Nobody in music has a voice like Miguel. He effortlessly floats it from octave to octave, a transition as smooth as butter. A voice can carry an artist to the moon and stars. On "War & Leisure," the R&B artist takes full advantage of his vocal talents. Unbelievable range becomes commonplace, like cell phone usage in a crowded theater. But just like that buzzing cell phone, there's a disruption taking place. Rather, the disruption is that there is nothing to disrupt. Two sides may be feuding for Miguel's soul, but it's not clear on this album.

About the album

"War & Leisure" is Miguel's fourth studio album. "Wildheart" was his most recent album, which came out two and a half years ago. That record received some critical buzz, but came and went without much airplay, distancing the artist from the mainstream musical public. In fact, he's only had one song chart inside the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100: "Adorn."

Miguel needed to seize the chance to change the narrative. People were too focused on the "Miguel Leg Drop," or his cover of SZA's "The Weekend," rather than focusing on the artist's music. "War & Leisure" seemed destined to bring it back to his discography.

Too much leisure, not enough war

Things started off promisingly enough.

It was a risk to start with a feature right off the bat. It was an even bigger risk for that feature to be rapper Rick Ross. But the rapper actually added something to Miguel's "Criminal" arsenal, setting up the war chest of "War & Leisure."

That song was followed by a leisurely track, "Pineapple Skies." Miguel's ability to paint a picture with his voice is second-to-none.

Close your eyes while listening to the song and envision the blue skies with little, harmless pineapples floating gently in the breeze. A less childish version of Bikini Bottom comes to mind.

Next is Miguel's second-most successful career single. "Sky Walker" is a light R&B song that delves into "Star Wars" territory. The song is all about taking it easy and enjoying the moment, celebrating every day like there's no tomorrow.

Ironically, it would be the last purely enjoyable moment of the album.

An early interlude-type track starts to knock "War & Leisure" off track. Several songs play in a similar, repetitive manner, trying to get by purely on the power of the artist's voice. That can only work for so long. At some point, the lyrical content needs to catch up with the voice soaring through the ceiling.

Additionally, when the 'War' portion of "War & Leisure" comes, it doesn't meld with the rest of the songs. Songs like "Wolf" miss the mark. Miguel is a much more intriguing artist when he doesn't try to delve too deeply into his dark side, which isn't true of most artists.

Miguel's misdirection

Each song on the second half of the album seems to push the work in a different direction.

"Caramelo Duro" brings a reggae feel to the front. "Harem" develops into some smooth jazz. "Come Through and Chill" and "Now" delve into political waters, with the former receiving a major assist from Salaam. They all have quality moments.

But each seems equally lost in its message. At times, Miguel comes off as being boldly brash. He spends a whole song reminding an individual that he "Told You So." He talks about being "Anointed," but leaves listeners disappointed. "Harem" has jazz, but Miguel's voice disappears from the stage before the rhythm and soul can really forge into one.

"City of Angels" is one of the more aggravating songs. The germ of an idea is there. But the song falls into a repetitive loop, never reaching any form of progression or evolution.

It's the prime example of Miguel skating by on his voice, but missing a deeper meaning.

Final thoughts

Miguel's voice is pure as silver. Nobody disputes that. But it's not enough these days. He needs to develop his lyrical voice as well as he's developed his sonic voice. Having an ability to sing is only half the battle. Having something to say matters too.

War and Leisure aren't binary opposites. Their products of a system that demands black-and-white when so much of the world lives in the gray. Miguel needs to stop living in the black-and-white and start focusing on the gray, using his skill to cover up his shortcomings.

Best Song: "Pineapple Skies" - An audio pleasure-fest.

Worst Song: "City of Angels" - Annoying repetitive.

Rating: C