This past Saturday, Miguel Jontel Pimentel—musician, sex god, king—posted an invitation to something called the #WILDHEARTEXPERIENCE, providing a link to RSVP. On Sunday, he dropped a few more crumbs, telling his followers to congregate at MELROSE AND FAIRFAX at 7 pm, and to wear white.
On Monday afternoon, we—two Miguel super fans—refreshed our email constantly, waiting for confirmation that we’d been chosen attend this free, secretive show/flashmob/cult meeting.
“We are unable to accommodate you at the event this evening,” the email from Miguel (or his team) read. As a consolation prize, the email contained a Soundcloud link to five new songs (more on those later).
A perfect opportunity to see one of our favorite singers in L.A., in his element, now gone. A missed chance for a do-over, after Phoenix failed to see him open for Drake, because she was too busy drinking artisanal cocktails at Back Bar to arrive on time.
We decided to go to Melrose and Fairfax anyway, and try to talk our way in.
Before we got there, we expected a long line of white-clad people, waiting to pick up their tickets. In reality, there are two small groups of teenagers with the same gumption as us. They all got the same apology email, but decided to show up anyway to see what happens. One girl mentions that the concert is a Red Bull event, and that their bus might pull up and take everyone to the concert venue.
One girl wears a headscarf that matches her white mesh top and camisole, while one of the boys wears a diamond-encrusted septum piercing, and a gold bolero-like necklace over his pressed shirt. Everybody clearly put thought into their outfits, whereas Phoenix put on the only white piece of clothing that she owns, a dress from her Bloody Mary Halloween costume. Vanessa wears a cute, beachy dress with a sheer overlay that she bought from H&M that day.
Seven o’clock quickly comes and goes. We’re refreshing the concert hashtag, hoping for someone already there to geotag their photos, when the teenagers suddenly break off and cross the street. The rest of us hesitate to follow them until someone spots the double-decker Red Bull bus parked a block away. We don’t we even use the crosswalk as we run to catch up.
The Red Bull employees don’t care about any emails, just if we’re 21 or older. They’re also in no hurry to leave. One of them gives us white masks and makes us take group photos with them on. Then we drive to Santa Monica on just the local roads, passing an array of restaurants, bars and tattoo parlors as the sun sets.
An hour and a half later, we’re at the Red Bull offices in Santa Monica. After signing some potentially suspect release forms, we are escorted through the Red Bull offices to an in-house theatre, and given little cups of popcorn.
The first big reveal is a steamy video for “coffee” (above), the standout track from last year’s surprise EP. Picture what a sexy romp between Miguel and a lady friend would look like and then amp that up by a lot. We’re talking shirtless Migs, a lady friend in skimpy lingerie and lots of action on and in between the sheets. *Swoon.*
Next, the group is herded past a recording studio to a small room with a stage and white sheets draped throughout. Prior to this it wasn’t entirely clear if the Wildheart experience would involve an actual appearance/performance by Miguel, but the sight of a microphone on a raised platform assuaged any fears that we might not see Mig Money in the flesh. First we heard only his voice, though: “Put on your masks.”
This performance proved that his voice is just as powerful live as it is on his records. He opened the show with “…going to hell,” a smooth funk-rock song that sounds like the cousin of “Use Me” off 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream. The allusions to Miguel’s darker side from that album are still present, on this track where he and his lover are headed straight to the Inferno, but still he pleads: “Only you can save me/I’m a sinner.” After that, he tells us to take off our masks. The white robe he’s wearing quickly comes off, and he launches into “Hollywood Dreams,” recounting the highs and lows of chasing a big break.
The R&B label has stuck to Miguel since his first album, but tonight he shows that he can hold his own next to any rocker. He solidifies this cred on “Face the Sun,” which features the perpetually gorgeous Lenny Kravitz on guitar. Lenny isn’t here to throw down in person, but the track is one of six available for immediate download if you pre-order Wildheart.
Next up is “FLESH,” an ode to flesh but in the kinky sense. Of the six songs he’ll drop for free a few hours later, this is the cut that skews most towards the R&B genre. Think hazy synths à la weekend from the House of Balloons era, coupled with Miguel’s take on the male falsetto. Then he treats us to two songs that aren’t on the early release—one is most likely called “waves” and the other one is a mystery for now.
In promoting this album, Miguel has been preoccupied with proving how good he is in bed. Tonight the singer has more than that on his agenda, launching into several speeches about how we have to “mute the fucking programming” and be true to our individual selves. “We don’t want all the same things,” he says. “That’s the moment we are free.”
He ends the concert with a singalong to “coffee” and “Adorn.” In that moment, we exercise our freedom to do whatever Miguel wants us to do.
Vanessa Okoth-Obbo is a freelance writer and self-confessed pop culture junkie.
Photos by Phoenix Tso and Vanessa Okoth-Obbo