Making an album even more vibrant than Life in Cartoon Motion would have been difficult for Mika.
On The Boy Who Knew Too Much, he doesn't try to top himself; instead, he reins in just enough of his debut's indulgent tendencies to let his gift for great melodies and hooks be the focus.
His multifaceted pop sounds a little calmer and a lot more confident here -- rather than cramming songs with moments intended to impress that end up being overwhelming, "Dr.
John"'s finger-popping minor fall and major lift and the calypso-tinged "Blue Eyes" actually are impressive because they're so direct.
While Life in Cartoon Motion was remarkably engaging, occasionally it felt like Mika was more skilled at pastiche than presenting his own sound.
Here, Mika and producer Greg Wells fashion songs that sound truly distinctive; though touches of inspirations and peers like Elton John, the Bee Gees, and the Scissor Sisters still pop up, the musician Mika borrows from most on The Boy Who Knew Too Much is himself.
The album's opening trio of tracks nods to his debut's most vivid moments without copying them: "We Are Golden" is every bit as sunshiny as "Love Today"; "Blame It on the Girls" builds on "Grace Kelly"'s sleek style; and "Rain" is a kissing cousin to "Relax"'s pulsing, melancholy disco-pop.
Mika tries a few different sounds on for size, most notably on "Toy Boy," a subversively sweet singsong that lies somewhere between Elvis Presley's "Wooden Heart" and the Dresden Dolls' "Coin Operated Boy," and the torchy finale, "Pick Up Off the Floor." While ballads still aren't his forte, slower tracks like the Imogen Heap collaboration "By the Time" offer welcome breathing room from "One Foot Boy" and the album's other almost ridiculously catchy tracks.
Anyone who liked Life in Cartoon Motion's bright, brash approach won't be disappointed by The Boy Who Knew Too Much -- it's clear Mika knows exactly what he's doing.