Fun, clappy, happy-clappy, claptrap- that’s Mika!
If you haven’t heard Grace Kelly or Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) yet then you have been living and loving on the planet Zog with your head down the lav and your ears full of cotton wadding.
Yes the songs are chirpy. Chirpy and cheerful. But not so trite that they make you wince. The girls may be all oooing and getting themselves in a right tizz over this fay curly-haired big-bird but the so-so-macho guys out there might well be asking for the sick-bucket to be passed around.
Mica Penniman (born 18 August 1983), aka Mika is a Lebanese-born, London-based singer. The family moved to London when he was just nine years old. The album Life in Cartoon Motion is his first offering and, already, a cargo-truck-load of singles have come off the disc.
After attending Westminster School and the Royal College of Music, Mika went on to record his first album. Naturally, for a man of such class, he is a trained opera singer and trained pianist. So he is a proper clever clogs.
Take two-parts Farrokh Bulsara, one-part Ana Matronic and five-parts the school-cleaners mop and you end up with Mika. The English have always had a soft spot for this sort of eloquent, flamboyant and outrageously camp iconic song-and-dance man (think John Inman, Danny La Rue and even Dame Edna). Mika perfectly fits the bill. He is the very encampment! He should be ‘on’ at the seaside (at the end of the pier) and, if he was on at the pier, he would be wearing a pink T shirt with the slogan “Ooooooooh, you are awful…but I like you”.
On the first listen of Life in Cartoon Motion, the quaintly falsetto whines lure you in the same way a seasick siren lures worn-out seamen in. The sounds seem sweet, honey-cake, but then you realize the lyrics are a little bit naughty… and a little big silly… and a little bit gay-fun.
But then, at times, you get ‘taken in’ by the proper BIG opera (trained voice) a la Queen circa 1974 and your feet get tapping to some proper street-cred sounds that may make you re-think the whole Mika phenomena.
The plinky-plonky piano is pleasantly supported by some quality session musicians such as Martin Waugh (guitars, backing vocals), Michael Choi (bass, backing vocals), Cherisse Ofosu-Osei (formerly of The Faders, drums), Vinnie Potestivo , backing vocals), and Luke Juby (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals).
There are 12 big songs on the album. You will recognise at least three. I write that with some certainty because, even if you have lived on the aforementioned planet Zog for the last few years, Mika writes songs that are kinda nostagic and reminiscent of lots of other songs and melodies that you know. I am not saying his work imitates or steals from others, I am saying it is comfortably redolent – like your favourite leather armchair or a favourite scented candle.
My choice track on the album is Lollipop which is, very probably, quite naughty (in the ‘end of the pier’ and ‘kiss me quick’ tradition) but also has a innocent charm and a guilty fascination.
Note: Mika’s sister Yasmine, who works as an artist under the nom de plume Dawack, painted the superb cartoon art for the album cover.
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Get the CD here