There was no need for Miguel and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan to get into a "Blurred Lines"-esque copyright lawsuit over the R&B star’s “Leaves,” a song on Miguel’s Wildheart album that sounds a lot like the Pumpkins’ “1979.”
Miguel did the right thing. When he learned about the similarities between his song and the track from the alternative rock band’s 1995 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a representative contacted Corgan, who wrote the song, offering to share songwriting credit, and Corgan accepted.
“More than anything, it’s a respect thing,” Miguel tells Yahoo Music. “Here’s the thing: As musicians, we have the same notes we’ve always had. There are no new notes, and there’s nothing new under the sun that hasn’t been done.”
Miguel continues that it is plausible that an artist could unintentionally create music that sounds like another artist’s work. “As musicians, we are hoarders, collecting things that inspire us, sometimes things subconsciously. It may not be intentional just for the simple that that I didn’t even write the chords,” he continues. “I had an idea for the jump programming. It wasn’t just me. A few of us just inputting, inserting our creative insight.”
Still, Miguel was adamant he should be proactive and contact Corgan. “It was very reminiscent of another song and, of our respect, it behooves musicians and artists to pay homage to the respect of saying, ‘I know this is reminiscent. I want to make you aware of it. If you feel that you should have writing credit, just dope.’”
Corgan appreciated being notified. “They said they felt it was the right thing to do, and we worked it out and it was all good,” he told Entertainment Weekly, comparing the scenario to Sam Smith giving Tom Petty a co-credit for his breakthrough hit “Stay With Me.”
Miguel humbly showed Prince respect recently as well. In May, Miguel joined the “Purple Rain” singer’s Rally 4 Peace in Baltimore. Prince brought Miguel out to help him cover the Staple Singers’ “When Will We Be Paid.”
Though Miguel says meeting Prince for the first time was nothing short of a “dream come true,” he was consumed with the opportunity to help the city plagued with protests after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American. Gray’s death was ruled a homicide and legal charges were filed against six police officers involved. “In that moment, it was about the people,” Miguel says. “We are there for a message, to try to replenish the spirit of the people.”
While Miguel is known for his sensual, soulful songs (ie, “Sure Thing,” “Adorn,” “Coffee”), Wildheart includes a record that speaks to social issues. On “What’s Normal Anyway?,” he addresses acceptance, being biracial, and immorality, singing, “I never feel like I belong / I wanna feel like I belong.”
“’What’s Normal Anyway?’ for me is the spine of this album,” he says. “Whatever freedom we have really starts with that question. The discussion really was almost letting go and exposing the reason the thought process that got me to this place, a purging of these thoughts that I carried for so long that afforded me the ability to believe greater than whatever negative adversity that I encountered.”
Miguel wanted to share the “emancipating process” with his fans in hopes of inspiring them to also confront their demons. He describes the song as a “jump-off conversation for a much bigger outreach” initiative in the works.
The direction of Wildheart, as well as his two preceding albums, 2010’s All I Want Is You and 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream, is very different from his 2005 debut single, “Getcha Hands Up.” Then, a 19-year-old Miguel was produced and marketed like just another male hip-hop/R&B hybrid artist. But after some soul-searching, he reemerged on All I Want Is You with a more unique styling that fused R&B, hip-hop, rock, and classic soul.
“When you kinda figure out what the real intention behind music is, you stop doing it for others,” he says, explaining what prompted his transition. “You start doing it for yourself, creating music you want to hear.”
Miguel also credits influential label executive Mark Pitts, CEO of Bystorm Entertainment (to whom Miguel is signed), with “protecting and championing” his artistry. “I think I was tremendously fortunate,” Miguel says. “Mark Pitts has been instrumental in all that, making sure that the machine was aware of my music and at the same time, didn’t try to change it.”
Miguel is on such a career high, he declined to discuss in detail the infamous incident that occurred during his performance at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. When singing “Adorn,” Miguel jumped from the main stage to a smaller stage and landed on two fans in the crowd.
However, Miguel did say the mishap prompted him to consider how he approaches such spontaneous concert moments. “It’s knowing there’s a time and a place for everything,” he says. “Whatever intuition you got to do something, be cognizant of everything and consider it. Otherwise, it’s not really anything worth revisiting. It’s just such a great wave with this album and what I’m doing. That’s what’s most important.”