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Life In Cartoon Motion

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Album Review

Mika's vivid, aptly named debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, borrows and builds on the glittery, glamorous, and not-so-secretly sentimental musical territory carved out by Elton John and Freddie Mercury, or more recently, Rufus Wainwright and the Scissor Sisters. Fortunately, his name-dropping, shape-shifting pop is usually good, and genuine, enough to come across as eloquent homage rather than blatant thievery or a tired rehash. Mika's singles are his most charming moments, especially the instant sunshine of "Grace Kelly," which crams tap-dancing rhythms, filmic dialogue, Elton's pianos, Freddie's vocal harmonies, and Brian May's guitars into just over three minutes. "Relax (Take It Easy)" is in the same vein of hypnotic, danceable melancholy as the Scissor Sisters' reworking of "Comfortably Numb," albeit less showy, while "Billy Brown"'s brass arrangement, flowing melody, and soft-shoe rhythms give it the feel of an unusually witty show tune about pre-life crises and living in the closet. As Life in Cartoon Motion unfolds, it reveals more of Mika's musical identity, both for better and worse. His classical piano training gives the album an appealing fluidity, especially on "Any Other World," and lilting, Afro-pop-inspired guitars and harmonies pop up here and there, most effectively on "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)." However, while Life in Cartoon Motion has lots of enthusiasm and creativity, it doesn't have a lot of nuance. On songs like "Lollipop" and "Love Today," Mika straddles the line between adorable and annoying. And as the overly long, overwrought "Erase" shows, he also doesn't have quite the masterful touch with gentler songs that his influences possess. As admirable as Life in Cartoon Motion's eclecticism is, it could use more focus — something that songs like the jaunty breakup song "Stuck in the Middle" and angry rocker "Ring Ring" suggest Mika is developing. While more restraint could've taken the album from good to great, its Technicolor, everything-at-once, borderline overdone feel makes it a fitting portrait of Mika as a young artist. [An import version was also released.]

Biography

Born: 18 August 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Pop magpie Mika's bright, kaleidoscopic music has drawn comparisons to everyone from Queen and Elton John to the Scissor Sisters and Rufus Wainwright. Born Michael Holbrook Penniman in Beirut to a Lebanese mother and American father, Mika and his parents moved to Paris while he was still very young, and eventually London by the time he was nine years old. The frequent moves, incidents like his father being taken hostage at Kuwait's American Embassy, and bullying at school affected young Mika to the...
Full bio
Life In Cartoon Motion, MIKA
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