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Mika in Dutch magazine 'Oor'


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I really hope this hasn't been posted yet because that would mean I scanned and translated it for no reason at all! I did a search and couldn't find anything about it so here goes.


The article is from issue #03, April 2007.


For the Dutchies (and non Dutchies ofcourse who are interested in the pictures): You can click the links underneath the pics for big (huuuuge) pics of the magazine.













Mika's own world.


There are artists who rise to the top slowly but surely and there are artists who seem to have risen to the top fast, at once. The Lebanese-American singer Mika is one of the latter. Whether you like him or not, soon there’s no way of escaping him. His debut album ‘Life in Cartoon Motion’ is filled with potential hit songs and could very well be the first big breakthrough of 2007.


Mika is the stage name of Mica Penniman, singer/pianist and writer of popsongs with a capital P. Born in Beirut and via Paris and London now rapidly conquering the rest of the world. Robbie Williams, Elton John, Queen and the Scissor Sisters have got themselves some strong competition, that much is clear after listening to Life in Cartoon Motion, Mika’s debut album. The 23 year old singer performed his first single Grace Kelly on the Jools Holland show mid-November of last year. The video of that performance was a small hype on YouTube. Approximately six weeks later the BBC named Mika the most promising breakthrough artist of 2007. Not more than a week later Grace Kelly topped the charts at number 1 in the UK, based on downloads alone. The single’s success spread like an oil stain across Europe and now America is preparing for it’s arrival. Mika will be performing at the prestigious Coachella Festival in California late April.

Life in Cartoon Motion is a varied collection of colourful pop songs, exactly like the title indicates. His songs are not just incredible potential pophits, Mika also has a story to tell that’s different from all the other bands that are currently coming out of the UK, if only because of his Lebanese background. So he flies across Europe to do interviews and shows like the one he’s doing for French TV today. Oor saw the opportunity present itself and raced across the tracks with 300 kilometers an hour to Paris to catch this phenomenon in action.


And that’s how we find ourselves, mid January, in the lobby of an expensive hotel close to the Champs-Élysèes, 8th arrond., Paris. When he arrives at the hotel, coming straight back from the television studio, it catches our eye how friendly and happy he looks. Mika is nearly 2 meters in height, has a boyish smile and a beautiful head of curly hair but he also looks like a bit of a beanpole and in his nylon trench coat he sort of resembles a father getting ready to take his kids on a sailing trip. There’s not much time to chat and above all he still needs to eat his dinner which he’ll have to do during the interview. In the end it turns out that he doesn’t even get the time to eat. Mika is used to it, the restlessness. Ever since he was a kid he’s been dragged from one place to another.


“My dad worked in finance, he met my mother in Lebanon†he says. “He’s American, she’s Lebanese. I was born in Beirut but left when I was only 1 years old. We evacuated actually. It was in 1984, during the civil war. The American embassy made it possible for us to flee from the violence. We were evacuated via Cyprus and eventually ended up in France.â€

That’s where he feels at home. He leads a “picturebook life†there, according to his own words. He goes to a French boarding school, lives ion Paris and is happy. But even in Paris violence continues to haunt the Penniman family. “My dad had to go to Kuwait on a business trip. That trip changed our lives completely. Coincidentally the night his father arrived was the same night the first Gulf war started and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He was imprisoned and held for seven months at the American embassy. If he set as much as one foot outside of the building he would’ve been shot. We didn’t know what was going on. It was a very difficult time for us, filled with uncertainties. When he came back he found himself a new job in England so we moved there. There we started over again, like we had done before. That’s stereotypical of our family†he says as he laughs the bad memories away.


London is the new homebase, the French Lyceum his new school. Mika is teased a lot because of his (alleged) homosexuality for instance. Annoying journalists who ask about his sexuality are quickly put in their place. After all, it’s all about the music. Which helped him get through high school. When he’s just 11 years old Mika starts writing his own songs because he’s unable to play other people’s songs on the piano. He immediately starts sending around his demos with the hopes of getting signed. Help with his piano skills he gets from a Russian teacher. “During my second lesson, when she realised I couldn’t play very well and couldn’t read music because of my dyslexia, she started giving me singing lessons. When I played the piano I always used to hum along to the songs to be able to play them. She heard me doing that and it caused her to suggest teaching me how to sing. I had a very strange voice as a kid. I sounded more like a seventeen year old girl than a twelve year old boy.â€

His unique voice lands him his first real job. “I was 11 years old when I was allowed to sing at the Royal Opera House in a Strauss Opera. It was great. That was the moment I realised there were two worlds: there’s a fake world but there was also a different world, a world where everyone is unique and where everything that’s different about you radiates. The fake world was school, the real one the music world. So when I had to get back to school I could look at all the other kids and think: I can survive this because I know I can be in the music world again in a week. And in ten years time I will be there constantly. Escapism, but completely real to me. Everyone thought I was a dreamer, nobody realised I was completely serious about what I was doing.†It’s no surprise then that his record seems to be taking place in another world, a world in bright cartoon colours where characters such a Billy Brown live.


