Usually, the mark of great artists be they the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Queen is that they aren’t constrained by people’s narrow expectations. In fact, there is a lot to be said about Mika’s third studio album, The Origin of Love, with regards to that. Given the kitschy, over-the-top and Broadway-esque feel that his two previous records — Life in Cartoon Motion and The Boy Who Knew Too Much — you would expect Mika, who is part Elton John and part Freddie Mercury, to produce similar sounds on his latest album. However, The Origin of Love sounds as if the boy who forever lived in cartoon motion has grown up — just a tad, though.
You don’t need to stray further than the record’s title to figure out that Mika is all about the love. From songs like “Underwater,” a powerful ballad where Mika claims to only needs love to breath underwater, to “Love You When I’m Drunk,” a song written almost as a break-up letter, this seasoned pop star sounds like he’s gotten some solid life experiences under his belt since his last album. Admittedly, he has. When the singer’s sister, Paloma, fell 50 feet from the window of her fourth-floor London flat in late 2010, she came close to death. However, her miraculous survival changed Mika’s outlook on life.
Mika also made quite a splash in the September issue of Instinct by coming out as being gay. He had this to say: “If you ask me, am I gay, I say ‘yeah.’ Are these songs about my relationship with a man? I say ‘yeah.’ And it’s only through my music that I’ve found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life.” Despite the serious — and somewhat gloomy — inspirations behind the record, it is entirely playful. Essentially, the album’s motto is “it’s funny because it’s true,” making the events leading up to it somewhat more bearable.
The title track is a blend of the peppy pop instrumentals and pounding beats fans are used to but with contrasting smooth, ballad-like vocals and less falsetto than Mika typically uses.
“Stardust” and “Make You Happy” are very different from Mika’s usual style, containing echoing electronic melodies and bright, repetitive vocals that are practically made for radio. “Overrated” is all fast-paced beats, synthetic slides and stretched-out phrasing.
The Origin of Love also features Mika’s first French-language track, “Elle me dit” (Also included as an English language track titled “Emily”). This song ties the record to his early life and influences in a manner that befits the album’s title and is also one of the finest songs. It is a genuinely infectious and playful track with a killer chorus.
The album also includes some experiments with guest vocals and sampling, which contain more substance than schmaltz. For instance, “Popular Song” samples the track “Popular” from “Wicked”.
Ultimately, this album, as Barney Stinson would say, is legendary. It’s a mature departure from his previous work, but it still has some of his earlier quirks. It is at once an addiction that, as the title single relates, is “like chocolate [and] like cigarettes.”