This Modern Love: “Adorn”

In this bi-monthly column, I’ll be writing about some of my favorite love songs from the year 2000 to now.

Miguel “Adorn”

From: Kaleidoscope Dream (2012)

Miguel Pimentel thinks about fucking a lot. A lot. A casual listen of any one of his four major-label releases makes that glaringly, gloriously obvious. Tracks like “Quickie,” “Arch & Point” and “the valley” masterfully leave so little to the imagination that if someone overhears you listening to them, you might feel the need to quickly turn it off, almost like you’ve been caught watching porn.  

But fucking is easy. As are songs about fucking.

What Miguel accomplishes on “Adorn” – the opening track of his second album, Kaleidoscope Dream – is something altogether different. He makes acts of adoration sexy. 

In the song, Miguel revels in the feeling of falling in love with someone (his repeated use of “you” as the subject brings an extra level of intimacy to the proceedings). Over pounding, squealchy bass (a device that brings to mind the rhythm of two bodies finding a groove with each other) he applies the same directness that he so often uses to describe whatever tawdry business you and him are about to get up to. The first verse opens with the following lines, “These lips, can’t wait to taste your skin, baby/And these eyes, I can’t wait to see your grin,” and segues right into a phrase which, over the song’s 3 minutes, at times sounds like a plea, a religious chant and a reassurance: “Just let my love adorn you.”

Whereas so many of Miguel’s songs encourage and celebrate his partner’s nakedness – both physical and emotional – using a word like “adorn” makes it clear he has something else on his mind. Instead of removing something – clothing, inhibitions, etc. – he’s actively adding something here. Namely, his love for you. He wants you swathed in it, wrapped and warmed by the immensity of his feelings. He wants to ensure you know how he feels about you (“The same way that my whole world’s in your eyes”) and make you feel safe (“Baby these fists, will always protect ya, lady”). One of the song’s last lines flatly states, “Oh, put it on, baby.” It’s a fitting twist that this is probably his most personally naked song. 

Don’t get the wrong impression from all that romance – this isn’t some choir-boy, yearning from afar shit (I’m fairly certain Miguel couldn’t write choir boy if he tried). In addition to the aforementioned beat, there’s that voice – liquid and love-soaked. He’s able to go on some vocal runs that are practically sex in purely syllabic form, and as Pitchfork’s Evan Rytlewski wrote, “in the process coining an inimitable sound that bottled the sensation of ecstatic liberation: whawp!” 

In the end, “Adorn” is one of the best blendings of the sacred and profane R&B, or indeed pop in general, has ever heard. There’s a reason it sat in second place in Village Voice’s annual Pazz & Jop critics’ poll for singles of 2012, and is Miguel’s (who has an incredibly solid discography) best-known work. He jettisoned the impersonal side of fucking and the sappy side of falling head-over-heels, and created something timeless and devotional in its ecstasies. All of it summed up in that final word, which comes after a particularly pregnant (ahem) pause – “you.”

This, that and the other: For my money, the second-best Miguel song is “Simplethings,” but you have to be careful here – it’s the version from the second Girls soundtrack. The version that ended up on Wildheart adds more instrumentation to the track, which really takes away from the power of the man’s vocal delivery.

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