No Place in Heaven part 1: First impressions

Mika’s new album No Place in Heaven was out in my country on Friday and I was listening to it the whole day and wanted to write down some first impressions before they fade away – as they so quickly do – and before the songs start to grow and get new tones and directions in my head.

In advance he described the album honest, uncovered and stripped-down compared to TOOL. I totally get his words now. No Place in Heaven is like another side of the coin. It’s uncovered on every level. Where TOOL was about the happy, careless side of love, NPIH is about fears and getting hurt. Even the title songs introduce the opposite sides. Origin gives the impression of not caring about church or judgement, No Place in Heaven is begging to be accepted.

It’s a very sad album. I loved TOOL for its careless tone and several of my favorite songs (especially acoustic versions) come from that album. However, I prefer Mika being more honest and simple, less electronic music is more suitable for my personal taste. The majority of the songs on NPIH are strong and very Mika style and I have no doubts he can make excellent live versions of every song on the album.

For me every new album means getting new songs for live performances and I immediately start to pick out my favorites thinking of possibilities they offer for concerts. This time I wanted to do a very careful first listening to the album (as it is) because it’s important and tells about Mika as an artist. Who he is and what he wants to expose and share at this point of his career.

So I went through the album song by song. I listened to Talk about You and immediately smiled like I always do when I hear his voice. Talk About You is quite meaningless (as a song) and far away from the theme of the album but it gets a nice twist performed live and is one of my favorite gig songs at the moment. He is copying bits of Sara perche ti amo (openly and giving credit for it) and for me it’s nostalgia from my childhood and something that brings me happy memories and makes me in a good mood but I know many Italians see it just trash and I still think he took a big risk with the song.

Went from smiling to a sobbing cry with All She Wants which at the first listening felt the saddest song I’ve ever heard. Maybe it’s just too personal for me. I have three sons and in my priorities nothing goes over mother-son relationships and just a thought that any son – especially Mika – has ever felt they are not good enough or somehow not filling their mothers’ expectations is extremely sad. And again, where cheerful EMD was about mother pushing her son forward All She Wants shows the other, more painful side.

I couldn’t stop crying while listening to All She Wants. I wish I could ask Mika not to perform the song live because I don’t want to cry like that at gigs. I saw a Korean interview where he talked about set lists and what he said about “giving people songs they want” was the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard from his mouth. He decides and has always decided what people want to hear. I’ve always thought it’s his privilege as an artist. It’s his show. I can hear from clapping and little hey-heys that he is already planning to do All She Wants live so I better learn to clap in rhythm.

Last Party is still my biggest personal favorite on the album. I love the passion in it and I love that there’s such a strong story behind it. It’s everything I want from a good song and I might even say Last Party is my biggest favorite of all Mika songs. More dramatic/powerful live versions put the album version in the shade though.

Good Guys is a 30s crisis song. It’s about realizing that people you have always looked up to are just human, realizing that the whole thought of having principles and high values is just an illusion, thinking you had role models but suddenly noticing you might be a role model to someone else. What can I say. There are still good people in this world. What else can you do than just try to do the right thing? He is a good role model for so many young people. Good Guys is not my biggest favorites on the album but Mika seems to enjoy singing it live which makes it really enjoyable at gigs.

I have absolutely no idea what Oh Girl You Are the Devil is about. It’s continuation (after Dr John and One Foot Boy) of the series of Mika songs I simply can’t understand. The melody is very teasing and the whole package extremely interesting! This could be great at gigs! I spent my day wondering who makes the low sounds. Mika really can change his voice like that? I’m very impressed.

No Place in Heaven. Did I really think All She Wants is the saddest song I’ve ever heard? I never thought he has struggled with these issues – sexuality, acceptance, church – this much. He has talked about it in interviews so I was aware of it but I never thought he is or has been this vulnerable and I’m only starting to realize how hurtful it must feel not be accepted as who you are. This is the strongest song on the album in many ways and deserves to be the title song. Love his voice in it, so incredibly soft.

Staring At the Sun is perfectly placed after No Place in Heaven. Love is stronger than any fear and beats prejudicing people. Such a sweet, almost cheesy song. I can already see big fangirl moments around the song. The lyrics tell about being far away from the loved one, staring at the same sun, being connected that way.  It’s not a sad song but there’s a longing tone so it fits the theme.

Hurts is one of the most beautiful and saddest songs on the album. I love the piano! Trying to read my little notes about the song but they are messed by tears and can see only little hearts. I would love to hear this song performed at intimate evening gigs as a little less “boy band” version but not sure we will get it, he never did Kids either.

Good Wife is such a clever song and been my favorite since the New York gig! It simply took over my mind and luckily it’s a bit lighter, not really sad but melancholic in a bitter-sweet way. It’s well-done and together with No Place in Heaven the best quality on the album and I especially love how he is using his voice in it.

Rio is like my from my life. My traveling is mostly escaping, not away the from people I love but just the failure I am as a person. The melody is not really interesting (it reminds me of something but not sure what) but I like the lyrics. I might go to Rio some day.

Ordinary Man is about pondering relationship issues and worthless, ordinary feelings and it fits the theme and has its place on the album but it slightly crosses the line between analyzing and self-pitying so it’s not for my personal taste. I’ve thought that since Montreal. It’s one of the rare Mika songs that make my mind wander. It’s not a bad song, I love his soft velvet voice in it. It’s just not my style of a song, I prefer smashing chandliers.

And then it’s time to listen to Promiseland and this is where I got stuck. I listened to it over and over and over again. There’s a song like Promiseland on the album and they make Talk About You as a single?? Seriously? Who makes these decisions? Promiseland is the strongest candidate for a hit he can find on the album. I would say it’s as close to a big international hit as he can go at the moment. It sounds familiar in many parts (I have a digital album and can’t read the credits so not sure if they are given) but so does TAY and personally I really don’t care, it’s quite his style to mix familiar elements. Would be total craziness to waste this song.

Porcelain is another big, personal favorite on the album. Very Mika style. Can’t wait to hear him doing this with piano, will be such a highlight. Such fragile song. Love love love his voice in this.

L’amour fait ce qu’il veut is the last bonus track and contains the familiar “China Boy” snippet I’ve always loved so much. It’s a beautiful song but to be honest I wish it was done more stylish (live version) way. Can’t say anything about lyrics, of course.

These are just my quick, short impressions. I’m extremely happy about the album. It meets his standards which for me means high-quality Mika style songs and there are several extremely good quality songs to make his devoted fans happy. There are options for successful, international hits (I mentioned Promiseland, didn’t I?) which would be useful at this point of his career. It’s a sad album and Mika being sad makes me sad but he is handling some serious issues in a very honest way which is extremely important and something that simply needed to be done. So proud to be a fan.