Mika’s new album delivers technicolor ear candy

'The Boy Who Knew Too Much' exhibits Mika's smart, sugary pop.
’The Boy Who Knew Too Much’ exhibits Mika’s smart, sugary pop.

Put on headphones and immerse yourself in a sugarcoated land full of pop sounds and pervasive happiness. The Sept. 21 release of Mika’s new album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, was a much-awaited record for Mika fans around the globe. Mika’s first album, Life in Cartoon Motion, was a major success, fusing elements of Queen with a quirky, happy-go-lucky feel. Hits such as “Grace Kelly,” “Love Today,” “Lollipop,” “Relax, Take It Easy” and a cover of The Eurythmics song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” propelled Mika into the spotlight.

You can count on Mika to put a catchy song in your head that never wants to come out, and The Boy Who Knew Too Much does just that. A throwback to the disco era, the song “Rain” is sure to catch your attention with the falsetto-driven chorus and smooth verses. With its simple electronic sounds and bass line coupled with Mika’s voice, the opening provides a surreal but rhythmic verse that gets your head bopping. About two and a half minutes into the song, the tempo picks up with emphasized, synthesized sounds and a repeat of the chorus until the song ends. Its future is probably in a remixed dance club hit.

With its children’s choir in the background, “We Are Golden” is sure to induce adults to raise their eyebrows at you if you blast it through your speakers – I challenge you to do so. Despite the chorus line’s slightly vexing quality, the song grows on you, with its off-beat drumming and emphasis on words such as “golden” (which almost becomes two words in its elongation), “purpose” and “circus.” The lyrics, “Who gives a damn about the family you come from/No giving up when you’re young and you want some,” illustrate the liberating and upbeat message of the song, while at the same time Mika reveals the less dignified aspects of teenage angst with phrases like “Running around like a clown on purpose” and “Running from running.”

The success of the song “Toy Boy,” a creative little tune with touches of a xylophone, is all due to its lyrics and Mika’s delivery. You can’t help but smile at the sheer absurdity of the words: “She’s the meanest hag that has ever been/ Pulled out my insides with an old safety pin/ I’m the sorest sight, now I feel like trash/ Clothes are made of rags and they don’t even match.” Far from being an average melody, the song sounds like a children’s nursery rhyme and is perfectly attuned with the playful attitude of the whole album. Still, underneath the façade is the story of a boy trying to find himself while growing up. If Life in Cartoon Motion was about childhood, then The Boy Who Knew Too Much is about maturing while still being in touch with youth.

Additionally, songs such as “Blue Eyes,” with its African feel, and “Blame It On The Girls,” with a humorous opening that stages an interview of Mika commenting on another man’s outlook on life, provide more relaxing melodies. The ballads on the album, such as “I See You,” are tranquil and provide a change from the sugary high of the tracks around them. Yet, musically, they are less varied and seem to be only echoes of other melodies on the album. Many of them are more falsetto-driven, slower-paced and have less complex arrangements and more generic chord progressions.

So, what makes Mika unique? His arrangements are vastly different from his contemporaries, and it is likely due to his music training. Mika actually studied at the Royal College of Music in London, and his classical training is evident in the prominence of pianos and orchestral arrangements in his songs. From his melodies to his lyrics, Mika mingles old-fashioned styles with contemporary and electronic sounds. He paints all colors of the rainbow and leaves you wanting to see the world as vividly as him.

You can catch a glimpse of this heightened reality at his concerts, where the stage designs and theatrics are unparalleled by any band today. Even the album covers are a clear indication of the psychedelic world that listeners will enter when they hear the music. From the seamless harmonies to the use of everything from trash cans to xylophones, Mika’s musical arrangements are able to combine a wide variety of sounds and make this indulgent, technicolor world work for pop music.