MIKA: No Place In Heaven

Posted July 21, 2015 by in Pop



4/ 5


Producer: , , , , ,
Label: ,
Genre: Pop
Producer: Greg Wells, MIKA, Tim Van Der Kuil, Gustave Rudman, The Nexus for 365 Artists, Martin Terefe
Label: Casablanca, Republic
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 48:35
Release Date: 16 June 2015
Spin This: "Oh Girl, You're the Devil," "Talk About You," "Staring in the Sun," "Good Guys"


Pleasant collection of moving simpler pop and a few thumbs-up curve balls; storytelling and smart lyricism intensifies on "Good Guys" and "No Place Like Heaven".


Voice still isn't strong enough to power big rhyhmic jams, often feels singer-songwriter-like

Back to simpler pop with a dash of edge on Brit star’s fourth disc

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Back to simpler pop with a dash of edge on Brit star’s fourth disc

Brit singer Michael Penniman Jr., stage name styled as MIKA, hasn’t made a big break in the U.S. of A. The closest he’s ever achieved was “Grace Kelly,” a nine-year old gem pickled with a bubbly Beatles-meets-Queen pop. Although it stalled at number 54 pop, it went to number one in his native land. Since then, MIKA has released a handful of albums that have added extra gems in his crown as a UK pop star. They have been decent exercises but pointed out how often American ears aren’t exactly hip to European musical trends. Had the groovy R&B-meets-bubbly ’80 pop workout of “Lola” been released as a single off of 2012’s The Origin of Love, MIKA may have had been blessed with half the success of new soul crooner and fellow Brit singer-songwriter Sam Smith. No, he’s not an emboldened blue-eyed soul crooner in any sense of the word — his vocal style is more like a unique mesh of Rufus Wainwright and Tyler Glenn. But his track record of unveiling an attraction to warm melodies, classic pop sensibility and colorful harmonies makes up for any shortcomings.

Never a complete stranger to bubbly melodies, MIKA returns to those good vibrations on his fourth LP, No Place in Heaven. On this round, he reinforces it. Surrounded once again with producer Greg Wells and a short list of contributing producers (The Nexus, Martin Terefe, Gustave Rudman), this effort retreats back to the paint strokes of playful pop of the ’60s, the style that was most poignant in his first album. It’s missing the high value names of his previous set (Pharrell Williams, Benny Benassi, Nick Littlemore), but it doesn’t need such ammunition for this type of record. You can hear “Footloose” rhythms and Beach Boys-esque harmonies on “All She Wants.” Fun strokes of summertime are embedded in the Martin Terefe-produced “Staring at the Sun,” a song that beats like a throwback Donna Summer track. Old soul feels out the curves of “Rio,” which spins like a distant cousin of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” But the disc leaves a little room to play outside the conventional MIKA box. One Direction pop is showered on “Talk About You” while “Promiseland” digs into the pop-rock flavor of Maroon 5. MIKA’s classically-blessed piano and the Mumford & Sons-like rhythmic shuffle finds its place inside the singer-songwriter mode of the satisfying title track. As an openly gay singer, he uses the good mechanics of the song to frame an awkward conversation with God, where he asks for forgiveness for his sin and reaches into the pits of uncertainty for a solemn request (“Father, if there’s a heaven, let me in”). His gift of storytelling opens up room for some serious name dropping on “Good Guys.” Inside the Disney pop majesty, he creates a celebratory homage of past gay icons: “Thank you Rufus, thank you Auden and James Dean/Thank you Emerson and Bowie for my dreams/Wilfred Owen, Kinsey, Whitman and Rimbaud / Thank you Warhol, thank you patience, thank you Porter and Cocteau.”

But it’s safe to say that “Oh Girl You’re the Devil” is the album’s mightiest offering. It falls in the same category of the non-single “Lola.” His label (Casablanca) will probably sleep on it, but there’s no denying the clever funk and those infectious riffs resembling Eddie Kendricks’s 1976 disco dirty “He’s a Friend.”

Although MIKA places more of a spotlight on uptempo tracks on No Place Like Heaven, he does make time for warm Elton John piano ballads like “Hurts”  and the bittersweet tribute to Freddie Mercury on “Last Party (“Who knew that mercury could rise so fast/Enjoy the party ’cause this is out last”).

Expect the record label to once again focus on releasing singles that tickle the fancy of his devout UK fan base. But there’s more on No Place In Heaven for us to dig, enough to make him a viable import. It will be up to us, based on our own inclination, to take that leap of faith to make that archaeological dig. What we will inherit will be exceptionally good to our ears.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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