A complete anthology of Miguel's featured appearances released -- or disseminated, as the freaky wordplay lover might call it -- between Kaleidoscope Dream and this would be assorted, to say the least. It would include appearances on a crop of major R&B and rap songs, a cover of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets," and a highlight turn on Hudson Mohawke's Lantern. A few of the extracurricular moves pointed toward his next solo step, but the clues remained clearest in the darker corners of Kaleidoscope Dream. Rather than attempt to rewrite "Adorn," a number one R&B hit awarded a Grammy for Best R&B Song, Miguel evidently saw more of a creative future in the seamier, hazier, reverb-laden Kaleidoscope Dream album cuts like "Use Me" and "The Thrill." Grinding guitars and mechanical beats, played and programmed at sludgy tempos that fuse new wave-era rock and contemporary R&B, dominate a program that curtails Miguel's melodicism in favor of grunts, moans, and a couplet that ends in (groan) "masturbate" and "master, babe." He was inspired by his Los Angeles environment to such an extent that it can be felt in this album almost as much as it can in the Miracles' conceptual City of Angels. Like that 1975 album, this revels in L.A.'s allure, the fantasies it fuels, the dreams it breaks. If there is a "Love Machine" here, it's the porn industry-referencing third track, though it's a dragging slow jam, half-whispered and half-wailed, that is much more graphic. "Pour your sins on me baby, let us pray" is one of that song's relatively clean lines, one of the album's many instances where spirituality and sexuality are mixed. When Miguel sings of salvation and damnation, of being a pastor and pimp, he could be singing for the city as much as a thrill-seeking protagonist. When he pleads devotion to a "you" in the album's standard-edition finale -- which appropriately includes some flame-throwing guitar from L.A. child Lenny Kravitz -- he could be addressing the city rather than a lover. While the reduction in lucid hooks and the uptick in wince-inducing lyrics diminish the album's appeal, the charms are hard to repel.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman