Mika – Life In Cartoon Motion (2007)

FrontCover1Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr. (born 18 August 1983), known by his stage name Mika (/ˈmiːkə/ MEE-kə, stylised as MIKA), is a Lebanese-born British singer-songwriter.

After recording his first extended play, Dodgy Holiday, Mika was named the number-one predicted breakthrough act of 2007 in an annual BBC poll of music critics, Sound of 2007. Mika released his first full-length studio album, Life in Cartoon Motion, on Island Records in 2007, which sold more than 5.6 million copies worldwide and helped Mika win a Brit Award—winning Best British Breakthrough act—and receive a Grammy Award nomination. He topped the UK Singles Chart in January 2007 with “Grace Kelly”. He has since gone on to record four more studio albums (most recently My Name is Michael Holbrook released in October 2019), as well as serve as judge/mentor on both the French version of The Voice and the Italian version of X Factor. Mika has also starred in his own television variety show in Italy, Stasera Casa Mika [it], which won the 2017 Rose d’Or Award for Entertainment.


Life in Cartoon Motion is the debut album released by British recording artist Mika. The album was produced by Greg Wells and Mika himself, mixed by Wells, with co-production on two songs by Jodi Marr and John Merchant. The album was released via Casablanca Records on 5 February 2007 in the United Kingdom, and on 27 March 2007 in the United States. The album’s lead single, “Grace Kelly”, stayed at number one on the UK Singles Chart for five weeks straight and became a number-one hit in many countries.

The Life in Cartoon Motion album cover has since been used in a commercial for the iPod Touch. It was the ninth-best-selling album in the world during 2007.
Prior to obtaining his record deal, Mika sent demos to many record companies in Britain, but was never signed. One record label in particular claimed that Mika had a good voice, but insisted he write more conventional songs like Robbie Williams in order to become more commercial. Mika rejected this advice. The song “Grace Kelly” was inspired by these problems. In 2006 Mika signed with Island Records and began recording his debut album. His musical influences are based in classical music. Before Mika released his debut album, he promised the media that “It was a magical world that you could live in. A parallel universe for people that is illusory and enchanting and amazing.”


Some songs on the album are sexually ambiguous, which prompted some questioning regarding Mika’s sexuality. On this, Mika commented that he has no taboos about what he can use to tell a story or what stories he can actually tell, and said that while he believes that sexualising music is great, politically sexualising music and making the artist’s sexuality the defining point of someone’s music is “boring”. He said about his own sexuality: “laying myself out on the table to almost a tabloid level and kind of sharing my entire personal life, I’m really not into that.” The songs on the album have different subjects. “Grace Kelly”, as stated before, is about the struggle of getting a record deal. Mika stated that the song is important because “it’s a flagpole for the record in terms of lyrical content and the whole pop vision I wanted to get across.” The cover for the album and booklet were designed by Mika’s sister, Yasmine, who works under the pen name DaWack, Richard Hogg and Mika himself. In March 2007 the album was released in the United States. Before its release there was much publicity about the album, mainly due to its success in Europe. Mika commented on the hype by saying: “I think I’m lucky. Hype can be good and hype can be bad. The good thing that’s happening to me is that the hype is about the project, it’s about the music … I’m not the son of anyone famous, I haven’t really slept with anyone particularly well-known … it’s really just about music, and that’s something I think is very healthy.”


The original version of the album, released in the United Kingdom and Europe on 5 February 2007, contains a total of 12 tracks, including the hidden track “Over My Shoulder” and the bonus track “Ring Ring”. It also includes an enhanced section, with links to music videos and live performances, as well as other exclusive content. The version released via the iTunes Store in Europe features three additional acoustic recordings as bonus tracks. The American version of the album, released on 27 March 2007, is essentially the same as the British release, however, it includes the exclusive bonus track “Erase”, not included on the original release. American versions of the album bought at Best Buy stores also carry two exclusive bonus tracks – acoustic versions of “Love Today” and “Satellite”, while the American iTunes Store version also includes an exclusive acoustic version of “Grace Kelly”. The version of the album released in Japan is essentially the same as the original British release, however, it also includes the American exclusive track “Erase”, as well as the Japanese exclusive track “Your Sympathy”, and an enhanced element containing the music video for “Grace Kelly”.


The demo version of the album, issued to media journalists and critics, has a very different track listing than any of the main versions of the albums. It does not include the tracks “Lollipop”, “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)” and “Over My Shoulder”, but does include the Japanese only bonus track “Your Sympathy”, as well as including “Gave It All Away”, Mika’s original version of the track, before it was given to Boyzone. Mika’s version had never appeared on any other release, until the release of the Asian Tour Edition in March 2008, which includes the eleven standard tracks from the British album, the European bonus track “Ring Ring”, “Gave It All Away” from the demo version, “Erase” from the American version, “Your Sympathy” from the Japanese edition, and the B-side recordings “Satellite”, “Only Lonely One” and “Instant Martyr”. The album was also packed with a bonus disc, including six acoustic recordings, four live recordings, and the single mix of “Happy Ending”.


The album had significant success in Europe, with the album achieving 1.65 million certified sales in the United Kingdom and 1.45 million in France. The album was certified five-times platinum in Belgium and two-times platinum in Switzerland, and three-times platinum in Ireland, also achieving gold and/or platinum status in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Greece. The album also charted in the Czech Republic and was certified in Japan. In Oceania, the album was certified two-times platinum in Australia and gold in New Zealand. In North America. the album was certified two-times platinum in Canada. (wikipedia)


Mika’s vivid, aptly named debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, borrows and builds on the glittery, glamorous, and not-so-secretly sentimental musical territory carved out by Elton John and Freddie Mercury, or more recently, Rufus Wainwright and the Scissor Sisters. Fortunately, his name-dropping, shape-shifting pop is usually good, and genuine, enough to come across as eloquent homage rather than blatant thievery or a tired rehash. Mika’s singles are his most charming moments, especially the instant sunshine of “Grace Kelly,” which crams tap-dancing rhythms, filmic dialogue, Elton’s pianos, Freddie’s vocal harmonies, and Brian May’s guitars into just over three minutes. “Relax (Take It Easy)” is in the same vein of hypnotic, danceable melancholy as the Scissor Sisters’ reworking of “Comfortably Numb,” albeit less showy, while “Billy Brown”‘s brass arrangement, flowing melody, and soft-shoe rhythms give it the feel of an unusually witty show tune about pre-life crises and living in the closet. As Life in Cartoon Motion unfolds, it reveals more of Mika’s musical identity, both for better and worse.


His classical piano training gives the album an appealing fluidity, especially on “Any Other World,” and lilting, Afro-pop-inspired guitars and harmonies pop up here and there, most effectively on “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).” However, while Life in Cartoon Motion has lots of enthusiasm and creativity, it doesn’t have a lot of nuance. On songs like “Lollipop” and “Love Today,” Mika straddles the line between adorable and annoying. And as the overly long, overwrought “Erase” shows, he also doesn’t have quite the masterful touch with gentler songs that his influences possess. As admirable as Life in Cartoon Motion’s eclecticism is, it could use more focus — something that songs like the jaunty breakup song “Stuck in the Middle” and angry rocker “Ring Ring” suggest Mika is developing. While more restraint could’ve taken the album from good to great, its Technicolor, everything-at-once, borderline overdone feel makes it a fitting portrait of Mika as a young artist. (Heather Phares)


Matt Chamberlain (drums)
Derek Cintron (percussion)
Mika (vocals, keyboards, guitar, percussion, programming)
Tim Pierce (guitar)
Dan Rothchild (bass)
Dylan Schiavone (guitar)
Fabien-Waltmann (programming)
Greg Wells (guitar, bass, drums, programming, percussion, keyboards)
Lyle Workman (guitar)
background vocals:
Zuleika Penniman – Paloma Penniman – Fortuné Penniman – Audrey Moukataff – Alexander Millar – Ida Falk Winland
The Spoon Orchestra of Chiswick conducted by Paul Buckmaster
Studio Gospel Choir
Larry Corbett (cello)
Lee Thornburg (horns)


01. Grace Kelly (Mika/Marr/Merchant/Warner) 3.08
02. Lollipop (Mika) 3.03
03. My Interpretation (Mika/Marr/Supa) 3.35
04. Love Today (Mika) 3.55
05. Relax, Take It Easy (contains a prelude to “Any Other World” at the end) (Mika/v.Eede) 4.30
06. Other World (Mika) 4.19
07. Billy Brown (Mika) 3.14
08. Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) (Mika) 4.08
09. Stuck In The Middle (Mika) 4.09
10. Happy Ending / Over My Shoulder (hidden track) (Mika) 10.21



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