Review Summary: After some hesitation, I dove headfirst into a new MIKA experience, albeit a less-enjoyable one.
Having just downloaded MIKA's new album "The Origin of Love" yesterday, I figured it would be a great album to start with. If you haven't heard about MIKA, you don't know what you're missing.
Mika's last album, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much," was pretty enjoyable. It had solid singles, starting with "We Are Golden". That was back in 2009 and since then, Mika has been MIA from my musical radar. With his new release, "The Origin of Love," the listener is able to hear a ton of French influence, obvious in the lead single "Elle Me Dit". There are also the songs "Make you Happy" and "Celebrate" that have gained popularity, Having heard these singles, I had a slight worry for the album since the singles were more electronic and serious when put in comparison to my favorites "Grace Kelly" and "Love Today". Well, the album was pretty damn good, despite my light treading. Check out my track by track review below!
01) The Origin of Love 3.5/5
The song that shares the same name as the album. This song is pretty good, although it has its problems. The length is a little stretched out and I could totally see it ending around the mid-three-minute mark. The lyrics are fine but could use some improvement (see rhyming cigarette and nicorette). The music itself is catchy but simple, which is a recurring thing for this album. Mika's voice is used well in this song, showing off his range.
02) Lola 3.5/5
Another simple song, the piano riff is enjoyable. Mika's singing is fine in this one, although he doesn't show off his range as much and the song does repeat itself. The bridge is nice, the electronic sounds added in the background throughout the entire song are different to hear in a Mika song. The song never really changes itself up, keeping to a very formulaic sound. The lyrics are repetitive but sound fine, this song has a retro feel to it like you would hear at a '50s diner.
03) Stardust 3.5/5
This song could easily be played on the radio, The opening builds up and is strongly pushed along by electronic music with Mika singing a catchy chorus that repeats before fading out and repeating "When will I see you again?" a few times, allowing the chorus to start up again. By this time, the listener notices a trend in Mika's new music: it's mostly repetitive, meaningless, electronic pop now. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just different.
04) Make You Happy 3/5
"Make You Happy" opens with an odd robotic voice repeating "All I wanna do is make you happy," before Mika enters with a slow verse singing about wanting to make someone happy while an orchestra plays beneath him. The chorus is the same voice repeating "All I wanna do is make you happy," and the song is repeated, etc. This song feels so out of place for Mika because the singing doesn't seem to take any talent whatsoever and the robotic voice is just bizarre to hear from him. The pacing and tempo that the voice sings at is odd compared to Mika's verses.
05) Underwater 3.5/5
"Underwater" has a great piano part that opens up the song. Mika's voice is full as he sings over it, and the build-up into the chorus is enjoyable. Sadly, Mika returns to the repetitive formula that has fueled this album. Regardless of the repetition, the song is a catchier one, and has stayed in my mind since I heard it last. This would be one of the standouts from the track and may become a single. A problem I have is the repeated line saying "With love, I can breathe underwater". Maybe I don't like cheesy lyrics, but this is too cheesy for me. The music is what makes me enjoy this song, not the lyrics.
06) Overrated 3.5/5
The opening to "Overrated" is...you guessed it, electronic. Mika's verse is basically him climbing up and down a run of notes with lyrics while the electronic music makes an attempt to pump up the listener. The chorus is something I can see being played at a club or remixed for some club tune. "Overrated" isn't terrible but it again fails to impress. The chorus and music are catchy, but the lyrics again fall flat.
07) Kids 3/5
When I first saw "Kids" I immediately thought of one of my favorite songs by MGMT. A Mika cover of Kids?! I'm so excited! Sadly, this was not the case. While this song takes a step down from the electronic club anthems, there is still an electronic beat playing throughout the song. The lyrics try to be meaningful, but all I can picture this being used in is a "Feed The African Children" ad. Y'know what I'm talking about? The chorus is so sappy, I can't stand it.
