My Name Is Michael Holbrook

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With each of his albums, Mika lets his listeners a little further into his world. Though he took a few years off from making music between 2015's No Place in Heaven and My Name Is Michael Holbrook, it was all in preparation to give fans some of his most direct and most autobiographical music. In much the same way that the rejection he faced from labels early in his career spurred him to make his smash hit "Grace Kelly," Mika's disillusionment with the music industry sparked My Name Is Michael Holbrook. From its straightforward title to its upfront lyrical confessions, the album is steeped in the kind of honesty that makes intimacy -- whether it's between two people or an artist and his audience -- possible. It's also the kind of honesty that reflects Mika's age. When he released My Name Is Michael Holbrook, he was in his mid-thirties, a time when being true to yourself becomes more important than ever. Fittingly, there are plenty of quintessentially Mika moments here: "Platform Ballerinas" proves he still has as much of a way with catchy pop that dances to its own beat as he did in the "Grace Kelly" days. The suite-like album opener "Tiny Love," which celebrates love's everyday joys with tender piano passages and brass fanfares, is an equally intimate and grand microcosm of his music. The album's self-aware songwriting also reflects Mika's maturity. On "Dear Jealousy," he captures how a relationship with an emotion is just as real -- and sometimes longer-lasting -- than those with other people, and sets it to a slinky groove. Frequently, Mika leans into the more traditional side of his music on My Name Is Michael Holbrook. Earlier in his career, a song like "Cry" might have been hyperkinetic; here, it's a smoothly funky standout. He also manages to find fresh angles on time-tested piano balladry in "Ready to Call This Love"'s mix of hope and hesitancy and in the affectionate details on "Paloma," a song inspired by his sister. Mika tempers all of this maturity with joyous sensuality on the roller disco jam "Ice Cream," the breezy glamour of "Sanremo," and the romantic hedonism of "Tomorrow." While Mika may have balanced these themes and sounds a little more deftly on No Place in Heaven, My Name Is Michael Holbrook is never less than witty and genuine -- and much more enjoyable than if he'd tried to fit into someone else's mold.

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