British artist Mika's falsetto may put members of the Vienna boys' choir to shame, but in fact he is a grown male with a Grammy-nominated song under his belt and a new album, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much."
Mika broke into mainstream America when his song "Grace Kelly" hit the No. 1 spot on the UK charts and the single "Love Today" was picked up by a string of commercials. The success of both songs made 2007's "Life in Cartoon Motion" the fifth best selling album in the world that year.
"The Boy Who Knew Too Much" has all the sunny pop and operatic high notes of his first album as displayed by the first single "We Are Golden" which has been on rotation in UK radio stations since July.
"We Are Golden" is distinctly Mika. The classically trained singer is even more confident in his pipes, opting for seemingly impossible notes on verses to balance the chanting children's choir on the chorus. The opening track immediately sets the tone of the album.
Mika is a much more confident artist than the sexually ambiguous nightingale listeners met in "Grace Kelly." Mika now directly addresses the critics who predicted his failure due to his feminine-sounding vocals: "We are not what we say you are / We are golden."
More piano driven than his first album, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" keeps listeners attention with songs like "Good Gone Girl" with its quick tempos and lyrics that instantly catch your ear. Each track has Karaoke potential as the lyrics are even more fun to sing than listen to.
Mika experiments with orchestration on "Pick Up Off The Floor" and "Toy Boy," showing off his classical roots from the Royal College of Music. Although these tracks show off his versatility, they don't flow naturally with the other tracks on the album.
"Lover Boy" and "Dr. John" sound like something The Beatles and David Bowie wrote near the beginning of the ‘70s for Queen and the cast of Cabaret to perform. Mika is all about the theatrical, elaborate sounds that invoke nonsensical images and violent colors as evident through simply the titles "One Foot Boy" and "We Are Golden."
Although the single "Billy Brown" from "Life in Cartoon Motion" dealt with the complications of sexuality, Mika becomes much more declarative with "The Boy Who Knew Too Much." This is particularly true in "Lover Boy," (which Freddy Mercury must have written after a drunken night in a piano bar. Who else could be responsible for that chorus) with Mika's ambivalent reaction to both female and male superficial love. "Toy Boy" is a straight-forward, ballad-like narrative in which a lover addresses his ex-boyfriend, who is "better off with a Barbie girl." The newfound honesty in Mika's writing makes his songs more personal, whereas the new artist from "Life in Cartoon Motion" used fictional characters to remain distant from his audience.
"The Boy Who Knew Too Much" is the maturation of Mika's previous work. This sophomore album couldn't exist without the predecessor. The individual songs may not have the blockbuster hit potential of "Love Today" or "Grace Kelly," but they showcase an evolving talent that has more to offer than just catchy choruses.
Meghan Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.