Review: My Name Is Michael Holbrook
MIKA masters the love song but is stuck in his past in his most recent album.
October 9, 2019
Waiting for an artist that you love’s new album might be one of the most emotionally painful experiences, and I spent much of the last four years waiting for MIKA’s new album by relistening to all his old ones. But when My Name Is Michael Holbrook came out, it felt exactly like I was still listening to his old ones, none of the songs felt truly new. MIKA, despite his nearly perfect pop, is stuck in his past–and he needs to learn to let go.
To make it clear, I loved this album. The first song “Tiny Love” sets the mood perfectly, beginning with his soft voice over gentle piano, when it quickly fades into vibrant pop. The problem is that I could have written that sentence about practically any of his songs in 2007. “Tiny Love” may be about a different topic than he’s sung about before, singing about small but impactful loves rather than your typical silver screen one, but the sound is nothing new. This man has mastered the love song in a way that many can’t, but one day it is going to get old.
My Name Is blurs the line between old school disco and modern pop at times. “Dear Jealousy” and “Cry” are both distinctly made in the 21st century, but still sound like they could appear in a movie where the director has no idea what disco actually sounds like. While some artists perfect that funky blend, MIKA is almost grasping at straws, and it leaves the songs stuck in the middle–not fitting in either category.
There are some clear instances where MIKA tries to leave his bubbly persona to create darker songs, but he never quite reaches the gut-wrenching point. “Paloma” and “Blue” are both accompanied by his falsetto and piano, but sad songs are supposed to make you want to listen again but all I wanted to do was click skip. Both songs sound fake and cheesy preaching hope, like a Broadway song taken out of context. The songs are at most pleasant but his voice is strong and beautiful, so I’ll just have to settle with completely ignoring the lyrics.
“Sanremo” is the closest thing MIKA has done to something new. The song is about wanting someone you can never have, and wishing you could live in a fantasy world with them. The sound is soft and summery and gives me Beach Boys vibes à la “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Coupled with a beautiful music video, “Sanremo” is worthy to listen to over and over again as you gently nod along.
“Tomorrow” is a song as care free as I’d like to be. The title is, ironically, the very thing MIKA is dissing as he sings “Who gives a sh*t about tomorrow” to a lover who can’t seem to stop fretting. The lyrics are nearly cavity-inducing, so sweet that it aches and a little childish at types (the mention of a smily face emoji by a man in his 30s is always a little jarring) but none of that has stopped it from being my favorite song on the album.
MIKA might still be reworking his previous albums with My Name Is Michael Holbrook, but that music was good too. Despite any flaws, this album is completely and utterly MIKA in the best way. It’s sweet, almost too much at times, and is enough to make you swoon. Sure, some experiments might be a swing and a miss, but when MIKA knows what he’s doing, he does it better than everyone else.
Amelia Foster is a senior and the Print Managing Editor for RHSToday and Knight Writers. This is her fourth year on the staff, and her third as an editor....