Pop music careers move so quickly that by the time Mika released No Place in Heaven, he was essentially a veteran performer. Between this album and 2012's The Origin of Love, he turned 30 and served as a judge on X Factor Italy and France's The Voice: La Plus Belle Voix, adding to the feel that he was a more adult voice in the pop world. No Place in Heaven confirms this feeling in the best possible way. While most pop music is all about youth and "mature" is often a euphemism for safe and boring, Mika's version of maturity emphasizes what has always been best about his music -- memorable words and melodies served up with a theatrical flair. Where The Origin of Love focused too much on trendy dance-pop, here Mika steps away from the mainstream with songs that explore his roots as a person, a gay man, and an artist in equally heartfelt and clever ways. "Good Guys" even turns one of Oscar Wilde's most famous quotes ("We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars") into a widescreen chorus as Mika pays tribute to other queer heroes including James Dean, Andy Warhol, and Arthur Rimbaud. Meanwhile, Mika's character sketches are even richer now that they're more personal. He confronts his relationships with his parents, asking his father "Do you think that you could learn to love me anyway?" in a way that's pleading but not desperate on "No Place in Heaven," and skewering his mother's wishful thinking on "All She Wants" (the answer: another son). Alongside songs like these and more conventionally confessional songs like "Hurts" and "Ordinary Man" is more escapist fare, proving Mika knows when to lighten the mood. "Talk About You" is so hooky and lyrically developed that it could be a show tune, while "Oh Girl, You're the Devil" is the kind of strutting, falsetto-driven pop Scissor Sisters or even Maroon 5 would love to call their own. A truly mature pop album, No Place in Heaven finds Mika growing into his talent -- which is growing as well. ~ Heather Phares
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