove he’s serious about reclaiming the buzz that started with “Birthday Sex.” Talented newcomers like Kehlani, JMSN and BJ the Chicago Kid are also making notable noise, could this be an R&B renaissance? Will Miguel fit into this new world order? The world really has changed since the last time Miguel's name was on the tips of so many tongues.
Miguel brought Luda's "Good Lovin" to the next level, proving that he still has it, but very possible that hook was done years ago, not necessarily indicating new music is on the rise. There isn’t a date in place, but the summer is drawing nearer. Will Miguel appear and dominate once again? Has his window shut? The mystery adds to the interest but the music submerging my attention grows daily. His return, much like Adele and any artist that decided to escape the eyes of the public, must be a valiant one. Secret albums are fun, but only if we care about the secret that was hidden, only if the music exceeds expectations. So all this time later, what do we expect from Miguel? How badly has he been missed?
We'll find out soon. Maybe.
[By Yoh, aka Yohtus Flower Bomb, aka @Yoh31]