- Life In Cartoon Motion (2007)
- The Boy Who Knew Too Much (2009)
- The Origin Of Love (2012)
- No Place In Heaven (2015)
- My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019)
Listening to each Mika album in time order makes me see how things have evolved and how much this artist has grown. Mika is so talented. He says he needs music to make sense of the world and I can understand that. I need words to put my thoughts in order. It’s hard to create structure in mind and that someone can put their life in music, create beauty and at the same time tell important stories is hugely impressive. Impressive and immensely inspiring.
I listen to Life in Cartoon Motion and can immediately see why the world fell in love with this artist, why I fell in love with this artist. His bold energy is irresistible. After 14 years this album is even more effective than it was in 2007. Every single song has the original power that has only grown during the years. Life In Cartoon Motion was an iconic first album. It’s absurd that after songs like Lollipop the media pressed Mika with questions about his sexuality. Those questions were intrusive and totally unnecessary. It was all in his music.
Moving on to the second album The Boy Who Knew Too Much makes me understand how badly the music industry let him down. I have little respect for those people or their thinking and values. The Boy Who Knew Too Much is a good quality pop album full of meaningful songs. It’s an intelligent and ambitious album, more difficult than Life In Cartoon Motion. Not less honest but less direct, the themes are more complicated. It hurts my heart this album didn’t get the attention it deserved when it was released. The 2010 Imaginarium Tour based on The Boy Who Knew Too Much was legendary, everyone who saw any of the shows still thinks that way.
Themes behind the songs are important to me. They are something that defines the music and I love it how consistently Mika has used them. It’s easy to see how our society has evolved during the years. Grace Kelly talks about fitting into norms and facing expectations set by the industry. Four albums later in Dear Jealousy we set our own expectations comparing ourself to everything we see around us. We compare our life to social media pictures on a daily basis. We limit our potential with our own thoughts. It happens all the time and we all do it. The expectations that used to come from outside are now growing inside of us. We allow it to happen and that is simply crazy.
I love seeing the personal development as well. Lollipop has turned to Ice Cream and even though the two songs look somehow similar the tone is totally different. Young person’s excitement has developed to adult’s confidence and that’s incredible to see. The fear that on the second album in I See You practically paralysed (“for fear of what you might do I say nothing but stare at you”) has in Ready To Call This Love become slow but firm action (“let’s be brave turn the light off”).
Album by album the themes have become more and more personal. In Any Other World the pain covers the whole world, We Are Golden talks to a generation. The title for the fifth album My Name Is Michael Holbrook is literally as personal as a title can be. Stories about characters like Billy Brown and generally mentioned girls and boys have turned to stories about real persons using their real names. I see that as a huge personal development and just thinking of it makes me moved. It’s incredibly touching to be able to listen to music and experience someone’s growth. To feel it and then to relate to it. To wonder if I have grown as a person as well.
One of the big themes in Mika songs is sex and sexuality, in the beginning not only in Lollipop but also in songs like Love Today and especially Toy Boy. The first two albums talk also about different kind of relationships. The relationship in My Interpretation is so hard that “I don’t care if I ever talk to you again”. In Happy Ending and Rain the love didn’t last, it’s in the past. Ring Ring and Touches You refer to something obsessive, maybe even toxic.
The Origin Of Love has two open declarations of love, Underwater and Origin, and for those two songs I have particularly warm feelings towards the third album. Love is an endlessly fascinating theme. On this album Mika looks at love from every possible angle and from every point of view. Origin gives a religious view: “God didn’t think they deserved it”. Despite of that the object of love is more important, more important than anything else. “You are the origin of love.” Underwater highlights the power of love. “With your love I can breath under water.” What else can give us an ability to do something totally impossible? Nothing else, only love can do that. Mika singing Underwater to a big crowd makes us all invincible, there’s nothing as strong as love like that.
The Origin Of Love album talks about a situation where "I said I love you and you said good bye" and a situation where "I only love you when I’m drunk". It talks about romantic love where love is delicious like home cooked dishes. It reminds us that this is love not war even though love is the oldest game in history and overrated in this god damn world. There are so many ways to look at love. Of course, in the middle of the emotion we can only see the person we love like there’s no one else in the world. The first song on the fourth album No Place In Heaven tells exactly about that.
Hearing No Place In Heaven for the first time made me cry. For the first time I really understood how much it must hurt not to feel accepted. It shocked me that I hadn’t seen that earlier, that I hadn’t understood the amount of pain Mika must have felt and was still feeling. There are several deep themes on the album: role models in Good Guys, Freddie Mercury’s story in Last Party and how easily we hurt each other with words in Hurts. No Place In Heaven album talks about love that can’t happen in this lifetime, about being ordinary to someone and about not getting the promiseland the whole world bringing us down instead. Some of the songs like Last Party stay in my thoughts long after every time I listen to them. I can’t stop thinking about them.
I was thrilled that the fifth album continued the love theme with Tiny Love which is “our kind of love and gets better every day”. I like also gigantic themes where my thoughts can dive into somewhere really deep. Maybe for that reason Blue - like ocean’s water - is one of my favourite songs. My Name Is Michael Holbrook is my favorite Mika album so far. It’s the most personal of his albums and has taught me many things about Mika I didn’t know before. When I heard the album for the first time I thought making such an honest album was brave and strong and I still think that way.
Even though I’m not a religious person some of my favourite songs have lyrics with almost a spiritual tone. They are songs that comfort and bring light into darkness. Relax guarantees an answer to the darkest times. It guarantees that we are in this together. I Went To Hell Last Night on the latest album gives a promise “in that darkest place I will follow you”. All that means that even though it’s dark we are never alone.
Mika has shamelessly been himself since his first album, he has never apologised, never agreed to fit any formats. He’s rational of course, he may have occasionally softened things here and there. However, compromises can never be as good as his original thoughts are and I doubt if adapting to anything could ever be truly useful. I’m happy that at this point of his career he doesn't need to even think about that, he can just make music that is purely him.
(Illustrations in the photo are from Life In Cartoon Motion album booklets. Mika looks terrified running in the pop factory and there's a symphony orchestra in any other world.)