Newest Review: ... include masses of rainbow coloured cogs, flowers, people and everyday objects. This cover suggests that the album will be loud, full o... more
My Kinda Life
Life In Cartoon Motion - Mika
Member Name: IainWear
Life In Cartoon Motion - Mika
Advantages: Some infectious tunes
Disadvantages: May need anti-biotics if over played
The bonus of this change is that it allows the music fan to have a much bigger influence over what tops the charts. Novelty records that are bought only by those who wouldn't normally buy a single will now have less chance of reaching the top spot. It also means that if the rest of us don't like whatever artist and song Simon Cowell and "Pop Idol" are foisting on us, we can download what we do like and stick two fingers up at him. Knowing this, it's wonderfully appropriate that the first act to have a number one single on downloads alone is a man who was rejected by Simon Cowell. So, after that chart topping single, here is what is likely to be a chart topping album; Mika's "Life in Cartoon Motion".
The album opens with the aforementioned number 1 single, "Grace Kelly". It's got a wonderful jaunty beat and bassline, but the opening parts seems to be little more than this, until it goes up a notch and turns into a Scissor Sisters style pop number which you can't help but tap your foot along to and sing along, all wrapped up in a wonderfully nonsensical lyric that gets into your head and refuses to let go and despite it being played virtually everywhere at the moment, it's a song I simply can't get tired of hearing.
There's a change in style for "Lollipop", which has a little more of a Caribbean flavour and reminds me very much of "Iko Iko" in parts. Whilst not as impressive as "Grace Kelly", this is another jaunty pop influenced tune which get the feet tapping, even if it's not as encouraging to sing along to.
The piano intro to "My Interpretation" sound like a 1980s TV show theme tune. I keep thinking it's either going to break into either the theme from "Baywatch" or Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is". Fortunately, it does neither, but it does retain the US TV theme song feel, although the vocals sound a bit like Robbie Williams at some points and this is a song you could see him doing, especially during his "Sing When You're Winning" period. Essentially what you get here, though, is a bouncy pop tune with a soft rock edge to it and, although it's blander than anything that's gone before, it's a decent tune.
"Love Today" is a very interesting tune. Starting off as a disco-pop style tune which owes a lot to the Scissor Sisters, it adds a rock edge a little later on and sounds like The Darkness would if they had Jake Shears on vocals. It's not a bad song, but not the best here.
The intro to "Relax (Take It Easy)" sounds a bit like Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died in Your Arms, but the song has more of an electro-pop feel to it, with a beat that makes it sound like a cross between the Pet Shop Boys and the Scissor Sisters' version of "Comfortably Numb". The man in the record shop when I bought the album said that this was his favourite track, but I'd have to disagree with him, as whilst it's a decent enough mid-tempo electronic pop song, that's about all it is and we know from earlier tracks that Mika is capable of better.
I've noticed that so many of these internet music stars are fine with the up tempo tunes, but their attempts at ballads let them down. Whilst it was bound to happen at some point, "Any Other World" is Mika's first go. Like most of what has gone before, it's a pretty decent effort, as well. There's nothing really new here, as this is a pretty standard pop ballad, lavishly produced with the string section which is a cliché these days. Given the way these things go, I would expect this to be the third single from the album, which would be another cliché. It's a decent pop ballad, but it's a shame to see Mika descend into cliché as he's proved he can be an individual talent.
Further proof of that last statement comes on "Billy Brown". It's a quirky little song, both in terms of lyrics and music and reminds me very much of some of the Beatles stranger moments, during their "Yellow Submarine" period. It's a little too strange at points to be one of his better tracks, but it proves that Mika will do his own thing if allowed to and that's wonderful to hear.
"Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" is perhaps the closest to "Grace Kelly" that Mika has come, being a joyous up-tempo disco-pop song that the Scissor Sisters may well have been proud of. Much like the opening track, it's got a jaunty beat that makes you want to dance no matter where you are, although the lyrics are blander this time around. This could well be the most dangerous song on the album, though. If you sing along in a public place whilst looking in the wrong direction, you could get some interesting reactions.
There is a laid back yet jaunty piano intro to "Stuck in the Middle" that either the Scissor Sisters or Billy Joel would be more than happy with. In fact, the intro does sound like a more restrained version of the Scissor Sisters' "Laura". The song carries on in much that vein, keeping as a mid tempo, but very jaunty and enjoyable pop tune with the Scissor Sisters influence,
There's a strangely R'n'B style backing vocal that opens "Happy Ending". This continues most of the way through and this is one of the more contemporary sounding tracks on the album, being a mid tempo pop-R'n'B song that probably wouldn't be out of place sung by Simon Webbe and some of the backing vocals sound like something he's done. It's not a bad track, and I happen to quite like Simon Webbe's solo material, but it sits uncomfortably in its surroundings, considering what has gone before.
After a couple of minutes, there is a hidden track, "Over My Shoulder", which is quite possibly hidden for a reason. Mika sounds like a choir boy here and the song does remind me a little of something Jeff Buckley has done. It's a down tempo pop ballad that really goes nowhere and I'm still struggling to work out whether this is a tribute of some kind to Jeff Buckley or if it exists purely to show off Mika's highly impressive falsetto.
There are so many influences over the start of "Ring Ring" that I'm still not entirely sure what to expect. The ringing phones and the piano over the introduction always makes me think of the Oxide and Neutrino remix of the "Casualty" theme, without having to sound much like it. Later on, though, the vocals seem to be edging towards the likes of the Kooks, but there is enough of a pop hook to give a nod towards the Scissor Sisters, even here.
"Life in Cartoon Motion" is quite a patchy album, veering between utter pop brilliance and bland pop cliché. Mika has been described as a "one man Scissor Sisters" and this album certainly shows the truth in that, as they're clearly an influence. Like the Scissor Sisters, Mika has been influenced by all kinds of music and pretty much every single one of his influences, from pop to soft rock to choral music, appears at some point on the album. This makes for a wonderfully varied listening experience, even if it does keep you a little off balance at times.
Unfortunately, like the Darkness and Lily Allen before him, I can see this album getting annoying after repeated listens, as it does have all the ingredients that makes that happen; some cheesy pop hooks and a high falsetto vocal. However, it has enough superb moments, with "Grace Kelly" and "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" being my personal favourites, to keep you coming back to it every so often and it's enjoyable enough before it gets old to have kept it on constant play on my mp3 player for the best part of a week already.
Being a brand new release, the album is still quite expensive to buy, with £8.75 from Sainsbury's the cheapest offline shopping price I've seen, although there are slightly cheaper copies available from the Amazon Marketplace from £8.50 or from eBay from £1.00 and the price may come down as the album ages a little more.
However, what you get for your money is 11 tracks and 48 minutes worth of pretty decent music, for the most part. If you're already a fan of "Grace Kelly" or if you love the Scissor Sisters, as I do, then there's no point in waiting, as I already know you'll love this album and won't be too upset if you end up to paying full price. If this is what cartoon motion is going to sound like, then I'll be moving that way for a long time to come.
Summary: The internet's newest star is actually worth the hype.