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Mika in US Press - 2017 / 2018

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http://www.refinery29.com/2017/02/138951/mika-songs-life-in-cartoon-motion-album

 

Why This 10-Year-Old Pop Album Is Still So Important

 

When I look back at the movies, shows, and music I liked in high school, almost all of it is embarrassing now. But if there's one thing from those awkward years that I'm not ashamed of, it's my love for pop singer Mika, whose debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, was released in 2007. I first discovered Mika when my cousin was driving my sister and me to see Shrek the Third. (Unlike Mika's album, that film has not stood the test of time. Or any test, really.) I thought "Love Today" was out-of-this-world fun, and I immediately bought the CD — yes, it was a physical CD back then. The album topped charts in the U.K., even if Americans hadn't yet caught onto Mika's brilliance.

 

For someone like me, accustomed to whatever was on the small-town Southern radio at the time, the album was unlike anything I'd ever heard. And while I may not have realized it then, Life in Cartoon Motion would become a lot more than a fun CD to listen to in the car. The messages behind Mika's music helped shape who I'd become as I internalized them during those formative years.

At first, I was drawn to the album because of its upbeat songs. The first single, "Grace Kelly," was so weird that it was impossible to explain to any of my friends, although I definitely tried. I knew pop music as including artists like Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne (I know), and this was a different ballgame entirely. The chorus of "Lollipop" was made to sing along to, which is likely part of the reason it was eventually covered in 2015's Pitch Perfect 2.

 

Once I convinced friends to give the album a try, they consistently demanded we skip "the slow ones" when listening to it in the car. But the songs that weren't the fun, nonsensical hits were what solidified my love of Mika. I was drawn to the slower-paced "Any Other World" and "Happy Ending," which, going off the lyrics alone, are pretty depressing songs. The one that most affected me, though, was "Billy Brown."

I didn't know anyone who identified as gay until I got to college. At the small-town Catholic homeschool group where I attended high school, there weren't any gay students, or at least none who could come out to their religious parents. The word "gay" was used as a synonym for "bad" to describe inanimate things; it wasn't a tolerant place. Knowing very few people who weren't Christian, straight, cisgender, and white, I had no frame of reference for Billy Brown's character.

The song tells the story of a man who seems to have the perfect nuclear family, with two children and a doting wife. But his life is turned upside down when he realizes he's in love with a man. As ashamed as I am to admit it, feeling empathy for that character was one of my first introductions to inclusivity and acceptance, before meeting people with different backgrounds when I left home for college. "Billy Brown" inspired me to learn more about sexual fluidity, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.

 

In his own life, Mika was cautious to avoid labels, particularly after the release of his first two albums. In 2009, he told a Dutch magazine, "I consider myself label-less because I could fall in love with anybody — literally — any type, any body. I'm not picky." Then, in 2012, the singer told Instinct magazine, "If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah... it's only through my music that I've found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life."
 

As Mika's popularity grew and he released more music, his subsequent albums were a marked change from Life in Cartoon Motion. There's still the positive, cheery sense of whimsy in many of his songs — 2012's "Celebrate," which features Pharrell Williams, is a real banger.

 

But the not-so-happy tracks became darker, too. "All She Wants," from 2015's No Place In Heaven, seems like the perfect uptempo background music for a party, until you realize it's about a mother who refuses to accept her son's sexuality. Not all of the depressing songs are about identity; there are plenty of heartbreaking tracks about lost and unrequited love that anyone can relate to. As of late, I've found myself frequently turning to No Place in Heaven's "Hurts." It's a moving anti-bullying anthem, but to me, the lyrics also capture the pain of friend breakups.

 

Over the past decade, it was comforting to come into my own while growing up with new music from an artist I admire so much. His songs tell different stories than my own experiences — and the last thing I want to do is co-opt his narrative — but they really did shape how I see the world. I found a voice that wasn't forced on me by institutions with political agendas that claimed to be motivated by religion. And inspired by Mika, I found joy in other pop artists, like Lady Gaga, who, like me, has struggled to reconcile her religious background with her social beliefs. But most importantly, he taught me to listen — to other people, to their experiences, and, sometimes, to their music.

