Daft Punk and Pharrell may have some competitors in the annual race to determine the song of the summer. And that competition is Mariah Carey and Miguel, who may have the upper hand in actually creating a hazy summer love song whose title, “#Beautiful,” is a curiously strong reflection on The Way We Live Now, because only in 2013 would there be a pop song with a hashtag seemingly unironically used in the title.
And it’s actually kind of sad that this song will get a lot of attention because of the hashtag, when the real story should be that a) kids, there was a time once when Mariah Carey actually made amazing hit songs and wasn’t just an American Idol judge married to Nick Cannon, b) she can still make it songs, as it turns out and c) Mariah Carey and Miguel working together is a fantastic idea.
The result is a golden summer love montage in song form, all windows down and wayfarers and starry-eyed glances from across a Fourth of July picnic. Maybe it feels a little, I don’t know, Bud Light commercial soundtrack-ish, but it’s still a joy to listen to. You’d almost wish someone had thought of it sooner. Listen below and get excited for summertime, y’all.
"Miguel," Kelly Clarkson said from the stage after winning the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album, "I don’t know who the hell you are, but we need to sing together. I mean, good God. That was the sexiest damn thing I’ve ever seen." Clarkson was referring to, of course, Miguel’s performance earlier that night of his song "Adorn" from Kaleidoscope Dream. Let’s hope that when the pair met last night backstage, as seen in the picture Clarkson posted on Instagram last night, they negotiated some terms for an upcoming collaboration.
With a genre-spanning musical style that’s not only seductive but skillfully crafted, Miguel is about to shut it all down. The 24-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer has been carving out his path in the music industry for the past ten years, lending his skills to the biggest stars in the industry, everyone from Usher to Mary J. Blige. His debut album, All I Want Is You, gave us our first extended look at Miguel’s smoldering tunes, like his new single “Quickie.” We caught up with the singer to discuss his innovative sound and why music should be rebellious.
Tell me about your introduction to music. I started writing music as the age of eight, and I’ve been in love with music for as long as I can remember. I signed to a production company when I was thirteen years old and kind of worked through that until I was 18, and signed to an independent label and then found my way.
What were you writing about when you were eight? Probably girl crushes. I wrote a bit about my parents. When I was eight, my parents divorced, so that was my outlet.
Is music something that was private for you? To this day, I think that music begins in a real private place, and I think I pride myself on being vulnerable and saying what I think, and sometimes it gets me in trouble. It’s my prerogative to do and think and feel what I want.
What kind of music did you set out to make? I can tell you like to be innovative. This album wasn’t so much about a certain sound; it was more establishing a tone and a reputation. I think throughout the album, there’s a sense of vulnerability and an honesty that’s kind of the unifying thread. It’s what makes the album cohesive. As far as like a unifying sound, I think each song on the album sounds different than the next, but what’s consistent is my style in delivering the thought or perspective. I’m very deliberate even with pronunciation of words sometimes.
A lot of your songs connect and tell stories from your own life. How did you decide what stories you wanted to tell? The material on the album chronicles about a five or six year span, and it’s more so telling the story of my romantic experience in those six years and the lessons I’ve learned, as well as the overall lesson—which is the grass is not greener on the other side. It may be different, but it’s not greener. When I got signed, the majority of the album was done, so as it evolved, it was more about how the story was evolving and what stories fit to tell a true story to my life. That was the whole objective, for it to be an honest expression, so that’s how we picked it.
And you’re from a mixed cultural background, does that influence your work? What I will say, coming from a diverse ethnic background or being mixed ethnically definitely has aided in keeping an open mind to other cultures and other sounds, but I can’t say that my music is ethnically influenced in any way or direction. I think I’ve kind of decided for myself what resonates with my vision and who I am as a human being.
You’ve written for other people and produced for other people. How does that feel as someone who makes music themselves, to sort of give away that part of you? I think I’m more interested in collaborating. I think there’s something deliberate as well, because as a writer, my position when I step into a studio for an artist, is to facilitate, amplify, and project their perspective and not my own. I’m more of a point guard. I’m just there to set the song up so you can tell the story that you want to tell. That’s why I never feel like I’m giving anything away.
Is live performance something that’s important to you? It’s become more important to me than anything, because I’ve spent so much time learning in a studio, but now I get to focus on connecting and doing it as a professional on stage in a live setting, with people and energy, and try to create moments that are unique and memorable.
Do you think rebellion is always important to music? In terms of the evolution of music, innovation in music and rebellion have so much to do with each other. Think of artists like NWA. They were telling the story of LA at the time and what they were living in the streets. It was controversial, but that’s what it took. At the time nothing like that had been heard, and the story needed to be told. And it all had so much to do with us embracing new things and I’m not saying I’m some great innovator, I’m saying that I don’t have a problem with rebellion or stirring up controversy. I don’t give a fuck about what people say about me or think, as long as I’m being true to myself. Rebellion is something urban music has kind of been missing, and not necessarily on the hip-hop side, also on the R&B side. So hopefully I can stir it up a little bit.