Now playing: My Name Is Michael Holbrook
Usually I cook in silence. Thinking quietly while doing something with my hands gives the best ideas. These days my kitchen is like a music cafe. Suddenly I listen to everything. I listen to My Name Is Michael Holbrook. I listen to every Mika album and his every The Art Of Song playlist.
Of all the five Mika albums My Name Is Michael Holbrook is the most intimate one. It invites people to come closer. It’s written like it could be a friend people need. After several months of listening it’s still my favorite album and the most beautiful, most loving, most emotional music I’ve heard.
Topics behind the songs are serious and personal. At first I wasn’t sure from what perspective I can look at them. We all know Mika is a private person. Is it different when his thoughts and feelings are written in music, shared in interviews, talked as long monologues during concerts?
I battled about this with myself and came to conclusion music is meant to connect people. It’s only half done unless the audience is allowed to go deep in themes, to give them proper thought.
Seeing live performances has inevitably shaped my thoughts. Having everything in front of me, experiencing the live energy, truly living and breathing the music has a huge impact on how I see different songs and what kind of thoughts they provoke in me.
Tiny Love is beautiful and complicated. It’s not just a song, it’s a theory of love. It’s a full concept that includes a playful melody, powerful lyrics with many levels, a meaningful cover illustration and beautifully made, symbolic video. There are several ways to see the story. Different shades and tones keep changing depending on the light. The more I listen to this song the more I love it, like it could only grow and expand making the single cover art that way particularly appropriate.
Ice Cream is about sex in a direct way. However, in a week or two my mind started to see the topic on a different level. Instead of sex from an individual’s point of view it makes me think of sexuality and sex as seen in our society. The lyrics are descriptive yet something makes me connect them to bigger, more abstract themes.
Sexuality, no matter how it’s experienced, is a huge and important part of life. It’s also something no one else from outside can define.
No one can tell us we are this and not that. No one can tell us that because we seem that we are that or that because we are this we can’t also be that. No one should define us or make us define ourselves unless we want so. With sexuality or anything that is a part of us and a part of how we are built as human beings.
There’s a tip of an iceberg in us for everyone to see but the area below the surface is giant. There’s a whole underwater personality no other person than us can see or define. No one else can tell us who we are or how long it takes for us to learn to know ourselves.
I listen to Ice Cream and I think of this artist who as a kid went through hard times at school and was later pressured by the media for years. Then I think of that man stepping on his rainbow stage full of energy and confidence and feel so proud of who he is.
Ice Cream in the beginning of the Revelation show is the colorful celebration I imagined it could be. I wait it to start the show so eagerly I can hardly stay still but I wait also the song itself. It might have been written on a hot and sunny late summer day inspired by that moment but when I listen to it, it symbolizes more.
There was a long break between No Place In Heaven and My Name Is Michael Holbrook and I can’t imagine how it felt for Mika to be on television on a weekly basis in front of millions of people, go through serious issues in his personal and family life and at the same time feel pressure to release new music.
How far away that situation was from the situation ten years before when he put all his dreams, ambitions and frustrations on Life In Cartoon Motion. How difficult it must have been to find the similar kind of starting point until deciding to create music from a totally new point that exact moment even though it meant sharing things he hadn’t publicly shared before.
When I listen to Dear Jealousy I think of all that and how the song can perfectly describe that dilemma and finding a solution to it. Whenever I listen to Dear Jealousy I feel grateful for the whole album. I’m grateful I could learn all those things I couldn’t have learnt without it.
Jealousy as a feeling is like a self-caused bad weather. On a sunny, pretty day we think of jealous thoughts and suddenly it becomes dark and cloudy but only for us. For others it’s still sunny and pretty. And what can we do. We can’t change the circumstances. We can only do our part as well as possible so we know we have given everything we can and after that it’s not up to us anymore. We can’t force other people to accept or like or love us.
Dear Jealousy makes me think of super heroes. I love super heroes. Since the first concert I saw I knew I had found a real life super hero. The things done on stage during Mika shows are out of this world. Flying over the stage, going high on the piano, jumping like with boots with springs and kicking so high it looks impossible. My mind pictures the kick we see on stage even when I listen to this song at home.
I was recently reading the latest book by my favorite author Peter Hoeg and one of the themes in the book is a theoretical possibility through neuroscience methods to step in another person’s awareness and that way be able to feel their pain and see the world through their eyes. The book is fictional and obviously, the science is not there yet.
However, as incredible as it is music can achieve something even science yet can’t. When I listen to this album and especially some songs on it I feel a taste of pain and I feel sadness and they are not mine, they are someone else’s.
When the album was released Paloma was the song that felt the most private. I wasn’t sure it’s there for me to listen to but I convinced myself that as it’s on the album it’s there for everyone to listen to.
Somehow, during the Revelation Tour, Paloma became my favorite live song. The live version starts in a very serious and at the same time delicate and pretty way ending flying on the piano. The performance gives the vibe of leaving things behind and gradually letting go of the pain. I don’t know if it’s meant that way but that’s how I feel it in the audience. It leaves me speechless and I always need a moment to collect myself after listening to it.
Hearing Sanremo for the first time was like being in the middle of someone’s dream. The atmosphere was soft and dreamy, almost drunk. After learning the background story I corrected my thoughts. It wasn’t someone’s dream, it was someone’s distant memory put in a fictional form. And again, it’s someone else’s personal memory, not mine but I feel privileged to visit it and enjoy it.
