When it comes to music, I’m no sophisticate. Don’t give me jazz, classic rock, or even R&B inspired pop or Hip-Hop hipness. Whatever. Give me the pure pop music, and lots of it. To fill my request, along comes London singer Mika, whose debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, is already a pretty big hit in North America. This album has got to be one of the purest pop albums ever. (I know, I’d kill for some good hyperbole!)
The first track (coincidentally the first-released single), “Grace Kelly”, really gives the essence of Mika’s music. It’s an eminently head-boppable song, with a touch of George Michael smoothness and theatrical campiness. [Falsetto alert: At least half of this album is sung by Mika at a falsetto register, so if that’s the kind of thing that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to you, steer clear.]
Mika, the high-pitched wonder, continues to explore the various styles of falsetto with an even catchier second track. “Lollipop” has a Jackson Five kind of sound and it combines playground-style callouts, snap-clapping along with Sesame Street-style piano backgrounds into a sweet, super-fun, pop music confection.
When you think that it just can’t get any more catchy, the fourth track is so addictive that I think I’ll need a neuro-surgeon to get this song out of my head. “Love Today” has an uptempo Bee Gees tone — pure disco. Despite the fact that I can feel my clothes transmuting to polyester as I listen, I really love that song.
So far it’s all just camp and vamp, but can Mika handle that other pop music staple — the ballad? “Any Other World” is his answer to that question, and I think he does pretty well. Mika’s voice is still at its best when he hits the high notes during the chorus, but the strings- and choir-enhanced, bittersweet melody is quite nice. It fits his overall style.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet are the lyrics (generally I don’t pay that much attention). Frankly it’s a bit tricky to pick out the lyrics when someone is singing falsetto. Nevertheless, I think there’s a kind of irony between the shiny, whimsical melodies and maybe some of the more grown-up themes and lyrics. What does “suckin’ too hard on your lollipop” really mean anyway? Discuss.
The rest of the album is similarly-flavoured: some tracks less catchy than others, but if you’ve heard “Grace Kelly” or “Love Today” on the radio and found yourself boppin’ along, you should definitely pick up Life in Cartoon Motion. (5 out of 5)