Popular Song by MIKA feat. Ariana Grande
A Brit Award-winning one-man Scissor Sisters, Mika returns in a less-than-autobiographical mood for this third album. And he's brought plenty of collaborators with him: Pharrell Williams shows up on Celebrate, Empire of the Sun's Nick Littlemore writes and produces, and there are credits for Benny Benassi and JLS/Westlife songwriter Wayne Hector.
The Origin of Love starts with a superb title track. It's a ringer for a lost ABBA A side, Mika channelling his inner Freddie Mercury over a lovely groove set atop reflective electro-pop. It's the perfect start, and refreshingly free of the singer's familiar theatrics.
Mika's excitable nature does eventually shine through - leading to moments where the listener might wish he'd laid off the energy drinks a little. His hyperactivity lends The Origin of Love a compilation-like quality - this leaps around as much, stylistically and consistency wise, as a NOW collection.
It's genuinely all over the place. Make You Happy, a bouncing but mildly irritating number, precedes the sublime Underwater. Lola is similarly sweet, whereas Kids recalls the West Coast rock of the 1970s, with soft-focus piano work and a heartfelt vocal.
Love You When I'm Drunk addresses a similar subject to Pet Shop Boys' You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk, albeit slightly less effectively, and via Buggles. Overrated is appropriately titled, while missteps like the puerile pop of Step With Me and the gym-friendly Emily do little to justify their inclusions.
But Mika knows when to pull out an ace. The Robbie Williams-recalling confessional Popular Song is charmingly cheesy, while Heroes returns to the elegance of the opening track. The candy shop finally closes with the buffed-pop of Celebrate, an Empire of the Sun-influenced single perfect for an Indian summer.
If Mika had refined this into a 10-track collection, trimming the cuts that don't quite click, we'd have an excellent album on our hands. As it is, The Origin of Love is stretched slightly too long - but he's clearly had a romp making it, and importantly that shows.