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A Rising British Pop Star Revives a Mercurial Style: New York Times


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Just found this before hitting the hay:

 

A Rising British Pop Star Revives a Mercurial Style

 

By JON PARELES

Published: March 31, 2007

 

 

Clowns handed out balloons and the sound system played perky Top 10 hits before Mika took the stage at the Gramercy Theater on Thursday night. Mika, whose song “Grace Kelly” was a No. 1 hit in Britain and is currently No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100, was branding his music as pure pop fun, and he wasn’t kidding. With a big smile on his face and in his voice, and with bright, bouncy, catchy tunes, Mika isn’t flaunting any angst.

 

Born in Lebanon but raised in Paris and London, Mika (whose real name is Michael Holbrook Penniman) looks like a pop star: skinny, strong-featured and impeccably tousle-haired even after he’s been strutting across the stage. His voice is startlingly similar to that of Freddie Mercury, Queen’s lead singer, from breathy baritone to swooping tenor to piercing falsetto.

 

Mika has cultivated Mr. Mercury’s mixture of hard-sell vocal gymnastics and arch, campy amusement. He has also latched on to one part of Queen’s sound — a brisk boom-chunk beat topped by scrubbing guitar chords or mock-classical piano — and coupled it with the power-chorded pop of 1970s British bands like Sweet. In songs from his album “Life in Cartoon Motion” (Casablanca/Universal), the hooks are clear and conspicuous, and behind them is a cheerful gleam of calculation. “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)” proclaims just that; “Ring Ring” complains, with self-satisfaction, about someone who keeps calling and hanging up.

 

For a polymorphous fillip, Mika has “Billy Brown,” about a married man who falls in love with a man. He also sang a new song, “Holy Johnny,” about a friend who “once was a whore” but joined the priesthood after his heart was broken. Neither is exactly controversial.

 

Most of the time Mika stuck to songs about love, describing breakups while the music grinned through them. “Love’s gonna let you down,” went the chorus in “Lollipop,” but it happily bounded ahead, pure bubblegum down to its candy title; for a live bit of naughtiness, Mika changed “bore” to “whore” in the lyrics.

 

Mika’s songs promised that he was eager to please. “I could be wholesome/I could be loathsome,” he sang in “Grace Kelly,” and he offered half a dozen other options. In “Everybody’s Gotta Love,” a song about breaking out of depression, he insisted, “Anyway you’ve got to love, love me.”

 

That’s a little premature. At the moment, Mika shows off his pop skills with a determined superficiality. His heartbroken ballad “Over My Shoulder” was more a falsetto showcase than a lament. If he figures out how to show some heart amid his pop frolics, he could turn out to be more than the sum of his hooks.

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So I wonder if this writer was with the N.Y.Times photographer that Giedrusia ran into at Gramercy Theatre, that was a little unpleasant about Mika? He seems to have stayed longer than the photographer.

Thanks for posting the article dcdeb.

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So I wonder if this writer was with the N.Y.Times photographer that Giedrusia ran into at Gramercy Theatre, that was a little unpleasant about Mika? He seems to have stayed longer than the photographer.

Thanks for posting the article dcdeb.

 

I was wondering that myself! Giedrusia and the photographers were right behind me. But both photographers left only after the first song. :shocked:

 

Thanks for posting the article, dcdeb! This is going in my scrapbook about the show. I'm a little annoyed the writer got a couple of the song names incorrect among a few of his other comments.:thumbdown:

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If he figures out how to show some heart amid his pop frolics, he could turn out to be more than the sum of his hooks.

 

Did he not listen to the whole cd? Mika puts heart and emotion into all of his songs, from extreme energy and happiness to sad and/or introspective. He is a whole ocean full of pounding waves and ebbing calm.

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