Mika - Life In Cartoon Motion
2006 saw Snow Patrol selling more albums in the UK than anyone else, beating the follow-up albums from both Scissor Sisters and Keane for the top spot. This year, if early predictions are anything to go by, the chart will be dominated by relative newcomer Mika, who has already been tipped by many as the artist most likely to succeed in 2007. Single Grace Kelly is already in the top five, purely on download sales alone weeks ahead of its physical release, and anticipation among Radio 2 listeners is high for the debut album.
Helping matters along nicely is that fact that Mika is a relatively interesting fellow. Born in Beirut, he now resides in London after spending some of his childhood in Paris. Striking to look at, he is certainly a talented, charismatic musician, who has not had an easy route to fame, earning his living writing advertising jingles and experiencing various struggles with record companies (as outlined in Grace Kelly). Comparisons to the likes of George Michael, Freddie Mercury and Elton John have all been made, but despite the evident influence, his sound is reasonably his own and his debut album is not entirely without merit.
With that in mind though, this is a very mixed bag, ranging from the good to the downright awful. Lead single Grace Kelly is a good indication of what to expect, a flamboyant mix of glamour and swagger, showcasing his vocal range and his expertise in arrangement. But the second track Lollipop plummets the album into excruciating farce, whilst My Interpretation opens with a piano tinkling what appears to be the theme to Baywatch. Relax, Take It Easy also opens with a tune not a millions miles from Died In Your Arms by Cutting Crew, before launching into the territory of a Scissor Sisters tribute band.
The second half of the album is heaps better, opening with Any Other World, a wonderful song, delicate and gentle, slowly unwinding. It is on this track that his talents begin to shine and you start to see what all the fuss is about - the lyrics are passionate and heartfelt, set to a gentle string arrangement. Billy Brown is also a reasonable song, from the Gilbert O'Sullivan songbook, full of parping horns and a ramshackle atmosphere.
The quality remains throughout Big Girl, an ode to the lady with a fuller figure, and Stuck in the Middle, both songs nodding a respectful glance towards Scissor Sisters, the kind of material their second album could have sorely benefited from. Closing number Happy Ending though is a disappointment, a sugary piece of whimsy that allows the album to dwindle to its conclusion.
Let’s face it, many people buy just a handful of records a year and are quite happy to be actively encouraged as to what those purchases should be. Nothing will stop this album being a riotous success, whether Mika deserves it or not. There are some bright spots on this release, but they are few and far between. What remains in the middle are moments that will test the tolerance of many in an album sure to be found in second hand shops all over Britain by Christmas.