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March 15, 2007 12:00am


Herald Sun, Australia


NEW British pop sensation Mika has some heavy hitters in his corner, so shut up and listen. CAMERON ADAMS reports


BRITISH dandy Mika is on stage in Camden, briefly slowing down his non-stop poptastic live show for the haunting, classically influenced ballad Over My Shoulder.


Though the show is a sellout and his first London show since topping the British charts with the single Grace Kelly and debut album Life in Cartoon Motion, it isn't stopping loud talkers drowning out his tender balladry.


A familiar looking man with impressively high hair turns around to a particularly noisy couple and fires off a stern ``shhh'' a librarian would be proud of.


The hirsute man handing out the shush? Brian May, legendary Queen guitarist.


He's also one of Mika's most ardent fans, even if that means dealing with noisy crowds himself.


``He's so supportive, to the point of defending me,'' Mika jokes the next day.


``He's also been defending me to the press. It's amazing. I think that's why he's survived so long, he's still awake to it all, he's receptive. And he's not up his own a---, despite all the success.''


The shadow of May's old bandmate, Freddie Mercury, has followed Mika all over the world as he starts on his road to global domination.


Mika's camp antics, flamboyant image and liberal falsetto have fuelled the constant comparisons, and Mercury even gets name-checked in Grace Kelly when Mika sings: ``So I tried a little Freddie.''


Some critics say he's tried more than a little to channel Mr Mercury. What does May think?


``Brian says he sees things in me that he saw in Freddie,'' Mika says.


``He sees those things in other performers too, like Robbie Williams. He says there's only about four people in the UK he's seen that in and Freddie was one of them and there aren't many left.


He's so incredibly supportive.


``Anyone who tries to diss me in comparison to Queen, it just renders all their criticisms completely futile. That's quite pleasurable.''


It's been a fast, giddy ride for Mika, even though he considers himself ``an overnight sensation 12 years in the making''.


The Mika story is as colourful as his music. Born Michael Holbrook Penniman in Beirut in 1983, his family left war-torn Lebanon to move to Paris, then London.


Penniman then adopted his nickname Mika (pronounced Meeka). Targeted by school bullies and suffering from dyslexia by age 11, he had a ``little breakdown''.


Mika then enrolled in a musical school, met a Russian music teacher and started earning money as a young teen by singing jingles for everything from British Airways to Orbit chewing gum.


``At the same time as I was singing inflight music I was singing with the Royal Opera House, so I had no snob attitude when it came to what I do,'' Mika says. ``It definitely helped.''


Soon he was wooed by the music industry, at a time when Craig David was the role model for male artists.


``Record companies were coming to me saying `You can be successful, we'll support you but you have to be this','' Mika says of requests to make him more R&B.


``I wasn't going to change. I told them to f--- off and wrote a song about it and moved on.''


That song became Grace Kelly.


Lyrics such as ``Why don't you like me, why don't you like yourself, should I bend over, should I look older just to be put on the shelf'' were not only aimed at a specific music-industry target, but Mika printed them out and sent them to the person in question.


He was vindicated in January when, after signing a more creatively liberating record deal, the song became a British No.1 hit and his global calling card.


``It is really nice,'' Mika says.


``I forget about where that song came from sometimes. It's ironic, to break through with a song like that that is such a statement of honesty is really gratifying.''


Mika isn't honest across the board, however. Since his arrival on the scene, he's had to dodge questions about his sexuality.


``I don't see any reason why you should talk about it,'' Mika says.


``I can see why people are interested simply on a pop-culture basis, but people don't really care. They care for a little bit, because it sells newspapers and magazines, but as far as the work is concerned I don't think it really matters.''


One gay newspaper suggested Mika was keeping his sexuality under wraps in preparation for his mentor Tommy Mottola (the former Mr Mariah Carey) launching him in the notoriously homophobic US market.


``People say `You don't want to talk about sexuality because you're worried about having success in the US and you're worried about sexual taboos','' Mika says.


