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Life in Cartoon Motion
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Lyle Workman, Tim Pierce (guitar); Larry Corbett (cello); Lee Thornburg (horns); Matt Chamberlain (drums); Jodi Marr (percussion); Fabien Waltman (programming).
  • Recording information: AXIA; Capital Studios; Hollywood, CA; Miami Hit Masters; Red Door; Rocket Carousel Studio; Sage & Sound; Sunset Sound Studios.
  • Mika's vivid, aptly named debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, borrows and builds on the glittery, glamorous, and not-so-secretly sentimental musical territory carved out by Elton John and Freddie Mercury, or more recently, Rufus Wainwright and the Scissor Sisters. Fortunately, his name-dropping, shape-shifting pop is usually good, and genuine, enough to come across as eloquent homage rather than blatant thievery or a tired rehash. Mika's singles are his most charming moments, especially the instant sunshine of "Grace Kelly," which crams tap-dancing rhythms, filmic dialogue, Elton's pianos, Freddie's vocal harmonies, and Brian May's guitars into just over three minutes. "Relax (Take It Easy)" is in the same vein of hypnotic, danceable melancholy as the Scissor Sisters' reworking of "Comfortably Numb," albeit less showy, while "Billy Brown"'s brass arrangement, flowing melody, and soft-shoe rhythms give it the feel of an unusually witty show tune about pre-life crises and living in the closet. As Life in Cartoon Motion unfolds, it reveals more of Mika's musical identity, both for better and worse. His classical piano training gives the album an appealing fluidity, especially on "Any Other World," and lilting, Afro-pop-inspired guitars and harmonies pop up here and there, most effectively on "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)." However, while Life in Cartoon Motion has lots of enthusiasm and creativity, it doesn't have a lot of nuance. On songs like "Lollipop" and "Love Today," Mika straddles the line between adorable and annoying. And as the overly long, overwrought "Erase" shows, he also doesn't have quite the masterful touch with gentler songs that his influences possess. As admirable as Life in Cartoon Motion's eclecticism is, it could use more focus -- something that songs like the jaunty breakup song "Stuck in the Middle" and angry rocker "Ring Ring" suggest Mika is developing. While more restraint could've taken the album from good to great, its Technicolor, everything-at-once, borderline overdone feel makes it a fitting portrait of Mika as a young artist. ~ Heather Phares
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone (p.74) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[H]e serves up huge, ultraflamboyant razzle-dazzle, often transmitted through pounded piano..."

Spin (p.88) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[T]his U.K.-chart-topping magpie makes good with bountiful tunes and Broadway vocal dazzle..."

Q (p.113) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "'Any Other World' is an orchestrated piece in the style of Rufus Wainwright, and 'Happy Ending' is sweet and highly original pop."

Mojo (Publisher) (p.100) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "For anyone who fancies an irresistible mix of vaudeville and disco, this is just perfect."
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