Cautionary Wife Posted January 12, 2007 Share Posted January 12, 2007 Two years ago, nobody had heard of the man they call Mika. A young, London-based singer with a five-octave vocal range, he had been bombarding record labels with demo tapes only to have the door continually slammed in his face. Ã¢â‚¬ËœI was scorned by the alternative crowd because of my obsession with good melodies,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ he says. Ã¢â‚¬ËœAnd I was rejected by the commercial crowd, the big record companies, because they thought I was too weird.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ How things have changed. Named as popÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hottest new property in last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s BBC Sound Of 2007 poll, Mika (pronounced Ã¢â‚¬ËœMeekaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢) now has the world at his feet. His euphoric debut single, Grace Kelly, out later this month, is a heady taster for a forthcoming album, Life In Cartoon Motion, that will underline the 23-year oldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s distinctive, wide-screen take on the art of the singer-songwriter. Ã¢â‚¬ËœFrom day one, my ambition was to make records that sounded like a band,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ he says. Ã¢â‚¬ËœI earmarked artists from the Seventies and Eighties, like David Bowie and George Michael, who produced big-sounding solo records. Ã¢â‚¬ËœThat notion disappeared in the early Nineties. These days, the idea of a singer-songwriter has negative connotations. People think of a solitary guy in some weird Camden cafÃƒÂ© singing about himself. Ã¢â‚¬ËœI never wanted to do that. I set out to make a record that reeked of artistry, but I also wanted to throw in anything I liked, like a circus master.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Drawing on a broad yet esoteric array of influences Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Prince, Harry Nilsson and Queen Ã¢â‚¬â€œ MikaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tuneful, vaudevillian songs will sit comfortably alongside the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœguilty pleasuresÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ pop of The Feeling and Scissor Sisters in this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s singles charts. His bright-eyed style should fit in well, too, with a new wave of male singers, including Jeremy Warmsley and Jamie T, who also sound more like bandleaders than lone troubadours. Mika acknowledges the changing mood: Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe UK is great for pop right now. But it makes me giggle that even Louis Walsh has tipped me as one to watch. Ã¢â‚¬ËœI can remember sitting in Simon CowellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office when I was 16 and being told that my songs were so strange that I shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bother writing any more. Ã¢â‚¬ËœTo be fair, he also said my voice was very distinctive. But it still hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sunk in just how much these people are altering their opinions.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Born in Beirut, Mika (full name Mika [sp] Penniman) was evacuated from Lebanon with his American father and Lebanese mother in 1984. The family relocated to France before moving to London when Mika was nine. His early experiences in the UK were unhappy, however. Unable to settle at a French school in South Kensington, due partly to his dyslexia, he spent six months outside the education system, most of it studying music. Mika recalls: Ã¢â‚¬â„¢I was the unconventional kid in school. I used to dress in bright red trousers, with a matching bow-tie and shirt. Looking back, I was asking for it Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and I had a pretty horrific time. Ã¢â‚¬ËœBut music got me back on my feet. My mother found a singing teacher in a music shop, and I hit the jackpot with her. Ã¢â‚¬ËœI was trained as a soloist in the way that they used to train Russian athletes. I would have a two-hour singing lesson twice a week and then practise for three hours every day. It was tough, but it gave me a belief in myself.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ As he developed into something of a child prodigy, Mika performed at the Royal Opera House and sang on a recorded version of Vaughn [sp] WilliamsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s The PilgrimÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Progress. At 19, he turned down a place at the London School Of Economics to study at The Royal College Of Music. But while a classical grounding was useful, pop was always his passion. Ã¢â‚¬ËœClassical training has helped my singing,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ he says. Ã¢â‚¬ËœIt means I can use little vocal tricks when I perform live. Ã¢â‚¬ËœBut I grew up listening to Harry Nilsson, Serge Gainsbourg and Bob Dylan, and I love the three-minute wonder of a great pop song.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ With his album out on February 5 and a UK tour opening at the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Concorde in Brighton two weeks later, Mika is going to be hard to avoid in the coming months, especially as he has also been chosen by fashion designer Sir Paul Smith as one of the faces of the yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spring and summer collections. With the heartbreak of previous rejections still fresh, though, the singer is keen to keep this sudden, dramatic improvement in his fortunes in perspective. Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going on is amazing, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve still got a lot to prove. I was lucky enough to be given complete freedom on my album, so I want to keep on pushing the boundaries.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ HIGHLIGHTS * GRACE KELLY Mika soars like Freddie Mercury on a tribute to the Fifties screen goddess. Out as a single on January 29. * LOLLIPOP This punchy piano anthem combines nursery rhymes, doo-wop and the spirit of Harry Nilsson. *LOVE TODAY A delicious disco romp that finds Mika adopting a falsetto reminiscent of Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears. DAILY MAIL Friday 12 January 2007 ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Friday! Music MIKA WORKS HIS STRANGE MAGIC Interview by Adrian Thrills CW. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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