``I say `Have you heard the f---ing album?' There's a song called Billy Brown about a married man who has a homosexual affair and one of my lyrics goes `I tried to be like Grace Kelly'.


``If I was worried about sexual taboos I certainly wouldn't have made the record I made. It has nothing to do with that. It has more to do with self-respect.''


Mika points to the old-school pop stars who didn't offer their personal life up for mass consumption.


``I'm not creating an enigma or leaving mystery, I'm just respecting myself enough as an artist to give myself room to grow and not to be devoured all in one go,'' he says.


``We all have to be dishes on a plate eventually, with the way we are marketed, but I have no intention of being a cheap Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet.''


Mika says he deliberately knows nothing of the private lives of his musical heroes.


``I'd never compare myself to Freddie Mercury because I look up to him far too much. As an artist, not necessarily as a person. I'm not interested in people as people. Never have been. Never had a poster on my wall. It almost ruins it,'' he says.


``I'm a huge Harry Nilsson obsessive and I'm so uninterested in his personal life because he was horrible and it makes me like him less. So I just know nothing about it. It's so boring.''


Mika is ready for the backlash that comes from instant success.


``The reviews of my album are polarised and that's an achievement,'' Mika says.


``I know people like to have a sacrificial cow they can fatten up and then slaughter, but I'm not willing to play that game.


``People are talking about a backlash but I'm at the beginning of my career and I've got a long way to go creatively and a lot of things to achieve.


``But I'm willing to go for it. I can get away with it now. Actually I've always gotten away with everything. It's important to get away with everything.''


Life in Cartoon Motion (Universal) out Saturday.

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Yes, nice article ! Thanks !

This guy is wise : it's true that when you know too many things about artists you like, it can sometimes desappoint you ! For example, I used to like Michael Jackson but now, with all those this fuss about suspection of being a pedophile, I must admit I can hardly listen to him ! Some people tell me I shouldn't make a confusion between the man and the artist but I just can't succeed in making the difference !

As for Mika's sexual preferences, I don't know and don't want to know them ! It's HIS life ! It is no business of ours ! I can't understand why journalists are so obsessed with that !

As Prince used to sing :

I just can't believe, all the things people say


I am black or white ? I am straight or gay ?

Controversy ( ....)

I can't understand, all that curiosity

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Nice article thanks for posting wife :thumb_yello:


You're most welcome.. I've not had much time to search the Internet for hidden treasures lately! Life just keeps getting in the way.. oh and claiming husbands :naughty:


Great to see Mika hitting the headlines on the other side of the world!! I have told everyone I know over there about Mika!

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I think it's wise to not answer this "boys or girls" question. If you start telling about your relationships, the press will ask all the time: are you seeing anyone/have you met someone new/why did you break up? and the point of the interviews should be in music. It seems to be hard to understand that every song doesn't have to tell about your own private personal life.


Then when an artist writes songs about his/her personal tragedies, it might help to understand the lyrics if you know that there is a true story somewhere. It's a bit more relevant to know because still the main subject is in music.


I think Mika has already been quite open to the press, telling stories of his childhood. That should be enough :)

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It's amazing that some one of his years is so much worldly wise than some of the people who write about him. I know that up to now he has been through so much more than anyone else his age, but the way he sees things so clearly despite everything (other older people going through similar experiences, might be more jaded and bitter, maybe he is ,but he hides it pretty well).

I can't help admiring him the more he opens up, he is such a gentle soul and he deserves to be happy in whatever he does.

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Thanks for posting this! :thumb_yello:

I agree, we shouldn't have to know about his personal life simply because it's his and his only. It wouldn't affect how much I like his music, and I admire him for flat out saying "You don't need to know EVERYTHING about me." Not a lot of people can really do that, and he does it with class and maturity! Great role model to aspiring singers! :punk:

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lovely, thanks for finding this,:thumb_yello:


is so rare to get intelligent interviews out of stars, and his get better every say!


he is so good and honest in his interviews, his sincerity alone could sell him, the music then becomes the icing on the cake! What an artist, what a man!:thumb_yello:

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