Life in Cartoon Motion helped me embrace both being weird and being basic; I'd like to think the album recognized its own camp, which elicited a 1.5-star Pitchfork review in 2007. If there's one overarching theme to Mika's music, it's that life is worth living, no matter who you are — other people's opinions be damned. I appreciated that message 10 years ago, and I appreciate it now. And I hope Mika will keep sharing his experiences, and bringing joy and awareness across the world, for many years to come.

Edited by Kumazzz
change the name of the thread ( 2017 to 2017 / 2018 )
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Fantastic! He says what I have always thought, about Mika. He's such a jewel in the crown of pop music, and he should also be a gay icon. It's just so sad that he is not really famous in America, and that he is no longer relevant in the UK.

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I looooove this article!!❣ one of the best I ever read

Yes :thumb_yello: So good it seems one of us wrote it :wub2: Thank you so much for sharing LeiRe :hug:

Edited by crazyaboutmika
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The Young Folks

 

From the Record Crate: MIKA – “Life in Cartoon Motion” (2007)

By Katie Gill on February 5, 2017 | @katiebeluga

 

61NwnC2uG9L.jpg?w=500

 

Singer-songwriter Mika released his debut album Life in Cartoon Motion on February 5, 2007. The album debuted at number one in the United Kingdom and sold over 7.8 million copies since it’s release. It’s downright amazing and a wonderful example of what a debut album should be. With Life in Cartoon Motion, Mika cemented his songwriting aesthetic, giving us an amazingly fun album in the process.

 

The album shows the building blocks for what would be hallmarks of Mika’s career. He’s always been good at writing songs about celebrating the uniqueness of outcasts, inspirational pieces about dealing with the challenges of what make you you. Later songs like “Kick Ass (We Are Young)”, “Popular Song” and “We Are Golden” continue this trend, but it was lead single “Grace Kelly” that started it off. “Grace Kelly” takes full advantage of Mika’s range—the way he hits those high notes in the chorus on “violet sky” is downright beautiful. The message is universal: why don’t you like me and should I do something to change it? Mika deftly bounces between pop culture figures and colors to describe his shifting personality state, backed up by a peppy glam backing. There’s a beautiful moment near the end where Mika starts to sing the chorus, accompanied by just a piano, enjoying that quiet before the rest of the band pops in and the fun starts back up. It’s an amazing song and the perfect choice for a lead single. “Grace Kelly” hit number one on the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for a good five weeks.

 

MIKA - Grace Kelly

 

Life in Cartoon Motion is marked by it’s FUN. So many of the songs on this album are adorable and cheerful, drawing in schoolyard chants, positive messages, and high-energy pump you up musical stylings. One of the highlights off the album is the song “Big Girl, You Are Beautiful.” Ten years ago, the body positivity movement was certainly a thing, but not as pronounced and visible as it is in the mass media today. To not only feature a song about body positivity on a mid 2000s album but to make it one of the lead singles? The song is absolutely brimming with self-love as Mika tries to dispel the titular big girl’s image anxiety with cheerful positivity. Yes, the song does fall on some levels: this is a man trying to tell this woman that she’s beautiful and not a woman reclaiming that image herself (And on a petty note, some of us drink Diet Coke for the taste, thank you very much.) But I can overlook that, partly because of the time when the song was written, and partly because that final chorus, where the phrase “big girl you are beautiful” is repeated over and over again and the music swells up to a dance and handclaps beat is downright glorious.

 

MIKA - Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)

 

And yet, the album isn’t a complete bastion of cheer and uplifting positivity. There are moments where Mika gives us a more serious track. The most memorable one of these is “Happy Ending” (though “Any Other World” does take a strong stab at second place.) The song takes a minimalist approach, pairing Mika’s voice with a simple, repeated piano and chorus background and slow, sweeping strings in the background. The first half of the song lets Mika’s voice shine, as he wrenches as much emotion out of his voice as he possibly can to describe this heartbreak. “Happy Ending” builds and builds up, as choirs get layered on top of Mika’s vocals, the strings kick into high gear, the music swells, and the entire thing builds up to a giant crescendo of sound near the end…only to wonderfully deflate back into that a sole singer singing the song’s simple melody against a stark piano backdrop.

