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He may sing ”I’ve gone identity mad!” on his debut album’s opening tune and single, ”Grace Kelly,” but Mika doesn’t actually sound as confused about who he is as that might suggest. He’s an assured and talented singer-songwriter inspired by many pop forebears with dramatic flair, most of them gay. Any confusion stems from his trying to make a name for himself in a music landscape that doesn’t have much room for his brand of pop, much less someone gay.
So, is he or isn’t he?
Is he or isn’t he? Mika
Of course we want to know, and it’s certainly not clear. It does seem unlikely that a straight man would write a song such as ”Billy Brown.” The song is about a man who ”had lived an ordinary life, with two kids, a dog and a cautionary wife,” but then his world was upended as he fell in love with another man. ”Billy Brown” was a ”victim of his times,” Mika sings. So, too Mika is of his.
Even if Mika is straight, his music is, unfortunately, probably too gay for today’s Top 40. That is, in the states. Not surprisingly, he is quite popular in his U.K. base. So let’s not box him in. The least us gays could do is savor his sound. What’s not to love? It’s a very Brit-pop medley that would please most fans of the Scissor Sisters, as well as another contemporary Brit of a confusing but ostensibly straight persuasion, Robbie Williams. This is no black-or-white/rock-or-pop world. It’s a multi-dimensional, kaleidoscopic universe that could delight any and all, no matter if they’re gay or straight, or a bit of both, or some undefined other. It shouldn’t matter where Mika puts himself on that continuum.
In addition to the Sisters’ and Williams’s patron saint Elton John, Mika also draws from Freddie Mercury, among many, many others. With Life In Cartoon Motion (), you could spend hours playing name that tune, or identifying the inspirations. What a fun way to spend a day. Mika’s cartoons are often caricatures of gay-popular tunes made before him. The brilliant ”Relax (Take It Easy)” incorporates the Cutting Crew’s ’80s hit ”(I Just) Died In Your Arms,” while also referencing the Frankie Goes to Hollywood classic. The jaunty ”Big Girls” seems to get at least some of its verve from Dolly Parton’s ”9 to 5.” Even faint echoes of the Cranberries and Aerosmith can be heard on the overheated ”Erase.”
The 23-year-old Mika — born in Lebanon and raised in Paris and London, where he currently lives — is a sharp songwriter who generally fashions new, catchy tunes out of old, frayed cloth. He doesn’t always succeed. ”Love Today” suffers from his ill-advised and overdone use of his falsetto, which elsewhere works every bit as nicely as the Scissor’s Jake Shears’.
But will it all fray once more after too-many repeated listens? That’s a worthy question. But it hasn’t happened to me yet after several months and plenty of chances to unravel. It’s a surprisingly sturdy quilt.
Mika may help foster a revival of Freddie Mercury’s dramatic sound, but another British sensation, the band Klaxons, has been hyped with helping to ignite a revival of the dramatic sound of rave, the glow-stick and ecstasy-fueled dance style launched in the U.K. some 15 or so years ago. Klaxons have been called the leaders of this so-called Nu Rave Movement, though it hasn’t exactly gone gangbusters just yet. And with good reason: Even if you had very little history or connection to raves, listening to Klaxon’s debut, Myths of the Near Future (), you realize it doesn’t really have much history or connection to rave music, either. For starters, the trio of twentysomethings is too young to have been around.
The closest the band gets to dance, trance and house music is when it fashions slow-burning but eventually noisy rockers, in the mold of Prodigy. True, they often sing and create melodies that come and go and come again in repetitive, circular patterns that derive from dance music (”Gravity’s Rainbow,” ”Magick”). And they also often sing about joining together or being part of a communal activity worth celebrating (”As Above, So Below,” ”Gravity’s Rainbow” again). They also sometimes create music that twists and turns and moves in unexpected directions. But mostly, the music is boring, nothing you’d care to listen to again, certainly nothing to dance to. Despite the hype, Klaxons threatens to become nothing more than a myth perpetrated on unsuspecting souls. Let’s hope the near future is already past.