Cautionary Wife Posted February 2, 2007 Share Posted February 2, 2007 THE SCOTSMAN Friday 02 February 2007 ALBUM REVIEWS FIONA SHEPHERD Mika is like a party hosted by the Scissor Sisters in honour of Freddie Mercury, Prince and Elton John. MIKA: LIFE IN CARTOON MOTION **** CASABLANCA RECORDS, £12.99 WHILE TV talent shows such as The X Factor attempt to breed the failsafe pop star, everyone knows it's not the safe copycats who capture the imagination, but the curveball freaks. If Mika didn't exist, you couldn't invent him. But one bar of his music, one yelp of his falsetto and one word of his lyrics tells you that this man is a natural-born pop star. Unsurprisingly, he was the hot tip for 2007 come the turn of the year and he is already coming good on those predictions with a Number One single - the demented, irrepressible Grace Kelly - on download sales alone. It is not that Mika is original - far from it. He sounds like a DayGlo party hosted by the Scissor Sisters in honour of Freddie Mercury, Prince and Elton John, so there's a pretty clear precedent for his camp, euphoric sound. As he sings himself on Grace Kelly: "I've gone identity mad... I could be anything you like" - though this is actually his sarcastic riposte to past record company attempts to mould him in the image of the latest success story. You really couldn't manufacture a character like this. For all its pantomime lyrics, helium vocals and plonking piano, the song spills out of him so naturally, so readily that you can even forgive him for that highly irritating "ker-ching!" coda. At the time of writing, it was a scornful, cynical comment on the "creative" goals of the music business; now, ironically, it sounds more like an accompanying sound effect for his extremely bright future. Still only 23 years old, Mika already has loads of material for the autobiography - brought up in war-torn Beirut, father held hostage at the US embassy in Kuwait, itinerant childhood, rejected by peers, child opera singer, misunderstood songwriter... will someone commission the biopic now, please? But he doesn't actually need any of that to command interest - just his acrobatic voice, fluent songwriting and flamboyant, statuesque presence. Life in Cartoon Motion is as bold, colourful, silly and dynamic a debut album as its title indicates. Its blend of disco, bubblegum and balladry is off-the-wall yet as commercial as they come. Be warned: these songs will be fixed in your head from the first listen. From that moment, you'll be fighting them off. The whole collection is so deliriously pop, so insanely catchy that it flirts with caricature. The chirpy, throwaway Lollipop borders on the cheesy - children singing, cheeky percussion, innuendo-riddled sweetie metaphors, it's got the lot. Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) is a springy funk nursery rhyme celebrating the larger lady, and possibly the gayest song ever written. At times, Mika manages to sober up enough to play the accessible piano man. My Interpretation sounds like Ben Folds writing for a boy band, while Billy Brown is a jaunty everyday tale of a married man embarking on a gay affair. His reference points are blatant, but that's part of the fun. The quite ridiculous Love Today kicks off like a mashup of Joe Jackson's Stepping Out and Malcolm McLaren's Buffalo Gals before skipping off into a heady helium baroque whirl which even The Darkness might have rejected as OTT. In fact, Mika most resembles Scissor Sisters in his ability to thieve gleefully, yet still produce a song which is worthy in its own right and, like his New York brothers and sister, his party face shields a more vulnerable core. Behind the stealthy disco exterior of former single Relax, Take it Easy is a lyric inspired by the emotional void after the July 2007 [sic] London bombings. Closing track Happy Ending is far from it, with its rueful chorus of "this is the way that we love, like it's forever, then live the rest of our life, both not together". He has not yet achieved the Sisters' masterful, bittersweet blend of party tunes and emotional resonance, but there is plenty of time for that. The only slight disappointment at this stage is that an individual with such a natural talent for distilling the essence of pop doesn't have something more sophisticated to say with it. There is a fleeting glimpse of an inherently more dramatic side to his music on the bonus track, a sparse, tremulous torch song called Over My Shoulder. Maybe in the future, he will exploit more of that operatic audacity, like a glitterball Rufus Wainwright. There are so many traditions he could draw on but, for the moment, Life in Cartoon Motion is a consummate celebration of pop music for its own sake. CW. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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