 

MIKA - Happy Ending (Long Version)

 

I admit, it’s pretty hard to give this album a proper retrospective as I discovered Mika when I was a weird chunky high school student who desperately needed something fun and bouncy in her life. All I want to do is take people by their metaphorical shoulders and yell “LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM” until they do. But seriously. Listen to this album. Life in Cartoon Motion is a bright bundle of cheerful pop fun, with occasional detours into something serious, but always perfect for bouncing around your room and singing into your hairbrush.

 

Katie Gill is a pop culture writer who enjoys girl groups, C-list superheroes, and country ballads about being a hot mess. When she's not writing, she's exceedingly mediocre at a wide assortment of arts and crafts and spends way too much time talking about her dog.

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Another wonderful review, and in English, and (I presume) from an American pop reviewer.

I think Mika should forget Italy and France, for a while, and try again in the UK and USA.

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http://www.refinery29.com/2017/02/138951/mika-songs-life-in-cartoon-motion-album

 

Why This 10-Year-Old Pop Album Is Still So Important

 

When I look back at the movies, shows, and music I liked in high school, almost all of it is embarrassing now. But if there's one thing from those awkward years that I'm not ashamed of, it's my love for pop singer Mika, whose debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, was released in 2007. I first discovered Mika when my cousin was driving my sister and me to see Shrek the Third. (Unlike Mika's album, that film has not stood the test of time. Or any test, really.) I thought "Love Today" was out-of-this-world fun, and I immediately bought the CD — yes, it was a physical CD back then. The album topped charts in the U.K., even if Americans hadn't yet caught onto Mika's brilliance.

 

For someone like me, accustomed to whatever was on the small-town Southern radio at the time, the album was unlike anything I'd ever heard. And while I may not have realized it then, Life in Cartoon Motion would become a lot more than a fun CD to listen to in the car. The messages behind Mika's music helped shape who I'd become as I internalized them during those formative years.

 

At first, I was drawn to the album because of its upbeat songs. The first single, "Grace Kelly," was so weird that it was impossible to explain to any of my friends, although I definitely tried. I knew pop music as including artists like Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne (I know), and this was a different ballgame entirely. The chorus of "Lollipop" was made to sing along to, which is likely part of the reason it was eventually covered in 2015's Pitch Perfect 2.

 

Once I convinced friends to give the album a try, they consistently demanded we skip "the slow ones" when listening to it in the car. But the songs that weren't the fun, nonsensical hits were what solidified my love of Mika. I was drawn to the slower-paced "Any Other World" and "Happy Ending," which, going off the lyrics alone, are pretty depressing songs. The one that most affected me, though, was "Billy Brown."

 

I didn't know anyone who identified as gay until I got to college. At the small-town Catholic homeschool group where I attended high school, there weren't any gay students, or at least none who could come out to their religious parents. The word "gay" was used as a synonym for "bad" to describe inanimate things; it wasn't a tolerant place. Knowing very few people who weren't Christian, straight, cisgender, and white, I had no frame of reference for Billy Brown's character.

 

The song tells the story of a man who seems to have the perfect nuclear family, with two children and a doting wife. But his life is turned upside down when he realizes he's in love with a man. As ashamed as I am to admit it, feeling empathy for that character was one of my first introductions to inclusivity and acceptance, before meeting people with different backgrounds when I left home for college. "Billy Brown" inspired me to learn more about sexual fluidity, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.

 

In his own life, Mika was cautious to avoid labels, particularly after the release of his first two albums. In 2009, he told a Dutch magazine, "I consider myself label-less because I could fall in love with anybody — literally — any type, any body. I'm not picky." Then, in 2012, the singer told Instinct magazine, "If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah... it's only through my music that I've found the strength to come to terms with my sexuality beyond the context of just my lyrics. This is my real life."
 

