Only a city like London could produce a pop artist like Mika, and only in England could he become a bona fide chart star. Bless our onetime colonizers for that: Thanks to the buzz in his native land for his debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, the Beirut-born singer is finally blowing up on our shores as well.
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This pretty, fey 23-year-old takes a page from the book of pretty, fey fellow Brits of the Seventies by crafting sunshiny melodies that build to a theatrical wallop. In songs like "Grace Kelly," the album's first single, Mika's voice often sounds eerily close to Freddie Mercury's, with an elastic, crisp tonality and a half-sighing, half-winking sense of drama. The melody, too, could have been a product of Mercury's band, Queen, but without as much bombast and camp. Not to say Mika is a rip-off artist. He often ups the ante into dance tempos, as in the disco workout "Relax (Take It Easy)," punctuated by a falsetto that would make the Gibb brothers jealous. It's territory that will be familiar and welcome to fans of the Scissor Sisters, another contemporary (actually American) group that found major success in England first. -- Arielle Castillo