When you hear Mika sing you’d think differently but as a kid Mika wasn’t a big fan of Freddy Mercury, Elton John or George Michael. “I never had posters of artists on my bedroom walls,†he says. “I’ve always been able to separate the work from the person.†There’s another simple explanation why Mika doesn’t want to mimic his idols. He simply doesn’t know the music yet. “I’d never heard a Queen album till I was 15. When I first heard them I was completely blown away. It’ll surprise you how little I know of pop and rock music. I hadn’t heard The White Album until my seventeenth. Discovering those records as late as I did was probably one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. It happened during a time of my life when I could truly appreciate it because by then I’d gathered the knowledge and experience to truly explore them. I understood it and was completely baffled. I realised Prince, Elton John, Queen and Michael Jackon all made pop albums that were intensely melodic and yet had the power and sound needed to fill stadiums. They sound huge. Nobody makes records like these anymore, certainly no solo artists except maybe Kanye West and Beck. They’re the only ones who’ve given themselves the artistic freedom to make albums using all different kinds of sounds. They’re like circus masters of their own albums.â€

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Ah it didn't fit in one post so here is part 2:


After a brief experience studying Economics he decides to enrol at the Royal College of Music. At first sight a logical choice. It turned out to be a bit of a downer. “The first year there was probably the hardest one of my life,” he explains. “I used to write pop songs at night while studying Brahm’s work during the day. I was leading a double life. People at my school thought I was weird and even the record labels I sent my demos to thought I was strange. They didn’t understand how I’d ever be able to sell records. On my demos I sang and played the piano. Those were the basic structures. I had it all worked out in my head and thought the people from the music industry would understand it when they heard my demos.”

Characteristic is the anecdote that when he was finally allowed to record an album by his label, he didn’t care who would produce it. He was already busy working on the artwork. Life in Cartoon Motion was already completed in his head, after all. The album is filled with songs that are different from eachother. They only have one thing in common: they’re all pop songs that could evolve into hits that would even appeal to your grandmother. Oddly enough it took people a long to realise exactly how catchy these songs really are. “I wrote songs based on the classical 3-minute melodic pop songs, yet the lyrics consist of topics never used in a pop song,” he explains. “Songs like Big Girl (You are beautiful) or Grace Kelly. Have you ever heard a song with a chorus in which the singer says he wants to be like Grace Kelly? And then there’s Billy Brown (about a man who leaves his wife for another man) and Lollipop (with the classic line “Sucking too hard on your lollipop”). Nobody understood it.”

Even the London indiescene didn’t accept him. “Too melodic,” says Mika. The lack of understanding is what ended up helping him. It provided him with the inspiration for Grace Kelly. “Time and time again there was someone willing to give me a record deal and then backing out. Grace Kelly was a stick you to those people. It was a personal message. All I ever wanted to be is myself. Only when I decided to be myself and not change who I was as a songwriter or singer I would succeed. The process lasted for about a year and during that time I found some musicians and a technician in Miami who was willing to help me. I’d fly over there during the holidays to record demos. We’d sneak into the studio when it wasn’t being used by other bands and we’d record between 9pm and 3am for instance. When the studio boss found out he fired the technician instantly. Eventually it took us about a year to finish 4 songs. It was the first time I tried to create the sound I had in mind.”


It was that demo that eventually got him a record deal. So far it has paid off for both sides. The fact that the flamboyant and theatrical aspect of pop music is back with bands such as Scissor Sisters, The Decemberists, Antony And The Johnsons and Arcade Fire, also helps. “The time I’m debuting in has helped me. I don’t deny that. At the same time, I’ve never been influenced by whatever’s in fashion. Maybe you just have to write the right songs. I just do what I do. I’ll succeed in music. No matter what.”

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Hey, thanks a lot! :thumb_yello:


I didn't manage to get the April issue of Oor, so I am very happy with these digital version of the article! I haven't read it yet, will do that as soon as I can find the time.

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I forgot to add the review that was in the magazine aswell. The reviewer totally got it with the album title and such. A very nice read I thought.




And the translation.


You know what you should do to put yourself on the map as a new artist? No, don’t badmouth the bands that are the coolest at the moment. That’s so easy. Just make an album that has 8 singles on it, that’s a much better idea. Like in the case of Mika, the 23 year old Lebanese/British crooner who’s attempting to reach star-status with his album Life in Cartoon Motion. His reaching gets him quite far. His first single Grace Kelly has been topping the UK charts at number 1 for weeks now. It’s not even his best song. Life in Cartoon Motion contains much better songs such as the playful Lollipop, the Scissor Sister-esque Love Today, Relax, Take it Easy and My Interpretation that brings to mind Elton John. Ever so rarely he goes over the top, like in Any Other World (the strings!!). The title of this album ofcourse didn’t just come out of nowhere. The music sounds like you’re being sucked into a musical cartoon. One in which Mika dances around in a neon coloured landscape and where he playfully and effortlessly puts the songs together. The fun in writing and playing music just oozes out of this album. Gay? Pretty much, but only insecure men feel uneasy with it. Plus: didn’t the Bee Gees, The Carpenters and ABBA get slandered initially only to be acknowledged as great writers later on? Not cool enough for the average Oor-subscriber or NME-reader but secretly just too fantastic and unavoidable. This is pop in it’s purest form. So put aside your embarrassment and surrender yourself to Mika.

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