When Mika first emerged in 2007, his flamboyant upbeat pop sound and vocal abilities were often compared to Freddy Mercury. While he obviously didn’t achieve anywhere near the same level of popularity as the late Queen lead singer, he still built a following. On his third album, The Origin Of Love, Mika tones it way down as he works with a variety of writers and producers that give his music a different kind of depth and dynamic. Step With Me, for example, was co-written with dance-pop producer Mathieu Jomphe (aka Billboard) and country music writer Hillary Lindsay. The album’s overall sound is subdued compared to most of his first record Life In Cartoon Motion and songs like We Are Golden from the second album.
The types of sounds and comparisons on this record range from the Bee Gees (Lola) to Enrique Iglesias (Stardust) to the Scissor Sisters‘ more tamer material (Love You When I’m Drunk). Even though Mika co-wrote every song on the record, the vast difference in the sound of these songs present an openness to more styles of pop and musical versatility with the work of his co-writers and producers. With that said, the danger of Mika losing his own musical identity is there as songs like the Benny Benassi-produced track Stardust could easily be served up to someone else with little difference in the end result. Sometimes the similarities don’t work in his favour. The intro to the Greg Wells produced Underwater sounds much too similar to Adele‘s Set Fire To The Rain which serves as a distraction, especially when you consider that Greg did work on Adele’s 21 but not that song.
With the overall sound of this record fitting in better with today’s musical landscape than Mika’s previous works, he can benefit from the recent success of the band fun. as both he and fun. lead singer Nate Reuss received comparisons to Freddy Mercury. As this record is less flamboyant than his previous material and fits comfortably between the dance/pop sound of acts like Enrique and Guetta and alternative pop sounds of bands like fun., Mika should be able to ease in amongst the crowd. While he has adjusted himself to be suited with more mainstream pop, he didn’t sacrifice his abilities and range as a singer and still retains the stylistic pop that made up his first album. Songs like Emily, the dreamy Heroes and Popular Song, an interpretation of Popular from the Broadway play Wicked, keep the connection there and show that he hasn’t changed but rather expanded his catalogue.
The Origin Of Love is an album that might create a rift between those who were drawn to Mika’s earlier songs and those who are likely to latch on to him now. While he hasn’t fully mastered the ability to capture both sides on the album, he does do a good job mixing many different styles of pop, dance and electronic together into a record of actual good pop music. The evidence is in the album’s first song, the title track, which feels more like an event than simply an album track. Regardless of the opinion that Mika is trying to get the attention of the mainstream, It would be a shame if this record went unnoticed.
1. Origin Of Love
4. Make You Happy
8. Love You When I’m Drunk
9. Step With Me
10. Popular Song
13. Celebrate [featuring Pharrell Williams]
14. Elle Me Dit