Of all the songs on My Name Is Michael Holbrook Tomorrow is the one that for me is most defined by the live version of it. I love this song and while listening to it can picture every single gesture done on stage during it. Every single gesture. Tomorrow is all about the atmosphere and mood in it.
I blast Tomorrow loudly which is unusual for me and my husband laughs and reminds me that backseat of any, even a stylish vintage car is the most uncomfortable place and I say I know! I don’t care. Live performances for this song are amazing. Even the lights are perfect, the atmosphere is exact. I have little videos filmed during different gigs and I can’t stop watching them.
Ready To Call This Love is a beautiful song. I appreciate it that for once we saw a male collaboration and I do like Jack Savoretti and find his voice very pleasant. As said, Ready To Call This Love is a beautiful song. It just feels distant. After months, my body is still tense when I listen to it. Collaborations are complicated, it’s difficult to explain.
Cry is the song that since the releasing of the album has been the most difficult and challenging for me. Other songs on the album I can either easily put in the context or they create images I can continue as stories in my head. Cry doesn’t offer me enough for either. It gives me the feeling Mika wanted to say more but eventually wasn’t brave enough. That he’s not letting it out. There’s this huge, frustrated feeling, maybe even love, that is not directly enough addressed. I can guess but there are not enough points to connect.
I would like to know this emotion better. Cry was included on the album so it must be important. Seeing Cry on the Revelation Tour stage background highlights the importance of it. When I look at the background my brains automatically see the feminine side and the masculine side and I can see Cry located on the masculine side but I have no idea if the background is meant that way or if that simply is a coincidence.
When I listen to Platform Ballerinas and the lyrics about shoes and dresses I think of the time my children were young and I had a constant thought I’m not as good as a mother as I am supposed to be. I looked at the other mothers and always thought I don’t look like them. I bought a pair of shoes I thought were acceptable style, feminine yet responsible, and I used them when participated school meetings and other events hoping they would give the right message of me.
I guess I thought my children are so precious they deserve an equally great mother so I set myself a standard I didn’t seem to reach. My thoughts back then make now no sense. I was there all the time. I did everything I need to do to be a good mother, the shoes I was wearing had no importance whatsoever. For some reason, listening to Platform Ballerinas can sometimes bring back the memory of feeling the opposite. To make that memory go away I let myself to imagine a full drag queen party that fits the lyrics so well.
Mika says he wrote Platform Ballerinas about the women in his family cooking Lebanese food together, listening to music, dancing, singing even without knowing the lyrics and I love that cozy thought of his family doing things together. I can almost smell the spicy food and hear their laugh. Even more than that I love watching Mika in his kitchen during Cooking With Mika. I already miss him and I will miss him even more and watching him doing ordinary, daily things gives me comfort.
Of all the songs on My Name Is Michael Holbrook Platform Ballerinas is the one that has grown in me most during the past months. I love the live version of this song. Obviously, my favorite live performance is from Brisbane, Australia, where in the middle of the amazing show a drag queen was invited on stage and finally, the scene I had imagined in my head, happened in real life.
When the album was released I went To Hell Last Night was one of my biggest favorites on it. I guess hearing several other songs live has left that one in the shadow of them. My first thought was the song is about drugs and if I understand right Mika has confirmed that in an interview. Of course the lyrics could be about other, dark topics as well. What makes this song so intriguing is talking about going through hell in such a soft way. I love Mika’s voice in this song, so pleasant, so enjoyable, so contrasting with the topic of the song.
Even though it’s only a detail in the song “bastards back at school” keeps playing in my head and I’ve been thinking about those people – either other pupils, teachers or both – a lot while going through magazine articles you can see in this post. Mika is the most photogenic person I know. Every gorgeous magazine cover with his face on it makes me wish I could somehow mail it to those people just to remind them what he is now and they are not.
The song on My Name Is Michael Holbrook that has become like medicine to me is Blue. It can immediately calm me down. It gives an ideal rhythm to my breathing and makes my muscles totally relaxed. Blue is a mysterious song, the color is referring to gender (blue is a feminine color) but mainly state of mind. Again, Mika has said at gigs he is singing to the women in his family but if that means some in particular or the woman nature in general, I’m not sure.
The expression “color of unknown” said to introduce Blue makes me think of that part of iceberg that is below the surface. The part of us that is somewhere deep, the part of us that is kept only for ourselves and not properly showed to anyone. There’s such pure, absolute beauty in Blue that I forget everything else when I listen to it and can sometimes reach a certain meditative state even in the middle of the gig, in the middle of the crowd, which shows how brilliant the song is.
Stay High is becoming the anthem of the time we are living around the world at the moment. No matter how hard it is we need to keep our spirits high. During gigs this song is one of my very favorite moments. It’s almost like I had waited for the end just to feel the adrenaline in it. Now when the gigs are over I wish I could still feel it, I keep trying to memorize how it was.
Tiny Love Reprise is the most incredible and most touching song I’ve ever heard. It’s a piece of art that describes life in a beautiful and at the same time realistic way and includes so much love it’s impossible to even fully comprehend it. It took me a while to accept why this enormous love was called tiny but I guess it describes how we take our everyday love for granted until we realize it’s the most important we have.
It’s been months since the album was out and I listen to Tiny Love Reprise and cry and still can’t help but thinking that succeeding to put all those emotions in one song Mika is even more talented than any of us can understand. Way more talented. X
The magazines in the pictures : Tetu 221/Hiver 2019, Attitude The Awards issue/November 2019, Vanity Fair Italia n. 38/25 Settembre 2019, Paris Match n. 3672/2019