Life in Cartoon Motion



by Dave de Sylvia EMERITUS
February 11th, 2007 | 16 replies

Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Life In Cartoon Motion falls where most pop albums do- it oozes character but fails to translate it into something substantial

It’s not often you can sense an actual cultural void scrambling to fill itself- correction, it’s not often I can sense a cultural void of any sort- so it’s been interesting observing the massive success of New York’s Scissor Sisters in the UK and Ireland while they remain little more than cult icons in their home country. The world’s largest supermarket chain Wal-Mart has even refused to stock the group’s albums on account of their “course language” (translation: it would be tough to purge entire songs of homosexual imagery,) another unfortunate public relations disaster for a country that receives far more flack from college-age folk than it deserves.

But the British are a proud people and, however much they love America, they love themselves even more and, for almost three years now, a section of the British public has been all but screaming out for a home-grown version of the glitzy disco-rockers to call their own. Panic turned to desperation in 2006 as consumers ignored just about everything about androgynous London rockers The Feeling to make them radio’s most played band that year, but spam is no substitute for a good strip of bacon. As luck would have it, Londoner, albeit Lebanon-born, Mika has emerged from nowhere (London) to put things to rights with the massive single ‘Grace Kelly,’ which graces (I know) the #1 spot in the Irish and UK singles chart at the time of writing. A stunning display of operatic rock matched with a genuinely virtuosic vocal performance, the track sees its singer intertwine near-perfect imitations of Freddie Mercury, George Michael and Robbie Williams seamlessly inside eight bars before setting off on an ascending pre-chorus pattern that echoes Kate Bush’s classic ‘Wuthering Heights.’

Mika’s debut record, Life In Cartoon Motion, can neatly be categorised alongside the Scissor Sisters; the two share very similar influences in glam rock, disco and funk, however Mika’s sound is made slightly more current by virtue of his location. Situated in the nation’s capital, the alternative hip-hop sounds of the city seem to have rubbed off on him, as demonstrated by ‘Lollipop,’ which apes the melody of Lily Allen’s ‘LDN,’ and part of the lyrical theme to boot, while lead single ‘Relax, Take It Easy’ is reminiscent of the apathetic synth-pop of Hot Chip.

At its best, Life In Cartoon Motion is an expert amalgamation of a number of pop stylings from past and present; at worst, Life In Cartoon Motion is, well, exactly the same thing. Very little of the album could easily be characterised as original- each track sees Mika either imitate a certain vocalist or borrow a melody from a certain song. In a similar way to ‘90s rockers Jellyfish, when it hits, it hits hard and when it misses, it hits an exposed nerve and requires extensive therapy. It’s this factor that’s led to the album dividing critics so wildly.

‘Billy Brown’ borrows the piano melody from The Monkees’ ‘Daydream Believer’ and Paul McCartney’s vocal melody from ‘Penny Lane’ and tells the story of a man, married with children, whose life is turned upside down when he falls in love with another man, proclaiming him “another victim of the times.” The lyrics are simple and straightforward, but vague enough to tell a story without taking away the listener’s opportunity to imagine and ending. ‘Grace Kelly’ houses a similarly basic lyric, this time a riposte to a label head who’d rejected him because he refused to re-invent himself as another James Blunt/James Morrison clone, and morphs semi-intentionally into a projection against society as a whole, exclaiming “why don’t you like me, why don’t you like yourself? Should I bend over? Should I look older just to be put on the shelf?” while basking in the implied irony of Ms. Kelly’s sampled quote: “getting angry doesn’t solve anything”

The massive dip in quality towards the end, including the progressive worsening through closing, bonus and hidden tracks, is disappointing, considering how well the album begins. As masterfully as tracks like ‘Grace Kelly’ and ‘Love Today’ acknowledge their influences without any pretensions of originality beyond the inherent personality of the singer, ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)’ falls at every hurdle, knowingly parodying Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and Older-era George Michael but is melodically weak in comparison.

