Since the release of Life in Cartoon Motion in 2007, pop singer Mika has established himself overseas, especially in France and the U.K., as a melting pot of everything the genre has to offer. With a vocal range and timbre reminiscent of Freddy Mercury, Mika provides a dynamic blend of boyish playfulness and explosive energy, often using the resulting optimism to engage difficult subjects.
This stylistic ingenuity was made standard with the release of his second album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, which Mika used to discuss his teenage years, belting contagious hooks over the backdrop of layered pop beats.
This trend continues with his most recent release, The Origin of Love, an attempt to address the adult stage of his life, completing the trilogy of his existence Life in Cartoon Motion started. In approaching this topic, Mika simplifies the layering prominent on his previous albums and matures his sound to deliver an honest pop album, covering adult experiences of love, loss, and friendship with a much more concrete sense of reality.
However, the upbeat, happy tunes haven’t abandoned this album, as it’s still riddled with cheerfulness and charm.
The aforementioned cheerfulness is embodied by the opening titular track, “The Origin of Love,” which features elements of African music, providing the framework for a sincere love song. It plays with themes of creation in an attempt to convey the depths of his affection, including an allusion to Adam and Eve with the lines: “He taught them hate, taught them pride / Gave them leaves, made them hide / Let’s push the stories aside / You know the origin is you.”
He follows this up with what is potentially the most vocally intriguing song, “Lola,” majority of which utilizes his falsetto, effortlessly transitioning into different registers while smoothly blending with the background vocals, also provided by Mika. The easygoing quality of his voice is misleading as the song deals with a woman frequently switching lovers, abandoning him in favor of someone with more money.
In doing so, she uses the charm he fell in love with while she is “jumping from one lover to another.”
“Make You Happy” introduces electronic elements to the universal theme of heartbreak, as Mika sings about an unsuccessful relationship over synthetic beats and instrumentation, vulnerably singing, “Can’t you see the love around you?/ You know, you’re crazy not to take it.” Mika’s voice quickly finds a home in the layering he prominently utilized on his first two albums, while still maintaining originality as he ventures into an entirely different genre, processed vocals and all.
The giveaway that this album truly is about Mika’s adult life is “Love You When I’m Drunk,” a blunt account of a loveless, physical relationship the singer maintains with a woman, as the title suggests.
He has no qualms in acknowledging this relationship, but shows regrets in how it’s being led along, singing, “I don’t wanna be that guy / Look you in the face and lie / But someone has to say it first / Even if the words may hurt,” leading into the confession that he only loves this woman when he’s drunk. However, his apparent cheeriness gives insight into the lack of emotional engagement in this relationship, while allowing the somewhat controversial lyrics to be overlooked in favor of the apparent optimism at the surface of the song.
The theatricality Mika is renowned for exemplifying finally makes itself known as he uses the hook from “Popular,” a song from the musical Wicked, to create a rap with American singer Priscilla Renea. The aptly titled “Popular Song” serves as the biggest surprise and one of two collaborative songs on the album, with the first single, “Celebrate,” featuring Pharrell Williams, another American singer. However, Mika still manages to be the focal point of these tracks, compensating for any lack of fun up until their place on the album.
While introducing electronic elements to his already full repertoire of beats and hooks, Mika allows himself to explore new territories. Rather than sit back and churn out another pop album, he pushes himself as an artist, in which he is successful, proving he is one of the most dynamic artists around, especially within his genre.
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