My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019)

Of all the five studio albums My Name Is Michael Holbrook is the most intimate one. Topics behind the songs are serious and extremely personal, the music is beautiful, loving and emotional. The title song Tiny Love defines the album yet I always think the full triangle formed by Tiny Love, Stay High and Tiny Love Reprise creates the foundation of the album.

In Tiny Love Mika talks about discovering himself in the most literal way: My name is Michael Holbrook, I was born in 1983. When Mika talks about this song he talks about self-worth and valuing ourselves. In our hearts we be giants with our tiny, tiny love. I love listening to Tiny Love watching the powerful, intense film directed by filmmaker Wiz and seeing the song representing Mika’s personal story. The more I listen to Tiny Love the more I feel about it, like it could only grow and expand making the single cover art that way particularly appropriate. Stay High continues the theme and gives attention to people around us, at gigs during Stay High the audience is always included. It’s important to keep up the good feeling and we can help each other to do that.

Your fingertips (your fingertips) upon my skin (upon my skin) / you bring sunshine to my window, baby, let it in / wherever we go, I wanna stay high, not low / wherever we go, we’re gonna get higher than the sun, my baby

Finally, in the end of the album, Tiny Love Reprise puts Mika’s family members in the spotlight and Mika’s mother and his sister Paloma sing a part of the song as his guest stars. Tiny Love Reprise is overwhelmingly emotional and makes me cry every single time. This song is one of the most beautiful things I know. It’s not a regular pop song but a piece of art that highlights Mika’s talent, not only as a singer but as someone who has an ability to speak and communicate purely through his music. The meaning of his family, the things that are said and the things that are not said are all there, in one song. The result is impressive and extremely touching.

My Name Is Michael Holbrook has several songs where Mika talks about his family. The most direct is Paloma where Mika describes the serious accident his sister Paloma went through some years ago. Paloma is one of the most personal songs on the album and the serious topic combined with the pretty melody has made it one of my personal favourites on the album. While chatting between songs at gigs Mika connects Platform Ballerinas and Blue to his family as well. All three songs – Paloma, Platform Ballerinas and Blue –are excellent live songs and it’s impossible for me to listen to the album without thinking of the live versions of these songs.

Blue has become like medicine to me. The first notes of it can immediately calm me down. It gives an ideal rhythm to breathing and makes my muscles totally relaxed. Blue is a mysterious song, the colour can refer to gender (blue is a feminine colour) but also state of mind. 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. Blue is deep and bold, blue is like no other, as sacred as it’s old.

Several songs on the album talk about Mika himself. Dear Jealousy gives an honest explanations why writing the album was hard. It’s also one of the most relatable songs on the album. Who hasn’t felt those feeling, we all have.

Oh baby, I’m jealous, I’m jealous, I’m jealous of us / I’m jealous of everything that I know we could be / but never really seems enough / I’m jealous, I’m jealous of everyone / jealous of the man I used to be / and the man I could become

Tomorrow and Sanremo can be seen as personal stories or observations. Sweet Tomorrow is a wonderful gig song, the mood is irresistible. Sanremo feels dreamy, even romantic but the official music video also directed by Wiz about 1950’s homophobic events connects it to more meaningful themes. If I ask my husband Sanremo is his favourite song on the album. He likes romantic songs and he prefers clear stories over symbolic details in films. Ice Cream talks about sex. Just when I thought I haven’t given the song enough attention I heard the most amazing live version at Versailles in December 2020. Mika never fails to surprise us, his songs can be discovered again and again.

Ready To Call This Love with Jack Savoretti is absolutely beautiful and one of my favourite collaborations and I dream about hearing this song at gigs. Cry is a complicated song but still a part of the story. It talks about love but gives an impression of hidden anger and anger is a complicated feeling. It can break things, it’s something uncontrollable between an unsettling experience and a new balance.

I Went To Hell Last Night is among my many favourites on the album. I’m not a religious person, I like to keep distance to all official religions and churches, yet surprisingly songs with a strong spiritual tone have often become my biggest favourites. Mika’s voice is absolutely heavenly and there’s something comfortingly loyal in the story and following someone in their darkest place. I love the fierce, satisfying vocals and as a special detail the little choir makes me think of a group of sailor boys. One of the loveliest, most comforting songs on the album.

I went to Hell last night / followed you there, I was standing by your side / the saddest thing I’ve ever seen / made me angrier than I’ve ever been / but in the darkest place, a saving grace / after all we’ve been through / though it kills me to say this / there’s a little bit of God in you

Listening to My Name Is Michael Holbrook makes me wonder if any album in the future can possibly give me the similar kind of feelings. This 5th album is personal and revealing, brave and incredible. It goes directly to my heart. At the same time I look forward to the new creative period, new music that will continue the story after My Name Is Michael Holbrook.

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