As Mika's popularity grew and he released more music, his subsequent albums were a marked change from Life in Cartoon Motion. There's still the positive, cheery sense of whimsy in many of his songs — 2012's "Celebrate," which features Pharrell Williams, is a real banger.

 

But the not-so-happy tracks became darker, too. "All She Wants," from 2015's No Place In Heaven, seems like the perfect uptempo background music for a party, until you realize it's about a mother who refuses to accept her son's sexuality. Not all of the depressing songs are about identity; there are plenty of heartbreaking tracks about lost and unrequited love that anyone can relate to. As of late, I've found myself frequently turning to No Place in Heaven's "Hurts." It's a moving anti-bullying anthem, but to me, the lyrics also capture the pain of friend breakups.

 

Over the past decade, it was comforting to come into my own while growing up with new music from an artist I admire so much. His songs tell different stories than my own experiences — and the last thing I want to do is co-opt his narrative — but they really did shape how I see the world. I found a voice that wasn't forced on me by institutions with political agendas that claimed to be motivated by religion. And inspired by Mika, I found joy in other pop artists, like Lady Gaga, who, like me, has struggled to reconcile her religious background with her social beliefs. But most importantly, he taught me to listen — to other people, to their experiences, and, sometimes, to their music.

 

Life in Cartoon Motion helped me embrace both being weird and being basic; I'd like to think the album recognized its own camp, which elicited a 1.5-star Pitchfork review in 2007. If there's one overarching theme to Mika's music, it's that life is worth living, no matter who you are — other people's opinions be damned. I appreciated that message 10 years ago, and I appreciate it now. And I hope Mika will keep sharing his experiences, and bringing joy and awareness across the world, for many years to come.

 

 

Gracias, Laura. :flowers2: Ya me gustaría ver en España un articulo así.

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It's not NEW, this article has been posted on Jan 30, 2017

 

TIME

http://time.com/4653545/refugee-music-artists-spotify-playlist/?iid=sr-link1

 

Listen to a Spotify Playlist Made Up Entirely of Songs by Refugee Artists
 

In the wake of President Trump's executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program and banning travel for people from certain countries, people have joined in all kinds of protest to recognize the humanity of refugees and immigrants worldwide. For their part, the music platform Spotify compiled a 20-track playlist of songs from major artists who, according to the description, were all once refugees.

 

"In a world that welcomes refugees, we get world-changing music from artists like these," reads the description.

 

From Somali rapper K'NAAN to rapper and producer M.I.A., who was born in London but spent much of her early childhood in hiding from the Sri Lankan army, many of the artists on the playlist are known for speaking out about their own status as refugees and the fraught politics of their homelands. In 2015, M.I.A.'s powerful "Borders" music video focused on the refugee and migrant crisis. The video was inspired by a TIME photo of refugees crammed into a boat, and the rapper said she recognized the need to humanize representations of migrants in pop culture.

 

"We’re at some sort of turning point. Society was gearing up to become more closed off than it has been," she told TIME then, in a statement that now feels prescient.

 

The list includes some artists whose status as refugees may be less widely known. Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, for instance, is a refugee from the former Soviet Union; her family immigrated to the U.S. in 1989. Rita Ora, now the host of America's Next Top Model, was born in Kosovo and fled to the U.K. nearly 25 years ago.

And British "Grace Kelly" singer MIKA is originally from Beirut, Lebanon. More recently, he has worked with the U.N. Refugee Agency on efforts to help Syrian refugees.

 

The playlist, which also features artists like the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians and Wyclef Jean and the Fugees (who took their group's name from the term "refugee"), is a reminder of the contributions these distinctive artists have been able to make to music—often thanks to immigration policies that have given them space to start anew.

 

 

 

Edited by Kumazzz
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Posted (edited)

Billboard

30 Gay Love Songs

https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/8013830/gay-love-songs-best-playlist

10/24/2017 by Paris Close

From Troye Sivan to Kele Okereke, it’s time to celebrate gay artists and same-sex love.

