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DAILY TELEGRAPH - 18/01/2007

 

The spirit of Queen's Freddie Mercury lives on in the flamboyant music of pop's hottest new act. Michael Deacon meets Mika

 

The most hyped British pop act since Arctic Monkeys is only on his fourth song when a fan wrestles her way on to the stage to jerk and jive with her idol. By the standards of this Camden crowd, she doesn't look desperately trendy: sack-brown pleated skirt, shapeless woollen pullover, perm.

 

But then, she is in her eighties.

 

"Big girl, you are beautiful!" the singer trills, over a beat so jaunty it makes Scissor Sisters sound like a crematorium house band.

 

"Woo!" hoots his geriatric devotee, rolling her hips so energetically her spectacles almost fall off. He's yet to release a CD, but even at this absurdly early stage, it seems as if the buzz about Mika is felt some distance beyond the boundaries of MySpace.

 

In a recent BBC poll last week, music business tipsters named this Beirut-born singer-songwriter the pop newcomer most likely to succeed in 2007. Now comes the test of whether the public agrees. Mika's first single, Grace Kelly – a Queen-ishly vivacious glam-rock stomp – went in at No 3 last week, and his album Life in Cartoon Motion is out on Feb 5.

 

"There's so much pressure to get results now, it's scary," he grins, with a whinny of mock-fear. It's six weeks since the elderly stage invasion, and Mika perches, beaming and fidgeting, on the leather sofa of a Soho bar. If he had a tail, he'd be wagging it madly. In fawn and grey, he's dressed a little less flamboyantly than at that Camden gig – where, with his boisterous curls and braces hoisting chestwards an almost deafeningly loud pair of red trousers, he looked like Owen Hargreaves disguised as a gay Bavarian goatherd.

 

Mika has always been an ostentatious dresser, he confesses. Aged six, he used to demand (and get) wincingly bright bow ties tailor-made to match his equally gaudy shirts and shorts. "I was a show-off as a kid. A bit weird. But I had that beaten out of me by everyone I was at school with."

 

Mika – then Mica Penniman – started at his first English school after spells in Paris and his native Lebanon. So incessantly was he bullied (the bow ties, the "airport accent", the girlishly long hair) that his mother kept him at home for six months until she could enrol him elsewhere.

 

He was saved by music, and his near-delirious single-mindedness. At seven, he wrote his first song, an "awful" piano instrumental entitled Angry. By 12, he was peppering record companies with home-taped demos.

 

"They'd take my calls because I was so young – like, 'Aw, we'd better talk to him or it'll break his little heart.' " At 14, he wriggled his way into a house party thrown by the head of the record label RCA, scampered to the piano and bolted through five songs. "They said that I was talented," he blushes, "but that they didn't know quite what to do with me…"

 

There's still a streak of childish precocity in the music Mika writes now, at the grand old age of 23. The hysterically bouncy Lollipop calls to mind the chanting Muppets of Sesame Street. On Billy Brown he relates the anguish of a married man torn in two by his bisexuality. But so jolly is the tune that Mika might be a playschool assistant singing the alphabet.

 

Like advertising jingles, Mika's melodies, once heard, ping cheerfully about the skull without possibility of extraction. This will infuriate some, but nursery-rhyme catchiness has its advantages: at the Camden gig, the crowd hollered every word.

 

He had, he says, only one moment of serious self-doubt about pursuing pop.

 

"I was 19, and thought, 'I'm a nutcase. What am I doing? Thinking I can write funny little songs for a living. I'd better get a degree.' " He signed up to study geography at LSE. After a horrified skim through his textbooks, he quit on the first afternoon of term.

 

Since landing a record deal (there was a false start when his employers tried to mould him, rather implausibly, into the next Craig David), Mika has insisted on creative autonomy. He designs his own posters and CD artwork, and builds personal websites in the guises of the characters described in his songs.

 

It's little surprise to learn he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. "I never offer to make tea for anyone – it would take too long. You've got to have a precise level of water in the pot, make sure the cup is in exactly the right place…"

 

Being weird has been the bane of Mika's life; now, it could be the making of him. But, for all the ballyhoo, the odour of pariahdom still lingers. "I went to a party full of famous people – Elton John, people like that – and it felt like school. Everyone standing in their packs, and me wandering around like the new boy again. People snubbing me, being catty to me. It was like a club I didn't belong to." He considers. "I don't think I want to belong."

 

'Life in Cartoon Motion' (Island) is out on Feb 5.

 

From: The Daily Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/01/18/bmmika118.xml

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DAILY TELEGRAPH - 18/01/2007

It's little surprise to learn he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. "I never offer to make tea for anyone – it would take too long. You've got to have a precise level of water in the pot, make sure the cup is in exactly the right place…"

 

Wow, he suffers from it too:bleh: Then I'm not the only grazy one:naughty:

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