Music to scratch blackboards to
MIKA : Life in Cartoon Motion
There can be few things more embarrassing than having Queen guitarist Brian May stick up for you. Despite a slew of positive media for Mika's debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, ("One Man Scissor Sisters", "Enter the New Freddie Mercury", "Mika Shall Inherit the Earth", etc), Bri got narked by one crappy review and started ranting to anyone who'd listen about the ignorance of the hack and the brilliance of the Beirut-born singer.
This outburst might have meant something if May was still seen as a titan of the music world. As it is, it's hard not to just think of him as that grumpy old sod who fills time between selling Queen's legacy down the swanny with Ben Elton musicals and cash-in reunion projects by mucking around with telescopes and campaigning to save hedgehogs. Rock on.
But back to Mika Penniman, an unfairly handsome, rather foppish singer/songwriter who appears to be a cross between Freddie Mercury, Robbie Williams and a bag of Haribo Gummi Bears. He recently blasted to No. 1 in the UK with Grace Kelly, a catchy pop workout as annoying as a pube on a toilet seat and as camp as a row of tents.
He certainly isn't for everyone, which is a pity, because you get the sense he's not going to go away quietly.Life in Cartoon Motion is an ugly little ragbag of self-congratulatory skits and bargain basement pop that is the aural equivalent of Mr Bean. Legend has it that Grace Kelly was written as an "up yours" to a record company suit who had the temerity to turn down the then-struggling jingle writer. Personally, I'd like to find that record exec and buy him a pint of the finest ale. At least he tried.
Falsetto floods the album, as does the kind of faux soul interludes that would make all but the most forgiving of Pop Idol devotees puke their guts up. When a full gospel choir takes over at the climax of Happy Ending, you can almost see a poor little orphan wipe a tear from her cheek and walk off into the sunset. It made me want drown something.
And what the chuff is this song Big Girls (You are Beautiful) hoping to achieve? Apparently the dandy saw a documentary about fat Yank lasses at a disco and realised he wanted to champion them in a song. But can he really think that the big-boned sisterhood is going to thank him for essentially saying that they've got lovely personalities?
The ghastly song sniggers at people ordering "a diet Coke and a pizza please," and posits that "a whole lot of woman needs a whole lot more". At least when AC/DC (Whole Lotta Rosie) and Queen (Fat Bottomed Girls) did this kind of thing, it was funny. Here, it seems like Mika thinks he's actually being constructive. (Oh, and if it does become an anthem for the circumferentially challenged, you'd better memorise the opening chords so you can evacuate the dancefloor tout de suite. You know what happened with I Will Survive.)
Does the world need Mika? Of course it doesn't. The world needs Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed, global warming to be countered and Pizza Company to deliver after 10pm far more than it needs a smarmy looking git in orange trousers singing about fat girls. On the other hand, lots of people seem to like orange trousers. Brian May, for example.
Bangkok Post, April 2007