Although the ebullient Mika has never subsequently burned so brightly nor trilled so mock operatically as he did on his 2007 debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, he has continued to live the life of a platinum-selling global pop star, with fingers in many pies, including collaborations in the fashion and design worlds and a couple of reality TV shows, judging on Italian X Factor and the French edition of The Voice.
Mika: No Place in Heaven
But somewhere in all the extra-curricular whirl, he has found time to write a new album. Mika has always given off the impression that songs just flow from his fingertips – if only he would dig a little deeper rather than simply cream the froth off the top and allow it to evaporate to nothing around our ears.
Over the years, he has toned down the bubblegum and flamboyance but failed to fill the void with anything substantial, making No Place in Heaven another frustratingly underwhelming offering from a musician who always hints at the talent beneath.
The big, catchy pop chorus and mildly celebratory spirit of opening track Talk About You is the upbeat exception on a pretty insipid collection, as Mika revisits past themes of urban romance and being crazy and consumed in love.
All She Wants is breezy doo-wop pop juxtaposed with darkly humorous lyrics about a mother’s expectations (“all she wants is the sun and the moon, a son with a wife and a living room”) which sound like they belong in the country canon.
Family relationships also inform Good Wife as the narrator looks on longingly at a fracturing marriage and sighs, “I would be a good wife”.
On his debut hit Grace Kelly, Mika resolved to “try a little Freddie”. Now that Queen proxy vocalist Adam Lambert has that role sewn up, Mika offers up Last Party, a limp nostalgic salute to wilder times which would shut down any party. The flowing piano flourish of the title track is a marginally more effective Mercury tribute, while Good Guys’ lament for a lost age of gay male icons is more explicit in its subject matter, if couched in blank backing vocals and sentimental strings.
Oh Girl You’re the Devil picks up the pace a little but, far from jousting with the demon of the title, sounds like a bland boy band offering while Rio is a thoroughly non-escapist ditty about escapism, with a wafer-thin layer of restlessness and malcontent running through its harmless shuffle.
The yearning laidback summer pop of Staring at the Sun stands out in such vanilla company, while the beautifully sung Ordinary Man draws on classic confessional piano ballad territory and shows that Mika can strike a resonant emotional chord when he has a mind to.