By Elorm Nutakor
It’s 5 a.m. in Toronto, and I sit at a flight terminal in Pearson International Airport, waiting for boarding call. Naturally, my headphones are blasting Drake’s “5AM in Toronto” as I soak in the moment. It’s clearly cause for celebration considering I just checked off another bucket list item. I’m on a journey across North America to listen to the songs of Drake’s AM-PM Series at the exact time and in the same city that he namedrops: “9AM in Dallas,” “5 AM in Toronto,” “4PM in Calabasas” and “6PM in New York.” I guess that’s not the main reason for this trip. I’m technically on assignment with KCOU to do a story on Miguel in Los Angeles. But I have quite a number of flight miles from an emergency water landing in Lake Michigan flying to O’Hare, so I figure this is as good a time as any. I’ve already done “6PM in New York”, and as the last seconds of “5AM” play out, I look across at the lady sitting across from me and smile; I just can’t hold it in. She meets my expression with a look of confusion; she doesn’t get it. But I know I will commemorate this moment with some of Delta Airlines’ finest libations in the coming hours.
Hours after celebrating my accomplishment in Toronto, I arrive at Miguel’s house about three hours later than the scheduled meeting time. As I enter, however, I am notified that Miguel would actually be late in arriving as well – about a day late to be exact. Apparently, he took a detour in the Ozarks as he headed from New York after binging Jason Bateman’s new Netflix show. Thus, I accept an offer to stay the night at Miguel’s place, on the assumption that the motel KCOU had arranged for me is subpar. Before settling down, though, I opt to make a stop in Calabasas to check off another point on my Drake pilgrimage. I listen to this one right on the Kardashians’ lawn, to be exact.
I wake up with a headache incomparable to any I’ve ever had before and a feeling of paralysis. After struggling to sit up in the bed many times, I finally get into a position where I can see the room. As my vision clears, there is Miguel sitting in a chair by the door looking through a vintage Playboy. He looks up at me, we make eye contact and he simply exclaims, “Splish.”
I am whisked away into the main area of the house and am confronted by an onslaught of people. Miguel effortlessly slides through the throng, wearing an elegant robe over a floral shirt, a pair of shorts and checkered Vans slip-ons, which he’s been fond of sporting recently. He has sported a number of notable hairstyles throughout his career, but currently his hair is in dreadlocks. It’s a baffling change because he’s not an artist that necessarily needs to appear more socially aware. Still a little dizzy from earlier, I clumsily make my way through the crowd to inquire about his hair. “Solange is the reason,” he says, alluding to her “Don’t Touch My Hair” from 2016. “I used to pretend like I didn’t want people to touch my hair, while my hair was clearly begging for it. This way if people touch it, I have every reason to be angry.” Before I could tell him that this wasn’t the point of the song, he rushes into another room.
Typically, the change in hairstyle for Miguel, like with so many other singers, is like an announcement of a new album cycle. Even more of a hint would be his recent single “Sky Walker” featuring Travi$ Scott and the music video that came with it. It’s a fun song that seems to capture his current state of mind. Regardless of all this, Miguel still maintains that he is not working on a new album. He expressed this sentiment new music while in New York at Hot 97, and he sticks with his statement when I ask him about the possibility of an upcoming album.
“What even is an album? The whole concept doesn’t even make sense to –” Before he can even finish his statement, someone steps in, displaying a poster with various pictures that seem to resemble his album artwork. Considering cover art, Miguel’s last album, “Wildheart,” features a psychedelic scene depicting a nude Miguel whose phallic organ is concealed by a nude model he holds. Judging by the images currently presented to Miguel, it would seem he feels a need to expose even more of his body. He points to one indecent image approvingly, and the person rushes out of the room with the poster. Without missing a beat, he further elaborates on his aversion to making albums. “At this point in my career, an album just feels unnecessary; I’m just making music and doing whatever I want with it. That’s true creative control.”
When we finally arrive in his home studio, he becomes especially evasive of my questions. When I ask him about his future musical plans, he ignores me and focuses his attention on the studio computer screen. He continues to ignore me as I ask for his commentary on the current political climate, and especially when I ask him how long I was asleep for. It is only when I ask him what he thinks of “Ozark” that he perks up and launches into a monologue about the show. He touches on every topic imaginable, answering just about any question I could ask, except for the ones I actually want to ask. Returning to his studio computer, he proceeds to play me some music to get my opinion. What comes through the speakers is an array of lush sounds that flow perfectly into one another, evoking an ecstasy so strong that my eyes fill with tears. When he stops the music, I come out of the trance and discover that I’ve been listening to Miguel’s music for over an hour. It was not a mere taste of his songs, but a full body of work that may well be ready for release. When he asks for my opinion, I am utterly speechless. The only verbal communication I can utter comes out like “a…a…a…album,” to which he immediately places his finger on my lips and then proceeds to nurse me into an unconscious state.
I wake once again, but this time in a room filled with a diverse group of women all sitting in the living room. Everyone is sitting still on the floor in full lotus. At the front of them is Miguel, eyes closed, playing something soothing on the guitar. The melody he plays sounds familiar. Figuring out this melody has now become a priority. I focus more heavily on the music, and it seems to get louder and louder. Finally, I figure it out… “Skyline To” by Frank Ocean. In a rush of excitement, I loudly exclaim, “Frank Ocean.” At the mere utterance of this name, Miguel opens his eyes and stares directly at me with a malice that I’ve only seen in Prince when Michael Jackson is mentioned. But before I realize the magnitude of my error, Miguel launches into a frenzy and begins breaking his household items. The women around me also break from their Zen state and begin throwing glasses and breaking bottles and flipping tables and setting things on fire. I take this as my cue to leave. Surprisingly, my exit is met with no resistance.
Upon my escape, I find out that what I thought had been a day had actually lasted over a week. A part of me feels like I should have anticipated this result, given the general cultish atmosphere the house. But another part of me is completely satisfied with myself. I call this “The Miguel Affect.” I simply brush my shoulders off and begin making plans to reach Dallas and complete my Drake journey. In time I will learn to trust musicians again, but upon hearing Miguel’s new single “Shockandwave,” I realize the truth that I should have noticed earlier: Miguel is not working on a new album because no one is.