the gang looks at a new pop single …
This week on The Singles Party, we are doing a special request. Our marketing director, Jonathan Elliott, is an avid fan of pop artist Mika, who recently released the single “Popular Song.” So Jonathan has stepped in, thrown down the gauntlet to us, and will even give his opinion on this week’s song.
Kelly Gonsalves: One of the great things about Mika is that his vocal style always makes you feel like you’re about a decade younger; this song in particular seems to have a sort of early-’90s feel to it. In that way, “Popular Song” does have a little old-world charm to it — but that’s where the charm stops. Thematically, this song sounds like it ought to be a sing-along jingle in a Disney Channel film, and it measures up about the same way lyrically. While the message is touching for the younger generation — that being “popular” in high school means close to nothing in the real world — it doesn’t exactly make for a clever song. The least I would expect from this song would be Mika’s usual eccentric twist on the average pop sound, but even that seems to be missing from this overly simplistic tune. In the end, the only thing to appreciate about this song is Mika and his female support’s quirky vocals, which blend together in a way admittedly very pleasing to the ears. Other than that — sorry, Mika, but Taylor Swift is the only one who can sing about high school drama and get away with it. Verdict: One and Done
Jonathan Elliott: Let’s face it — this is bubblegum pop. But it’s good bubblegum pop that riffs off of what is the ostensibly the most (ahem) popular musical of the last 20 years, by Mr. Stephen Schwartz. Note: I said most popular, not the best. And try though you might to get this out of your head, you can’t deny this is an earworm and a lot of fun. I like Mika better when he’s channeling his inner Freddie Mercury and finding ways to be both glib and poignant at the same time, but I’ll take a little bit of fun as easily as the next guy. This is a guilty pleasure, and it’s alllllll over my more “fabulous” playlists lately. Verdict: Add to the Playlist.
Lauren Stern: Even though Mika’s “Popular Song” most likely derived inspiration from the Wicked’s most famous number “Popular,” I can’t bring myself to call the singer’s new single original. Yes, the two totally different tracks sonically and lyrically, but they sound so identical that it practically borders the line of copyright.
Because of this, I can’t bring myself to like this track either. I really like what Mika has done so far with his music, but I thought he was more innovative than this. Maybe if the inspiration were subtler, I would have enjoyed it. But since it wasn’t, it was disappointing. Verdict: One and Done
Brent Johnson: You could call Mika a few things. A soda-pop version of Freddie Mercury. Or Rufus Wainwright on high fructose corn syrup. But one thing you could never call him is uninteresting. Well, until this song. The indie pop star has always had a penchant for bright, bubbly tunes that mix camp and exuberance. But “Popular” seems kind of tossed-off. Maybe that’s because be lifts the chorus hook from another song called “Popular” — from the hit Stephen Schwartz musical Wicked. The thing about interpolation has always been: If you can take a piece of a tune and make it sound like something new in yours, then by all means do it. But if you simply take a song’s hook and use it as the hook in your own, why not just cover the tune itself and introduce it to a new audience? Otherwise, this track isn’t bad. It’s just nothing more than pleasant. Verdict: One and Done.
Jason Kundrath: The first time I heard Mika’s “Popular Song,” was when Bill Bodkin sent me the link. My impression of it is mixed. On the one hand, I like pop music, and this tune has a lot going for it. It’s got a breezy, fun vibe. Plus, it’s got so many hooks, I’m still unsure which part is the chorus. On the other hand, the lyrics are clunky and banal. And the whole sing/speak/rap approach to the verses is rather obnoxious. The narrative of the (ultimately triumphant) losers vs. the “popular” kids, doesn’t quite resonate with me anymore, but I’m sure this will appeal to lots of kids. And while it first seemed to me that Mika was pandering to a particular crowd, his AllMusic bio states he dealt with serious bullying as a kid. So that adds some authenticity to the tale. In conclusion, the pros outweigh the cons. You could do a lot worse than this on your playlist. Verdict: Add to the Playlist.
Bill Bodkin: I hate everything about this song. Yes, being the resident hard rock and metal “dude” on the site, you’d figure this song wouldn’t appeal to me. But, I do like pop music — I own a few records by Robbie Williams, I can get into some JT tracks, and if the beat is catchy enough, I’ll dance to it. However, Mika’s “Popular Song” sounds like the long-lost brother of Mandy Moore’s hit single “Candy.” However, the saccharine sweet and insidiously insipid lyrics of Mika’s latest single makes “Candy” seem like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I’ve heard other Mika tracks, and they’re really solid, but this single is such a flagrant attempt at Top 40 pop that it makes One Direction seem like musical geniuses. I would like to erase ever having listened to this song from my memory banks.Verdict: One and done.
Final Verdict: It’s up to you dear listener. Some of us at The Singles Party adored this track by Mika, others found it to be the absolute drizzles. If you’re in the mood for pop, give “Popular Song” by Mika a shot and form your definitive opinion.