Finally. Gay narratives are getting their just desserts in the world of mainstream music. There’s a wave of talented acts storming out of the LGBTQ community who aren’t just gay, but also queer, bisexual and sexually fluid as well.

While trailblazers like Adam Lambert, Troye Sivan and Frank Ocean have each made inroads for other queer male artists after them, there’s an entire generation of stars sweeping the music industry with stories of their own. Our gay love soundtrack, below, is evidentiary of the eargasmic quality of male-on-male romance and sexual identity.

From emotional showcases by Perfume Genius, to bedroom ballads by morgxn, to somber serenades by Wrabel, these 30 gay love tunes pay a beautiful homage to gay love culture.

Follow the playlist below.

 

MIKA, “Make You Happy”

MIKA has one goal in mind: make his partner happy. This feel-good, synth-bumping ditty will have you up on your feet in no time.

 

Edited by Kumazzz
typo
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Billboard

June 20, 2018, 12:00pm EDT

billboard.com/articles/columns/ariana-grande

 

Every Ariana Grande Song, Ranked: Critic's Picks

 

56. “Popular Song” (with Mika, Yours Truly, 2013)

“Popular Song” has an odd lineage: originally a Kristen Chenoweth solo from Wicked, it was rewritten by Mika for his 2012 album, then remixed again for Ariana’s Yours Truly. It doesn’t really fit on the album -- Mika’s musical sensibility is more juvenile than Ariana’s. But it’s as charming as it is silly, and the Tim Burton-esque video is, well, wickedly funny.

 

 

 

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Billboard

 

Pop Shop Podcast:

170x170bb.jpg.9db75bada48dd4864482f4c097f4a635.jpg

 

'Greatest Showman' Producer Greg Wells Talks Mega-Hit Soundtrack, Plus Working With Adele, Katy Perry & More

 

7/10/2018

https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/podcasts/8464884/pop-shop-podcast-greatest-showman-soundtrack-greg-wells-interview?

greg-wells-2018-cr-David-Black-billboard-1548.jpg.8c96c654dbfaaf07754547c03845bf31.jpg

 

View in iTunes

 

On our latest episode, we’ve got a special in-depth interview with songwriter-producer Greg Wells!

Wells is a two-time Grammy Award nominee and one of the producers of the runaway smash soundtrack to The Greatest Showman. Wells has also worked with an array of A-listers and Billboard chart-toppers, including Adele, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Dua Lipa, Twenty One Pilots and many more.

 

In the chat, Wells says he got involved with The Greatest Showman when the film’s director, Michael Gracey, called him up and said, “Greg, I feel like what you do musically has one foot rooted in the classics, but also contemporary without being gimmicky.” Ultimately, Wells ended up producing six of the tracks on the soundtrack album, including the surprise hit “This Is Me,” performed by Keala Settle. That fruitful collaboration led to Wells and Settle working together on Settle’s debut EP, Chapter One, and they are currently at work on Settle’s next album project.

“Once I got over the initial intimidation,” Wells says of the Showman project, “…and my insecure voice saying, 'You've never worked on a movie before and you don't know what you're doing,' I just realized that it's kind of no different from what I do every day. It's just storytelling, but there's a visual component. And it was great, because Michael's visuals were so good."

 

 

at 14:30, Greg talks about Tommy Mottola ( the co-owner  of Casablanca Records ) phone call and Mika.

 

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did Greg say anything about working with Mika as I don´t read about him?

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Kumazzz said:

Billboard

 

Pop Shop Podcast:

170x170bb.jpg.9db75bada48dd4864482f4c097f4a635.jpg

 

'Greatest Showman' Producer Greg Wells Talks Mega-Hit Soundtrack, Plus Working With Adele, Katy Perry & More

 

7/10/2018

https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/podcasts/8464884/pop-shop-podcast-greatest-showman-soundtrack-greg-wells-interview?

greg-wells-2018-cr-David-Black-billboard-1548.jpg.8c96c654dbfaaf07754547c03845bf31.jpg

 

View in iTunes

 

On our latest episode, we’ve got a special in-depth interview with songwriter-producer Greg Wells!