08) Love You When I'm Drunk 3/5
I have to get this out of the way. The intro to this song reminds me of Yo Gabba Gabba. Just the first 4 seconds, or so, but that fact still stands. The lyrics are happy-happy and meaningless, but Mika at least tries to sing in this one's verses. The chorus is pretty damn annoying, however. Apparently, Mika only loves his other when he's drunk and this is about breaking up with them? Not sure, entirely. The trumpet fanfare in the middle of the song is well-done, though. The repetition is starting to become too much for me, though. The bridge is a break from this, but I can feel the repeating chorus coming back in. There it is. Mika's voice has never nanoyed me before but he managed to annoy me with the chorus to this song.
09) Step With Me 3/5
This song was bizarre for me. Take this however you want to, but this song reminds me of something that Jason Mraz would write. Not the older, spunkier Mraz but the newer, I'm-trying-to-be-dramatic Mraz. Honestly, I can see Mika and Jason Mraz doing a duet on this. The build-up to the chorus's lyrics (This love's delicious/Like home-cooked dishes) are laughably bad, and the chorus itself feels like a weird reggae funk thing. I'm not really feeling it, Mika. "Step With Me" is cutesy, and I'm sure kids will be saying "This is our song!" over in the UK. Hopefully not. Well, at least this one isn't completely electronic.
10) Popular Song 4/5
This one is great. Maybe it's because I love the musical "Wicked" from which Mika samples the chorus from, maybe I just find it catchy. The rapping is mediocre and bizarre to get from a Mika song (who's that chick?) but the rest of the song is classic Mika: happy songs about being independent. Hearing Mika sing the chorus from "Wicked" was perfect; if anyone can sing things off of Broadway, I'd choose Mika. The rapping lyrics are still mediocre, but the chorus makes me love this song. I understand this is biased, but this is my review. I think letting this song be an album favorite is fine.
11) Emily 4/5
This song was originally "Elle Me Dit," one of the lead singles. I love both versions, but this one stands out more because I can actually understand it and sing along (if I feel the need). This is classic Mika, catchy verses and chorus, with lyrics about just living life. The English version has different lyrics from the French version, and the rhyming between two versions is kepy the same ("Elle Me Dit" rhymes with "Emily" yet mean different things). I don't care about the lyrics changing very much. This song is catchy and happy without being eletronic, which is something for this album. This is definitely one of my favorites from this album.
12) Heroes 3.5/5
"Heroes" tries to be a ballad about people fighting someone else's war. It's overdramatic and sappy, slow until the chorus comes in with lyrics I couldn't really understand at first listen. I respect that Mika is trying to be a grown-up and make serious songs but he's going about it the entirely wrong way. Maybe this is his album bridging "Fun Mika" with "Serious Mika", but I'm not sure he has it in him to be completely serious.
13) Celebrate (feat. Pharrell Williams) 3.5/5
"Celebrate" reminds me of a song you'd see on a Sea World or Vacation Cruise commercial, the levity being blasted into your ears as well as your eyes. The song is great, but it's just a pop song. The lyrics don't really have any meaning or correlation between verses, but hey, they sound good. The instrumentals during the chorus remind me of Daft Punk. Pharrell Williams's part in this song is completely unneeded, and I can't help but chuckle when he screams "And have FUN!" because it feels so weird. Also, Mika uses auto-tune. I'm not a huge fan of that, but it's whatever.
14) Elle Me Dit (Bonus Track) 4/5
This song is the French/original version to "Emily," so it's basically the same. The words seem to fit together better, though, and it's still a happy little song.
Overall, I'd give this album a 3.5/5 for personal enjoyabilty. There were quite a few songs on here that I enjoyed a lot but others just fell flat. If I could send Mika a request, I would ask that he returns to the levity that we saw in his debut "Life In Cartoon Motion". I'll definitely be jamming to the standouts for some time to come, but would have loved to be able to put this album on repeat. I still recommend giving it a listen, especially if you're a Mika fan.