The Boy Who Knew Too Much
REVIEW BY: Mike Cirelli
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/04/2009
It’s been established for a couple years now that every Mika song is a shameless rip of Queen’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1. Each one champions operatic piano, a jones for theatrics, and a vocal stack that stretches all the way to planet Mercury (Freddie, that is). Mika himself admits to aping the man in what is still his greatest song, the glam-infused, multicolored pop sing-along “Grace Kelly” when he says, “So I tried a little Freddie,” leading into a virile, near-perfect Mercurian bellow that makes his case as Freddie’s unpublicized, long-lost son. Nothing has changed the second time around.
The transition between Life In Cartoon Motion, Mika’s 2007 debut, and The Boy Who Knew Too Much is completely seamless; even the album covers look identical from a distance. He hired the same producer, Greg Wells, whose rap sheet – which is more of a pop sheet – includes Katy Perry’s “Waking Up In Vegas,” Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up,” and, in a couple months, Adam Lambert’s debut. Here, the Queen imitations are as pristine and realized as ever, and there’s even a bonus track on the deluxe edition called “Lover Boy.” Just like the King Of Camp himself (or should that be the Queen Of Camp?), Mika is fully flamboyant but sexually ambiguous throughout. “We Are Golden” appears to be an anthem for bedroom-ridden teenagers who feel like they can take on the world but don’t know in which way. With lyrics like “I was a boy at an open door / Why are you staring? / Do you still think that you know?,” it also doubles as a salute to gay pride – complete with color diction and a full-fledged gospel choir.
But “We Are Golden” and “We Are The Champions” aren’t carbon copies of each other, as aren’t “Lover Boy” and “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy.” While Queen’s opuses are regal, climactic, and quaking, Mika’s are wispier, poppier, and much more effervescent, and they might taste like cotton candy spiked with bourbon were that edible. In general, they’re optimistic and – to be frank – just more fun.
As the grand chariot rolled on into the ‘80s, Queen became kitschier, more glittery, and harder to take seriously. They revamped their sound to match the morphing musical climate, and they lost what originally made them a blast to listen to. This kind of degeneration isn’t going to happen to Mika, though, because he won’t let it. He transcends the sophomore jinx by not paying any attention to it all. There wasn’t any ambitious desire to “evolve” or “mature” as an artist between albums, verbs that often mar and overshadow that indefinable quality that makes an artist likeable.
Paul Rodgers recently added (with an actual addition symbol) his name to last year’s Queen album, the cringeworthy and melodramatic The Cosmos Rocks. Ultimately, Mika makes a much more suitable candidate than Rodgers to fill Freddie Mercury’s boots. What’s even more respectable, however, and why we can never anticipate the name Queen + Mika to appear on a CD spine, is that we know he will never choose to assume that role. It’s just too “mature” for him.