Wells is a two-time Grammy Award nominee and one of the producers of the runaway smash soundtrack to The Greatest Showman. Wells has also worked with an array of A-listers and Billboard chart-toppers, including Adele, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Dua Lipa, Twenty One Pilots and many more.

 

In the chat, Wells says he got involved with The Greatest Showman when the film’s director, Michael Gracey, called him up and said, “Greg, I feel like what you do musically has one foot rooted in the classics, but also contemporary without being gimmicky.” Ultimately, Wells ended up producing six of the tracks on the soundtrack album, including the surprise hit “This Is Me,” performed by Keala Settle. That fruitful collaboration led to Wells and Settle working together on Settle’s debut EP, Chapter One, and they are currently at work on Settle’s next album project.

“Once I got over the initial intimidation,” Wells says of the Showman project, “…and my insecure voice saying, 'You've never worked on a movie before and you don't know what you're doing,' I just realized that it's kind of no different from what I do every day. It's just storytelling, but there's a visual component. And it was great, because Michael's visuals were so good."

 

 

at 14:30, Greg talks about Tommy Mottola ( the co-owner  of Casablanca Records ) phone call and Mika.

 

 

 

I've transcribed the bit where he's talking about Mika, in case anyone can't listen to it...

 

Greg Wells: So he called and he said, "I heard what you did on Lindsay's record, and you know, sorry it didn't go, " we didn't sell very many copies. "I heard what you did on it, and you know, I've signed this kid named Mika, out of London, I think you'd be the right fit for him." Like, ok, I just got this buzzy feeling, well that's interesting. Anyway I wound up becoming Mika's record producer. And he had a song on his debut album called Grace Kelly that just sort of took over most of the world. 

 

PopShop: I mean it was a huge hit in Europe and the UK, and it was a moderate hit in America, as well.

 

Greg Wells: He was too gay for American radio. In fact, the  head of Clear Channel at the time told Mika's mother "we love this song, we can't play a song with a man singing in falsetto saying he wants to be like a woman. We just can't get behind it." Today might be different, I would like to think it would be. But she was literally told that. I mean, I didn't see that guy say it to her, but she told me that story.

 

PopShop: This is what you've heard second hand.

 

Greg Wells: From her! From his mom.

 

PopShop: Just saying, in case anyone's listening and they're going to suddenly blow that out, and like this is what you were told.

 

Greg Wells: It's what I was told, yeah. And uh, you know, that came out in the UK and it shot to number one and it sat there for seven weeks at number one. We couldn't believe it was happening. We sold almost six million records, wound up selling, I don't know, eight or ten million records, I think. It changed my life, it changed my, that was the record that changed my life. 

Edited by Poisonyoulove
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Poisonyoulove said:

 

 

I've transcribed the bit where he's talking about Mika, in case anyone can't listen to it...

 

Greg Wells: So he called and he said, "I heard what you did on Lindsay's record, and you know, sorry it didn't go, " we didn't sell very many copies. "I heard what you did on it, and you know, I've signed this kid named Mika, out of London, I think you'd be the right fit for him." Like, ok, I just got this buzzy feeling, well that's interesting. Anyway I wound up becoming Mika's record producer. And he had a song on his debut album called Grace Kelly that just sort of took over most of the world. 

 

PopShop: I mean it was a huge hit in Europe and the UK, and it was a moderate hit in America, as well.

 

Greg Wells: He was too gay for American radio. In fact, the  head of Clear Channel at the time told Mika's mother "we love this song, we can't play a song with a man singing in falsetto saying he wants to be like a woman. We just can't get behind it." Today might be different, I would like to think it would be. But she was literally told that. I mean, I didn't see that guy say it to her, but she told me that story.

 

PopShop: This is what you've heard second hand.

 

Greg Wells: From her! From his mom.

 

PopShop: Just saying, in case anyone's listening and they're going to suddenly blow that out, and like this is what you were told.

