When looking back on their younger years, people often tend to recoil in embarrassment over how immature — and even superficial — they might have been (for some, quoting Avril Lavigne lyrics on Facebook originally seemed so profound).
Thankfully, people tend to grow as the years pass, something that MIKA illustrates all too well on his third studio album, The Origin of Love.
It’s a heavy title for one album to live up to, but MIKA is not one to shy away from a challenge. After blazing onto the scene with his monstrosity of a freshman album, Life in Cartoon Motion, MIKA followed up the beautiful masterpiece with The Boy Who Knew Too Much. Though a tad less successful commercially, The Boy Who Knew Too Much still showcased MIKA’s incredible songwriting talents.
The Lebanese-French-British singer is no one-trick pony. Writing each lyric, composing each note and even drawing the artwork for his album covers, MIKA is one of the most hands-on artists around. It’s important to keep this in mind while listening to his latest record: If you’ve been with MIKA since his “Grace Kelly” days, then chances are you will be oddly disappointed with his newfound pseudo-synth sound.
That’s not to say that The Origin of Love is bad — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Alternately operatic, moving and dance-inducing, the album is a triumph. It’s just unfortunate that MIKA had to abandon his previous fun style in order to get there.
Opening with the George Michael-esque “Origin of Love,” the album gets off to an upbeat start. MIKA’s true talent has always been pairing rather depressing lyrics with fun beats and the beginning track is no different.
Lyrics like “Well if God is a priest and the devil is a slut / Well that’s a reason for loving / Like every word that you preach / Like every word that you teach / With every rule that you breach / You know the origin is you” show evidence of the talented singer’s careful consideration. Yet with a fun techno and piano backing, “The Origin of Love” doesn’t feel ridiculous, but fresh.
The album’s next few songs, however, sound oddly alike — a trend not found in MIKA’s older music. Even though the songs are pretty standardized, one cannot complain about their individual quality since they stand well together and on their own.
But the world seems to stop spinning the moment the fourth track, “Make You Happy,” begins to play. Describing the song as masterful would not be an exaggeration; it’d be rare to find such a masterpiece on any pop album around today.
“Maybe you can’t hear me / But I feel like screaming when you’re near me / Save me from your theories / At the very least just let me cry on you” are lyrics that one usually does not dance to. But again MIKA manages to put together a sense of happiness — the listener doesn’t know whether to cry or dance.
Thankfully, the album isn’t all depressing. MIKA seems to be having the most fun on his Wicked-inspired “Popular Song.” Using the same chorus backing, MIKA changes the lyrics to “I know about popular / It’s not about who you are or your fancy car / You’re only ever who you were / Popular, I know about popular.”
And for those who thought that his spring-released single “Elle Ma Dit” wasn’t going to make it onto the singer’s album, not only does MIKA include the track, but he also wrote an English version titled “Emily.”
The Origin of Love will probably not excite the listener on the first — or even third — listen. Instead, it’s one of those gems that simply sneaks up on you. More than just a collection of songs — refreshing compared to the single-obsessed industry that one is exposed to nowadays — The Origin of Love is the physical manifestation of looking at the big picture. All of the album’s songs, though they might share similarities, deal with largely different topics, but all unite under the main umbrella theme of love.
MIKA certainly provides all facets of the crazy phenomenon known as love. Ranging from adult disapproval of young, idealized visions of love (“Kids”) to hilarious descriptions of love gone wrong (“Love You When I’m Drunk”), the album leaves no stones unturned, no questions left unanswered. The man feels inspired, and he’s going to let the world know.
It’d be surprising if The Origin of Love wasn’t MIKA’s biggest hit to date. By utilizing the ever-so-popular techno style that’s dominated airwaves recently will probably open MIKA up to a whole new audience that had previously scoffed at his high screeches and tunes about made up characters.
This time, however, the only character is MIKA himself. He’s matured, and he’s ready to talk about big boy stuff now.
“All I wanna do is make you happy,” MIKA sings.
On The Origin of Love, MIKA does.