Visuals: album artwork

I needed a colorful picture for my previous blog post and for that grouped together some items from each Mika album era. I loved seeing how they looked put together. Every cover and disc is beautiful, so many colors and details in them. Also quite thought-provoking to see them like this.

Album cover art is a genre on its own. There are books and exhibitions dedicated to it, some covers are iconic. Yet from other artists or bands I never expect as much as I expect from Mika. Cover art is such an essential part of his artistic brand. I’ve always admired the work and thought put in them.

The visual look for the albums is created by Mika and his illustrator sister Yasmine. The way Mika includes his family in everything he does is one of the things that make him different from other artists. My own family is my whole world and I believe that’s something that unites many of us. Despite of how different we all are, despite of how different our families are, we value those people around us higher than anything else. Always warms my heart to see Mika surrounded by his family members. Music business is hard and I hope that having his family around can make it softer, protect him and keep him grounded.

I love getting updates from studio and seeing musicians and sound engineers at their work but the album making process wouldn’t be complete without little glimpses of covers and other visual elements. Just having a quick look at the illustrations from each era tells a lot.

My previous blog post was about happy sounds so I wanted the pic to demonstrate happy, cheerful mood and for that reason chose the Life In Cartoon Motion cover art collage. The whole LICM look is cartoonlike and the colors are somehow childish. Just on the surface of course. Surely everyone can understand Lollipop is not about candy?

The Boy Who Knew Too Much took the style to the next level. The stories were not so clear and obvious anymore. Billy Brown and Big Girl had to make room for Dr John and One-Foot Boy, everything became more dreamy and surreal, on stage we could watch nightmares and witness Toy Boy becoming alive. The development can be seen also in the illustrations. The colors are generally darker, there are masks and other symbols, the environment is expanding to the space.

Then look at the The Origin Of Love photo. There’s a drastic change. Mika has grown up. I always see TOOL as a break-through, something that started a new, more open era. There was new honesty in Mika’s music and the way he talked about himself. That implied he felt strong and supported enough to do so and that way made me very happy. The album artwork may look less colorful than the previous ones but there’s a lot of significance underneath. I feel it looks exactly as it is supposed to look.

When I watch the TOOL covers I can remember the vibe around the album particularly well. This was the first time we could follow the process, Mika shared regular updates from studio and even organized small listenings before the album was out. The tours were small-scale, intimate and incredibly sweet, with pretty elegant venues and warm interacting with the audiences. During the tours I got the impression things didn’t work out exactly as planned and there’s something different watching someone’s career when things don’t work out as expected compared to the times when everything goes smoothly according to the plans. You wish you could at least say something helpful but you can’t and you are supposed to only watch anyway.

I loved it that even the green CD disc was matching with the white and green polkadot theme we saw on stage but when I once mentioned it Mika told it was just a coincidence. A coincidence like that?

No Place In Heaven brought the colors back again. Being an adult doesn’t mean you can’t use colors as much as you like. I thought it would be easy to tell NPIH looks visually my favorite but after seeing all the covers and discs this way it wasn’t so easy anymore. In the end I chose LICM to represent happy sounds. LICM looks fresher than it did 2007 and I find that remarkable and see something similar in TBWKTM. That youth and innocence is hard to repeat.

No Place In Heaven is still my favorite in many ways. I like the color tones in the illustrations. I like the city view and how it gives an impression Mika world is literally a place where we can step into and I like mixing real life pictures with cartoon style illustrations (NPIH is that way following TOOL’s example). Look at the powerful, very intense and super charismatic photos. I love it that even though Mika has grown up he still looks stubborn as ever.

I’m curious how the 5th album will be, I’m curious how it will look. Even still in the middle of recording it we’ve already seen Mika on media in France, Italy and the US. The funny clip on SNL featured Lollipop. The bigger audience in North America probably still remembers him for LICM. A lot has has happened after Lollipop though, you can see it just looking at the album covers. X