Life In Cartoon Motion is the debut album of British singer Mika. Formally known as Mica Penniman, the singer and composer sounds like a cross between Freddie Mercury and George Michael. With an incredible range, reaching up into Alvin and the Chipmunks territory (seriously), Mika sensationalizes this jubilant album, making it strangely addictive.
The album presents a balanced mix of pop, pop-rock and pop-glam rock--it’s really poppy! Put simply, it’s like children’s music on acid … actually, since all the songs are good for dancing, perhaps it’s more like children’s music on ecstasy. Life In Cartoon Motion is undeniably catchy, and walks a fine line between brilliance and utter annoyance. Two thoughts kept colliding in my head: that sounds cool and that sounds weird.
The opening track "Grace Kelly," which is the current single, sets the mood for the album. Mika’s official Web site describes his music as combining "a heady euphoric rush with darker unexpected elements" and is a good way of describing songs like this one; within a few beats "Grace Kelly" swings from a goofy, juvenile romp to a sedated stroll through some thought-provoking emotions.
"My Interpretation" provides a breather after the energetic opening tunes and allows the listener to cozy up to Mika’s sweet piano sound. "Love Today," the following song, with the swishy wah-wah guitar and disco beat, would be great for a ‘70s porno flick. It provides a Jamiroquai-Bee Gees feel and has a very European sound to it.
"Relax. Take It Easy," Mika’s first single (a download release), is the type of tune you might hear in a club, but has enough intricacies and layers that a sophisticated musician wouldn’t necessarily feel like shooting himself after two minutes.
"Ring Ring" is a classic example of how Mika mixes prototypical sounds. It has an up-on-your-feet dance beat backing up a clever piano line--only it’s not the same enervated piano sound commonly found in pop music. Instead, it’s one you can picture coming out of a grand Steinway being played by Beethoven.
Frankly, his use of horns and strings--done in a classy way--is refreshing for someone like me who always marveled at the use of horns and strings on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. "Any Other World" and "Billy Brown" are good examples of this technique.
If you’re still on the fence close to the end, "Stuck In The Middle" is just the tune to win you over. With a frolicking piano line reminiscent of Elton John, Mika musically stomps through this punchy song and produces one of the best tunes on the album.
On his Web site, Mika explains his diverse sound saying that he "grew up listening to every thing from Joan Baez and Dylan, to Serge Gainsbourg and Flamenco." He goes on to say "Prince, Harry Nillson, Elton John, even Michael Jackson, these people make amazing pop records that couldn’t be performed by anybody else and that’s what I always wanted to do." Mika’s innovative yet familiar sound, along with his vocal range, suggests that he has accomplished just that.
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