Any number of the album’s tracks come across as potential singles, but that’s without making the all-important distinction between “good singles” and “successful singles.” ‘Lollipop’ borrows much from the chorus of ‘LDN,’ but it’s from Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ that the bulk of the song takes its cue and, to put it bluntly, Gwen’s already milked that beat for all that it’s worth and more besides. ‘Any Other World’ amd ‘My Interpretation’ each contain rather unsubtle imitations of James Blunt’s vocal style and, though quite well-written, fail to overcome the not inconsiderable hurdle of sounding like James Blunt, while ‘Relax, Take It Easy’ casts its net somewhere between Music-era Madonna and Jimmy Somerville and winds up neither catchy enough to become a pop single or interesting enough to become a dancefloor classic.

Life In Cartoon Motion at first displays all the hallmarks of a great pop album- it takes influence from all the best artists and isn’t averse to pilfering a melody or two- however, like many pop albums, it oozes character but fails to translate it into something substantial. Still, if an album was ever worth buying for one song, Life In Cartoon Motion would be it. And, if ‘Grace Kelly’ is anything to go by, Mika will become a very rich man in a short space of time.

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user ratings (213)
other reviews of this album
indietrash (4.5)
Classy. Funny. Happy. Life in Cartoon Motion....

FantasticVoyage (3)
A good pop but lacking originality...

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 11th 2007


From what I've read, I wouldn't like this at all. And if some member of Queen makes an uproar over this review, it'll only be because of the rating. This whole review was thoroughly conceived and justified the rating.This Message Edited On 02.11.07

February 11th 2007


Mika is a nut, a positive interesting mess. I like "Grace Kelly", it has appeal. I especially like the little girl in the video, she's cute, good video.

February 11th 2007


Album Rating: 1.0

All I've ever wanted to do since seeing this guy's single is kick him in the balls (thats assuming he has any). Other people seem to be thinking different tho...This Message Edited On 02.11.07

February 14th 2007


"But the British are a proud people and, however much they love America, they love themselves even more"
eh, thats english bastards who are up there own asses, im scottish and i dont like being linked to england, mika is a scottish act but he is a pile of shite and he is number one over here ( shakes head in disappointment)

March 28th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Mika is great...there's obviously no fans of Queen in here. I don't think your review justified a 2...this album at least deserves a 3. Your taking it way to seriously..."this steals from Paul McCartney...this takes from George Michael." Read a book about the beatles songs and they'll tell you how they've taken many parts of older songs, but since the songs t hey stole from were in the 50's you cannot hear it.

This is a fun pop album he's not trying to make any political statement or anything like that, it's just fun happy music and it sounds more fresh and new than anything has in awhile.

March 28th 2007



I just can't stand him. At all. It's like indulging in a mediocre milkshake. You drink it because, hey, it's a milkshake, but you realize how horrible it was afterwards.This Message Edited On 03.27.07

Big Baby Jesus
April 22nd 2007


This guy wants to be Freddy Mercury sooo bad. Too bad he comes nowhere close.

The songs are mildly catchy but he annoys me

January 22nd 2008


Mika is one of those love or hate acts. I happen to love him.

Do I care that he is not original? No. Do I care he sounds like Freddie Mercury? No. Do I care he is annoying? NO! To me Mika puts something into masses that seems to have been lost in music, FUN! He doesn't try to be original and reminds me of bands like AC/DC. All in all the music is well executed and for once Britain has an artist that is confident and can break America.

I do think Mika is here to stay. People who love him or hate him talk about him. The same with Eminem. We all know that he is going to be around a long time. Good luck to him!

January 22nd 2008


Excellent review Spat.

February 2nd 2008


I hate Mika with a passion lol

February 18th 2008


Mika gets boring, but there are some moments that are fun/cool/beautiful which
make me hope for his future.

Go Scissor Sisters! I had no idea they were big in the UK. This Message Edited On 02.18.08

December 7th 2008


He's not too bad and has some really catchy songs.

December 7th 2008


Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Go Scissor Sisters! I had no idea they were big in the UK.

You're kidding, right? No-one knows them in the U.S. but they sold out HUGE venues over in the U.K.

December 7th 2008


Album Rating: 1.5

That is true. I don't even like them that much but I'm well aware of how well they've done over here in the UK.

I don't like Mika but his vocal resemblance to Freddie Mercury is at times uncanny.

January 29th 2010


Album Rating: 1.5

I heard Grace Kelly on the radio a few days ago and has become a guilty pleasure. Such a fun and catchy song, love the Mercury in it.

September 14th 2011


So close to a four point five. Fuck the hate.

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