More about: Mika
In 2007 MIKA was in his prime, releasing his debut album Life In Cartoon Motion. Each track was brought to life by MIKA’s flamboyant, invigorating energy and Mercury-esque vocals creating a style that was not just fun but refreshingly uplifting.
Now his fifth album, My Name Is Michael Holbrook, may suggest an entirely intrinsic theme but in making such a personal record, the themes ironically still seem universal. There is a thorough conversation about sex and love MIKA presides over on this album, one that explores desire and affection without suffocating in its own veiled mystique of perfume. He offers both ends of the romantic spectrum, tracks such as ‘Tiny Love’, see grandiose romantic gestures thrown out of the window for a type of affection that feels grounded and realistic, more cuddle on the couch than serenade on the balcony.
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Alternatively, there are innuendos abound on ‘Ice Cream’, “the faucet keeps on drippin” just one teaser of the song’s flirtatious, sexual instincts that come entwined with synth hooks nodding back to 80s and 90s pop. Since the release of Life In Cartoon Motion, MIKA’s presence in the mainstream gaze has been lessened despite his second album The Boy Who Knew Too Much cracking the UK top 10, his efforts since have seen a steady decline in sales.
However, My Name Is Michael Holbrook recaptures the essence of MIKA’s first two albums, no more so than on ‘Platform Ballerinas’. Which can be described as the ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)’ of this album, with its frankly empowering lyrics about the beauty standards forced onto women by society and the expectations to look perfect 24/7 whilst acting in a “girly” manner. ‘Platform Ballerinas’ celebrates female individuality within a rush of endorphins generated by the cacophonous backing harmonies.
Despite being known for exhibiting a force of positivity, the musician explores some darker tones to differing levels of effect. ‘Paloma’ is about MIKA’s sister, who in 2010 unfortunately fell out of a window and sustained life-threatening injuries. He depicts her as angelic, before being thrown from a skyline that cracks and shatters as if it was a snow globe before eventually returning to rise again by the songs end. The most emotionally affecting track, it is a heartfelt ode to his sister.
There are other tracks where MIKA’s usual outpours of positivity are stifled. ‘Cry’ is underlined with the kind of synth tones you’d expect in a risqué nightclub as he tries his hand at R&B but on an album where interesting conversations and perspectives on love are offered up so freely, this track leaves a little to be desired. As with the soulful track ‘Blue’, where conflated ideas around the connotations of the colour become a little muddled. MIKA is much better whilst basking in the glory of the sun than in the dank undertones of the city.
When the singer is projecting his unbridled positivity, not many pop artists can come close to being as inspiring or unifying, at its most complex My Name Is Michael Holbrook explores love, sexuality and social norms under the guise of either seductive, harmony-driven synth pop or sultry nocturnal R&B. “Our generation has so much gloom”, MIKA sings on ‘Stay High’ but he rarely steps into the oblique zeitgeist, instead choosing to yet again deliver us blissful pop music.
My Name Is Michael Holbrook is released on 4 October 2019 via Virgin EMI.
More about: Mika