Venezuelan immigrant Migguel Anggelo is a singer-songwriter, multidisciplinary performing artist and countertenor, dancer, actor, and painter. He consistently explores the intersections of his own queer, Latino, and immigrant identities in his work. True to form, English with an Accent, his third studio album and a companion to his original dance-theater production by the same title, follows an immigrant caterpillar chasing after the American Dream.
Unlike his first two albums, Donde Estara Matisse (2012) and La Casa Azul (2015), English with an Accent plays like a concept album. There is a narrative throughline that strings the songs together. Each track, however, also stands on its own because they didn’t start life as the soul of a theatrical piece. “I told myself, ‘One day the pandemic is going to end. I need to focus and do more stuff,’” says Anggelo. “I made costumes, I wrote more songs, and while checking out the songs for the album, I realized if I changed the order of the songs and wrote two or three more, this would be a theater piece.”
In that moment, English with an Accent gelled for Anggelo and became a dance-theater piece despite beginning its life as a studio album. “[English with an Accent] is talking about an immigration. The person comes to New York City because he feels, as an artist, that New York is a safe place to live,” explains Anggelo. “But, he is a caterpillar. He’s not a worm. But, sometimes people think he’s a worm because he’s an immigrant.”
Over the course of the album, the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. This transformation is a stand-in for manifesting the American Dream. But like all immigrants, the journey of the caterpillar turned butterfly doesn’t end there. “After he becomes a butterfly, he says, ‘Okay, now I have the wings, but what happens now? Now, I need to survive as a butterfly.’”
Immigration to the United States continues to be a volatile topic in our national discussions, which makes pieces of art like this all the more valuable. “They come here to find their dreams,” states Anggelo. Yet, our current immigration system isn’t working, especially in the raging battle over legal versus illegal immigration. “For me, even if you are here and you’re illegal, I always say give them the chance to be legal,” says Anggelo. “If you fuck up one time, you’re out. But give a chance to those people that are already here to show that we are good and that we can bring something good to this country.”
Migguel Anggelo also puts his gay identity under the microscope in English with an Accent. “The voice that you hear in the beginning of ‘The Wind’ is the voice of my mother,” says Anggelo. “My mom is the one that pushed me to follow my dreams because she always knew I was born an artist and a singer.” She, as audiences of other Anggelo shows like LatinXOXO would know, stood up for Anggelo in conversations with his homophobic father, especially when he would call the young Migguel Anggelo a little girl. “My mom would say, ‘Well, that little girl is your son. If you don’t support him, I will divorce you.’ My mom is amazing. I wish everybody had a mother like her.”
Personally, Anggelo has already experienced his butterfly transformation moment. To continue to survive, he is ready to tackle arts funding in the United States. “I can’t understand how this amazing country doesn’t have a Secretary of Art. That is ridiculous when everybody here loves art so much.” he says. “Why do you have money to support wars around the world? Why do you have money to support guns? But you don’t have money to support books, arts, and museums?”
When Anggelo creates art, he always does so with love and a sense of humor. This is reflected in the title of this album and dance-theater piece. “I always want to sing in English, even with the accent,” he says with a hearty laugh. “I want to sing in English because, even though I grew up in Venezuela, I always listened to English songs by artists like Cindy Lauper, R.E.M., Michael Jackson, Madonna, and all those people.”
Creating a musical album with a throughline was a new experience for Migguel Anggelo, but the final product is just as enticing as his previous records. “It’s beautiful because I am a storyteller, and I love to tell people’s stories,” says Anggelo. “For me to write something where all the songs are connected is really great, and it has been a beautiful and gratifying experience.”
English with an Accent will be released on December 2 and will be available everywhere music is sold.
For more about Migguel Anggelo, visit his official website – http://www.migguelanggelo.com/