 

Greg Wells: It's what I was told, yeah. And uh, you know, that came out in the UK and it shot to number one and it sat there for seven weeks at number one. We couldn't believe it was happening. We sold almost six million records, wound up selling, I don't know, eight or ten million records, I think. It changed my life, it changed my, that was the record that changed my life. 

thank you very much for doing it, I really don´t have the time to listen to all of his interview at the moment. :flowers2: 

Edited by Sabine64
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Thanks a lot for posting @giraffeandy

 

ADVOCATE

https://www.advocate.com/music/2018/8/13/how-me-became-lgbtq-anthem-and-worldwide-hit

How 'This Is Me' Became an LGBTQ Anthem and a Worldwide Hit

 

Music producer Greg Wells discusses the unbelievable success of The Greatest Showman's soundtrack.

 
August 13 2018 5:03 AM EDT

 

As of midyear, the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman is the best-selling album of 2018, having sold nearly 1 million physical and digital records worldwide. This is quite a feat, considering that songs from an original movie musical have surpassed famous artists like Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Eminem, Pink, and Taylor Swift. Songs from the album have also received love on the awards circuit. “This Is Me” garnered a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and received a nomination at the 2018 Academy Awards.

 

Did Greg Wells, a producer of the album alongside songwriters Justin Paul and Benj Pasek (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen), expect such a commercial and critical success? “No, not at all. Nobody did,” Wells, 49, told The Advocate in a recent phone interview. Even today, its universal appeal eludes him. “Entire families are obsessed with the soundtrack and they can't seem to quantify exactly why. But it does seem to sort of tick a lot of boxes for grandparents down to 5-year-olds.”

 

Wells — a Grammy-nominated Canadian musician, producer, and sound mixer — has worked with artists as varied as Mika, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and the all-female heavy metal band Otep. In total, his songs have appeared on over 120 million sold albums. Yet throughout his professional career, Wells has never worked on a cast album.

 

That changed when Michael Gracey, director of The Greatest Showman, reached out to Wells during the last year of the film’s production. In part, Wells was persuaded to wade into new territory by the inclusive message of the film, which centered on the life of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and the “freaks” in his circus troupe.

 

Wells felt a need to help broadcast acceptance in the current political climate. At the time he joined Showman, a then-presidential candidate was “making fun of anyone who's different, and going much further than making fun of them. It's really rewarding to play a small role in something that is a championing a very different message,” he said.

 

Wells has a variety of skills that he uses in his work to make music shine. A classically trained musician, he has perfect pitch, plays a variety of instruments, and composes and arranges music as well. He applied these abilities to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman. As part of his process, he would analyze a scene’s dancing and acting, and then strive to create “a symbiotic relationship” between the sound and the visual.

 

“I kept imagining that I … bought a ticket, and I was sitting in the theater watching the movie already released and thinking, How do I want this to hit me? Working with the visuals was hugely informative for me,” he said.

 

For example, in “This Is Me” — the breakout hit of the album — actress and singer Keala Settle, who portrays a bearded lady in The Greatest Showman, is performing complex choreography and delivering an anthem to individuality. All the while, she is wearing a beard and an elaborate dress.

 

 

Wells immediately recognized the need for an audience member to be “riveted” during this song as it builds to an emotional climax. So, while layering the track, he added the sound of drums, which becomes more prominent as the song progressed. “I just wanted the cathartic release to be as big as I could get it without overturning the apple cart,” he said. It is a “funny balance” to accomplish with recorded music, he said. If done incorrectly, it can turn a fantastic live performance into something “underwhelming.”

 

“Music to me, absolutely, is audio, but it's so much more than that,” Wells said. “It's visual. It's an energy exchange between the performer and the audience. And then if it's going well, the performer feels that energy coming back from the audience, and it’s a beautiful chain reaction.”

