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Mika: Downloads lead to singular success

Cautionary Wife

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The Face

BY Damian Whitworth


Mika: Downloads lead to singular success


Smarting from yet another record company rejection, a young aspiring singersongwriter sat down at his piano and composed a jaunty slice of pop with an angry “screw you†message for the executives who wanted him to be something he was not. Now that song, Grace Kelly, sits atop the singles chart, and its creator, Mika, is being lauded as the effervescent sound of 2007.


A week before its release in hard format, the song is only the second single to reach No 1 through downloads, and the flamboyant 23-year-old finds himself compared to Elton John, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Robbie Williams. His enormously confident performance on Later . . . With Jools Holland, singing and accompanying himself at the piano, marked the arrival of someone sure of his star potential. Promoters are hurriedly rebooking the dates on his sell-out UK tour at larger venues.


Born Mica Penniman to an American father and Lebanese mother in Beirut, he emigrated with his family to Paris and then London. He struggled with dyslexia, and his unusual dress sense (red trousers and bow ties) and manner caused him to be bullied at school in South Kensington. “I was called the typical fag and all those other homophobic, horrible little comments that kids throw at each other.†His mother educated him at home for several months, during which a Russian singing teacher helped him to find his five-octave singing voice. He had spells at Westminster School and the Royal College of Music before concentrating on building a pop career. He had some success writing and performing advertising jingles: “I’ll never forget calling up British Airways to get a ticket, only to be placed in a queue listening to my own voice. That was a painful eight minutes.†But he had to send out countless demo tapes before eventually winning a recording contract and being championed by Radio 1.


Mika has taken a multi-media approach to building his fan base, creating  with his sister, an artist  a group of animated characters that feature in the songs and have their own blogs. He is to be the new face of Paul Smith.


The camp, showy nature of his performances has prompted plenty of speculation about his sexual preferences. “I never talk about anything to do with my sexuality,†he has said. “I just don’t think I need to. I don’t really feel it is necessary to know in terms of my music.â€Â


He says he loves artists such as Prince, Harry Nilsson, Elton John and Michael Jackson: “These people make amazing pop records that couldn’t be performed by anybody else, and that’s what I always wanted to do.†On the Queen-ish Grace Kelly he opines repeatedly: “Why don’t you like me? Why don’t you like me?†He doesn’t need to ask that any more.



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