Fourteen years ago Mika brought a lot of colour, showmanship and theatricality to the world of music with his debut album, 'Life In Cartoon Motion'.
Back in February 2007 Mika released his debut, breakthrough album, Life In Cartoon Motion. The flamboyant, theatrical and playful record was a sensational introduction to a formidable talent. Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr, aka Mika, was named the BBC's Sound Of 2007 beating the likes of Enter Shikari and The (Mercury Prize winning) Klaxons and he sure didn't disappoint as he had an incredible year.
Not only did Mika deliver an album that would sell over five million copies he also bagged himself a Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough Act, had a number one single and he got a Grammy nomination to boot. Quite the year for a young man who was only 23 at the time.
Before Mika released his debut album he had only ever previously been known for one EP, Dodgy Holiday. After struggling to find a record company that would sign him, and not expect him to be somebody he wasn't, Mika eventually signed for Island Records. He recorded Life In Cartoon Motion in 2006, including the track that would propel him to super-stardom, Grace Kelly. His massive number one hit, not only in the UK but also in many other countries around the world, was in part about his difficulties in obtaining a suitable recording contract.
It was at one stage suggested that Mika write and record songs in a style akin to Robbie Williams, a suggestion he dismissed, but you can still see why he might have been asked, and where he may have subconsciously done just that, especially on tracks such as My Interpretation and Relax, Take It Easy.
At the time of it's original release Life In Cartoon Motion divided opinion. The Guardian's Alexis Petridis gave it just the one star, saying of Mika and his album, "A terrible old ham at 23, Penniman can't get himself off the stage. The album's grand finale, 'Happy Endings, is followed by a secret track, then a "bonus" track, 'Ring Ring. The latter is not the Abba song, but sounds as if it might have been Belgium's 1984 Eurovision entry. You keep expecting Terry Wogan to interrupt with a sardonic aside", Drowned In Sound were equally unimpressed commenting, "Life In Cartoon Motion is a smug, opportunist amalgam of the vices and non-virtues of Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters and vaudeville-era Queen". (The Observer and Evening Standard meanwhile took an altogether different view, both awarding the album four stars).
Mika made no excuse for his want or desire for his performance to be as big and bold as Queen's for instance, he relished the chance to put on a show and entertain, he just didn't want to do that as a photocopy of someone else, he wanted to do it his way. "I tried to be like Grace Kelly, But all her looks were too sad, So I tried a little Freddie, I've gone identity mad!"
Grace Kelly, released a month prior to the album, was not only his biggest from 'Life In Cartoon Motion' but it was also it's lead track and it's defining moment. Love Today, the next single taken from the debut album reached number six in the UK charts whilst the third, Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) reached number nine. Both singles showcased the theatrical bent that Mika introduced, unapologetically into his music. Whilst always playing to a commercial Pop audience has the obvious pitfalls of the ever fickle gen-pop he brought enough individuality and creativity to the scene to make a credible difference.
Life In Cartoon Motion gave up six tracks as singles from it's original twelve, with Lollipop being it's final release almost a year after the first, coming out on NYE. It was no Grace Kelly but it was nevertheless a slice of playful pop with it's tongue firmly in it's cheek.
Show tunes, or Poptastic bangers, you decide. Whatever your choice it remains that Life In Cartoon Motion was of it's time and brought some colour and theatrical flamboyance to the musical landscape of 2007.
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