 

Songs can do a lot more than entertain. “Music, when you get it right, is among the most powerful stuff out there in a way that I can't really put a label on,” said Wells. Thanks to the empowering words of lyricists Paul and Pasek — who is gay — combined with the magic touch of Wells, “This Is Me” has become a new anthem for the LGBTQ community. It was played in Pride parades throughout June and is a favorite performance choice of Ada Vox, the first drag performer to reach the top 10 on American Idol. Recently, at LoveLoud, a music festival supporting LGBTQ young people, a trans youth brought the crowd to tears by singing a rendition.

 

"I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I'm meant to be, this is me," state the lyrics, an unapologetic declaration of identity that all queer people can relate to. "I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me."

 

“I'm so honored” that the track has been embraced by the LGBTQ community, said Wells, who has a personal connection to the movement.

 

Wells grew up in Peterborough, a small city in Ontario, Canada, in “a really redneck environment.” From an early age, he was an ally of the LGBTQ community. His father, a minister in the United Church of Canada, was an advocate for ordaining gay and lesbian ministers — a stance that elicited a few angry responses. And his best friend, Derek, “was very gay and couldn't hide it. We both got beat up all the time,” Wells said. “There was no song like this for him.”

 

Wells thought about Derek while he was working on the Greatest Showman soundtrack — as well as how his friendship with him “opened me up in so many ways.” Through Derek, Wells learned what it was like to be “a young gay man in a town where you couldn't talk about that.” And culturally, his friend “really offered me up to so many things that I never would've been exposed to it all,” like the art of Andy Warhol and films of John Waters starring Divine. This early influence impacts his music even today.

 

Wells has also worked with many queer artists throughout his career. He played with k.d. lang and produced albums with Mika and Rufus Wainwright. Through these musicians, he witnessed homophobia in the music industry firsthand. In 2001, when he told his manager at the time that he would work with Wainwright, who is gay, his manager replied, “Don't work with him. Why would you want to work with him? He’s not going to sell any records. He's gonna drive you crazy.” Likewise, when Wells collaborated with Mika on his 2007 album Life in Cartoon Motion, another manager told Wells, “Just do two songs and get out, because … he's too gay for America.”

 

“Which wound up being true,” said Wells, “because, I won't name names, but let's just say the gatekeepers of radio actually told Mika's mom, ‘We can't get behind a man singing in falsetto that he wants to be like a woman,’ referring to the song ‘Grace Kelly,’ Mika’s big hit” in Europe.

 

“There’s there's rampant homophobia, not just in the record business but in the American media. It's better probably than it's ever been in America, but in Europe it's way less of a big deal,” said Wells, who spends part of each year in Stockholm, as his wife is Swedish.

 

“Radio is a very, very, very conservative format and it misses so much of the great music being made,” Wells lamented. Even in 2018, Wells still hears homophobic jokes in music writing sessions, which made him realize that gay people are one of “the last socially accepted” groups to make fun of.

It is an issue that “super close to home” for Wells, whose son is in a same-gender relationship. And it is another reason why he is proud that The Greatest Showman's soundtrack has reached as many ears as it has.

“Anything that can move that needle deeper into the red — that’s an audio term —  I'm all for,” he concluded.

 

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1 hour ago, giraffeandy said:

There's a very similar article about Greg Wells and This Is Me here, in the last part (under Greg's photo) they also mention Mika:

 

https://www.advocate.com/music/2018/8/13/how-me-became-lgbtq-anthem-and-worldwide-hit

 

 

I've just seen this.

I'm glad that times are changing,

(big) BUT,

it makes me very sad that back in the 

"Grace Kelly' days MIKA was frankly 

blocked from US music markets.

So unjust! 😢

 

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9 hours ago, A. Clay said:

I've just seen this.

I'm glad that times are changing,

(big) BUT,

it makes me very sad that back in the 

"Grace Kelly' days MIKA was frankly 

blocked from US music markets.

So unjust! 😢

 

 

It's insane, I remember how big GK was here in 2007, still played on the radio and in the charts, my first Mika song I enjoyed as a kid/teenager (I was 11-12 at the time) and I can't believe that the song was "banned" somewhere else... I simply don't get it. :emot-sad:

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