Hello again. I hope, if you are reading my blog posts, that I am keeping them interesting. I like to write about many different things.
This time, I wish to talk to you about the time I heard a wonderful singing voice.
If you have been reading my posts, you will know that I rely a lot on voices. I don’t recognize faces, but voices, I can recognize. However, there was a time when I heard a voice I did not recognize and I was desperate to know who that voice belonged to. When I found out the identity of the man with the golden voice, it kind-of changed my life.
I was working in a charity shop at the time. It was 2007, and it was the year of the big floods in the UK, but I heard a man singing on the radio, and it was like, he brought the sun with him, in his voice. I knew I had never heard his voice before, or the lovely song he was singing, but I knew, I had to find out who he was.
Let’s cut a long story short. I learned that his full name is Michael Holbrook Penniman Junior. He is half American, and half Lebanese and his home is in the UK. All of this is encapsulated in one short word.
His was the voice I was listening to. Until that time I had never heard of Mika, but he had already had a huge hit with a song called ‘Grace Kelly’. I had been listening to his 2nd UK hit, ‘Love Today’. Of course, I got onto the computer at home and looked him up. I saw different concerts he had performed, on You Tube, and I became a huge fan of this charismatic, curly-haired young man, with the beautiful smile and stratespheric vocals.
In 2007, Mika was very well known in the UK. His first album, ‘Life In Cartoon Motion’, sold over 6 million copies worldwide. He won four World Music Awards, that year, and it seemed his career was really taking off. I envisioned him performing in The O2 in London before too long, but sadly, that never happened.
Why did Mika not remain a driving force in music in the UK? Well, I think there were several reasons.
First, he was a bit of a loose cannon. He wanted to make the kinds of music which suited him. He wasn’t interested in the commercial aspect of the pop industry. He wrote his own music so he could not bring out his albums as quickly as someone who could get someone else to write their songs and the people he collaborated with, in the early days, were not well known. .
This should not have mattered as there are other songwriters who don’t produce albums every year, and don’t necessarily colaborate with people who are famous, but I think there were other reasons, for Mika not remaining in the media spotlight.
For some reason The Powers That Be, and the media, made a big thing about the people who had influenced Mika’s music. People like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, who he was always being compared to. But the thing is, every pop star is influenced by someone who came before, but usually no one bothers about those influences. With Mika, however, people were always writing that he was channeling Freddie Mercury, or that his music had this, or that, influence. No one gave him credit for the wonderful songs he wrote and sang. To be honest. I think Mika’s music is unique and it’s a shame the whole world does not hear it.
There was something else that the UK media did not like about Mika in 2007. They did not like the fact that he would not utter these three little words to them…
“I am gay”
If he had said those three little words, they may not have been so hard on him. But Mika would not say them. For heavens sake! It was none of anyone’s business. Of course his fans had mostly guessed, and we were fine about it, but Mika took his time. He was not going to come-out to order. He came out when the time was right for him to do it. By the time he came out, in 2012, the UK press were no longer interested in him, so it’s possible that UK people who were not following Mika’s career, did not know that he finally said that he is gay. He has a long-time partner and his song ‘Origin of Love’, from his third album ‘The Origin of Love’ is dedicated to the man Mika loves.
Actually, Mika is the gay icon that the world’s gay population do not seem to know exists. His music was always influenced by his sexuality, and songs like ‘Billy Brown’, from the album ‘Life In Cartoon Motion’, and ‘Toy Boy’, from the second album, ‘The Boy Who Knew Too Much’, are very obviously about gay relationships. But in his fourth album, ‘No Place In Heaven’, there is a song called ‘Good Guys’, and it has a line which says. “Where have all the gay guys gone?” It’s about all of the gay guys who influenced Mika when he was young.
He also never managed to break America. If a UK act breaks America it garners great respect for them in the UK. Adele and One Direction broke into the American market and the UK media were thrilled about it, but Mika never managed to make it big in The States. American radio did play Grace Kelly, but there is a line in it where Mika says “I tried to be like Grace Kelly,” and the DJs thought he wanted to be a woman, so they wouldn’t play the song enough to make it a hit in the US. It didn’t occur to them that the song is metaphoric, not literal. It is, in fact, a wonderful song about finding one’s own place in the world. Not being dictated to by other people.
Mika, who is multi-lingual, has spent the last few years judging The X factor in Italy, and The voice, in France. He has also hosted an occasional radio series in the UK, called ‘The Art Of Song’, where he plays the songs of the artists which have meant something to him over the years. He plays a wide variety of wonderful music on the show, and also performs some of them himself, at a piano, donated by Elton John.
The radio show has received critical acclaim in the UK, and I’m so proud of Mika.
The latest episodes of his UK radio show are on BBC Radio 2, on the 8th and 15th of November, from 22:00-23:00
I wish more people knew about Mika and would listen to his work. I have found a link to a great article, which also has some of his best known videos included in it.
Here is one of my favourite Mika song. No Place In Heaven, from the album of the same name.
I urge you all to look up this wonderful, sadly overlooked singer-songwriter. You will not be sorry if you do. Like he did for me, he will put the sunshine into your life.
Will post again soon
Love from Mari