Miguel turned up in the NPR Music offices early one morning, after playing a show late the night before. He appeared light and calm, and betrayed no hint that he was nervous about stripping his highly produced hits down to their bones. Accompanied by just his guitarist, Dru DeCaro, Miguel eschewed flash and went big on small gestures — ingratiating ad libs, only one full spin and voice control that kept the songs close to his chest but emotive enough to translate to the back of the room. He told us he wrote his Grammy-nominated song “Adorn” with no idea that it would take him to our tiny stage. But he was made for it. His style was compact and graceful, his manner self-aware and open.
After releasing two albums, the 27-year-old performed as if he’d spent years of his life pressing rewind and pause on the great entertainers of our time — James Brown, Prince, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Michael Jackson. After he ended his set, I wanted to ask who’d taught him the most, but the crush of admirers loomed and I got out of the way of the cellphone cameras. He’s a genuine, modern-day star. –FRANNIE KELLEY