The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis Gives Mika’s Debut ONE Star


Boy, does The Guardian’s music reviewer Alexis Petridis know how to disassemble a hype machine: in a blistering review, Petridis awards Mika‘s debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, with a piddling, embarrassing one star. Petridis most takes issue with the look-at-me posing that seems to infect Mika’s songwriting:

In both vocal style and the peculiar combination of overbearing self-confidence and desperate neediness that emanates from “Grace Kelly”‘s chorus of “Why don’t you like me?” or from “Love Today” (“Everybody’s going to love today … you’ve got to love me!” he cries, while the oompah-disco backing goes all out to unite everybody in a desire to thump him), Penniman resembles Robbie Williams, albeit a Robbie Williams who has abandoned his array of knowing winks in the audience’s direction and instead keeps frantically grinning and doing jazz hands every 30 seconds.

Yes, Robbie is brilliant because he balances his self-absorption with self-awareness and wit, two things Mika seems to lack. And Robbie at least was known from his Take That days, giving him a ready-made persona to riff on. Mika comes out of nowhere like some precocious chorus boy auditioning for the high school musical: “I can sing, I can act, I can dance, I can do the splits! Please love me!” It’s just too much. And Mika’s “neediness” doesn’t come across as emotionally rooted desire; it’s more like blatant career ambition, the neediness of an American Idol hopeful.

Petridis also says Mika’s attempt to “try a little Freddie” is ill-advised:

It is tribute to the acting abilities of Mercury – whose interest in fat-bottomed girls was surely minimal in real life – that on the song of that name he sounded racked with lust. Penniman, on the other had, sounds like a man assuring someone through gritted teeth that her bum doesn’t look big in that, while covertly eyeing up the size-zero shop assistant.

Again, I agree. Why does Mika even invite comparisons to Freddie Mercury, one of the most virtuosic, versatile, endlessly entertaining rock singers of the 20th century? Why do a song that recalls “Fat Bottomed Girls,” for instance? Even with his arsenal of high notes, there’s no way Mika can win. He lacks Mercury’s chameleon-like ability to do soul (“Somebody to Love”), rockabilly (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), and rock opera (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). Blargh. Oh, and another thing: I didn’t mind the derivative but catchy “Relax, Take It Easy,” but that “Grace Kelly” song is unlistenable. I don’t care how many weeks it spends atop the UK pop charts. Good for Petridis for seeing past the press releases.

Lily Allen got quite the warm welcome to the States this week when the plane she was riding on into Los Angeles was struck by lightning. The Daily Record got the inside info:

A fellow passenger revealed: “On our descent into LA, there was a deafening bang as the plane was struck by lightning. It hit one wing, travelled across the plane and left via the other. A massive wobble and a sudden drop in altitude followed. Lily and her friend John, who are not great flyers, both burst into tears.”

I’m man enough to admit that I would have cried, too. Scratch that, I would have freaked out. Hopefully, Ms. Allen will have recovered enough to take on the media blitz she’s doing this weekend, with appearances scheduled on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live.

In other words:

  • And I am telling you, I’m not going: Tony Blair, who is currently being dogged by a cash-for-political honors investigation, says he’s not resigning from office. “You will have to put up with me a bit longer,” he says.(The Times)
  • In light of this weekend’s historic Super Bowl, which features two black coaches, Gerard Baker of The Times wonders if Europe is really more racially inclusive than America. “While Europeans may believe they have fairer societies, how many similar role models do ethnic minorities have? How many black coaches are there among English Premiership teams? How many black senior judges? Is there any member of an ethnic minority who has as good a chance in the next few years of becoming head of a European government as Barack Obama does of becoming US president?”
  • The Guardian asks, why are British and Australian actors dominating Hollywood? One possible reason: “The most common explanation for why this has happened is that the rise of American independent cinema (green-lighting more serious, meatier films than before) benefits UK and Oz talent, more familiar with such scripts in cinema and television than their American counterparts. But, to the presumable despair of the ghost of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the best thing to be in Hollywood today is un-American.”
  • UK cinemas are pulling Ben Stiller‘s smash hit comedy, A Night at the Museum due to 20th Century Fox’s decision to release the DVD just three months after the theatrical release date.(Guardian)
  • Thandie Newton discovered it’s not easy being green when she tried to get her celebrity friends to buy eco-friendly cars.
  • Ringo Starr will give Oasis their Lifetime Achievement Brit.(The Sun)
  • Snow Patrol cleaned up at the Irish version of the Brits.(The Sun)
  • Indie darlings Field Music make it OK to like Phil Collins.(The Independent)
  • Joss Stone now boasts curly red hair…Victoria Newton reckoned she looks like Cher circa “If I Could Turn Back Time.”(The Sun)
  • Burberry will no longer sponsor a pre-BAFTA party because its workers, protesting the closure of a Welsh factory, plan to demonstrate outside of it.(BBC)
  • The Guardian‘s new band of the day is Switches, whom Paul Lester compares to everyone from Cheap Trick to Blur to Nirvana to ELO.
  • Kate Middleton enjoys a night on the town with Prince William. She looks good.(Daily Mail)
  • A UK campaign against domestic violence features photos of famous British women (like Honor Blackman) covered in horrifying bruises.(Daily Mail)
  • An Israeli comedian claims ownership of Borat’s “Wa wa wee wa” and becomes the latest person to sue Sacha Baron Cohen.
  • Prince Charles and Wal-Mart…together at last.
  • Will Girls Aloud‘s Cheryl Cole be the Paula Abdul on Britain’s Got Talent, alongside Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan?
  • Even Tiger Woods is excited about David Beckham‘s arrival in L.A. “The (NFL’s) Rams and the Raiders moved out. Now we’re looking for something else, and I think with David’s star power there, I think it will bring another notch and another thing for all of us in southern California to come out and watch.”
  • A Morrissey photo exhibition right here in NYC!(Contact Music)
  • Like fellow blue-eyed soul man James Morrison, Paolo Nutini has impressed NYC concertgoers. From Rolling Stone‘s live review of his show at the Bowery Ballroom:”He’s only 19, but Nutini’s soulful voice had both range and huskiness. Raucous renditions of pop-rock nuggets ‘Alloway Groove’ and ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ alternated with slower, R&B-infused songs like ‘Million Faces’ and a stripped-down version of ‘New Shoes’ that showcased Nutini’s ability to transition between genres.”
  • Arcade Fire lead singer Win Butler had a skirmish with security guards at one of the band’s London shows.(NME)
  • Kele Okereke of Bloc Party is mouthy these days, isn’t he? He’s ranting against “mindless” indie bands now. He gets major snaps from me for telling Jack White where to stuff it as well.(Gigwise)
  • Another Edie Sedgwick cohort emerges to sue the makers of Factory Girl. This time it’s filmmaker Chuck Wein. He says in the New York Post, “I’m most upset that people will see this movie and think Edie was like that. It’s dishonest…it’s really dismissive of who she was. It’s more Paris Hilton than Edie Sedgwick. They make her into this simpering, sentimental girl.”
  • Factory Girl has a pretty abysmal 21% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. Granted, most of the reviews say Sienna Miller is actually very good in it.
  • Tanya Bower‘s SiennaWatch, Part 3: Sienna can’t wait to have babies. “In a world where you’re encouraged to have your universe revolve around yourself, suddenly it doesn’t,” says Ms. Miller. “I know I want that because I have way too much love to give. If I have a child, it can all go there. Life, I think, will suddenly make sense.” Tanya says, “Her quote reminded me of that line from Magnolia: I really do have love to give, I just don’t know where to put it.

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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