Arjan Writes | Interview | Mika | Music | News

Rising Pop Star Mika Talks About Life in Cartoon Motion

Guestblogger_2[by Arjan Writes, guest blogger] Mika is just everywhere these days. People are raving about this new pop sensation whose debut album Life In Cartoon Motion debuted at #1 in the U.K. a few weeks ago. His single “Grace Kelly” also shot to the top of the British pop charts and held the coveted position for more than four weeks.

MikaThe Lebanese crooner who lives in London is now ready to conquer North America. He has been playing showcases in the U.S. to promote the U.S. release of his album next week.

Turned off by mediocre television singing contests and inspired by great songwriters of the ‘70s, Mika’s infectious brand of flamboyant pop has struck a cord with a broad audience, including gays. One of his standout tracks is “Billy Brown”, which describes the journey of a married man who discovers that he’s attracted to men.

Much has been written about the way you got your record deal. How did it exactly come about?
It is quite a story. I was studying classical music in London until a year ago. I always knew I wanted to do pop music. So I was sort of living a double life. Studying classical music during the day and writing pop songs in the evening. I sent out a lot of demos but nobody really got into what I wanted to do. The commercial people rejected me and the indie crowd did not accept me either because I was too melody-based. So I continued doing the same thing. I got in touch with some people who were associated with a big label and they wanted me to become somebody I was not. I refused to do that. I ended up going to Miami on a regular basis to work there independently on my music. With borrowed studio time and musicians doing stuff for free, I ended up with a solid demo. In the meantime, the record company that initially dismissed me had completely changed their tone and wanted to sign me.

Is it true you wrote “Grace Kelly” as a response to those label heads that wanted to change you?

Yes. I wrote “Grace Kelly” as a screw-you song to those label people that wanted me to be somebody I was not. But ironically, one year later, it was the song that got me signed!

For people not familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?
Hyper-real pop.  It has this hyper-reality to it, hence the cartoon title.

Pop has become such a dirty word. How do you do pop differently?
I’m trying to reclaim pop. Television singing contests, like X Factor or American Idol, have introduced a bad side of pop music. Especially in the U.K., pop music has lost its face and the artistry has been forgotten about.

Do you think bands like Scissor Sisters have laid a foundation for you?
I wonder about that. I am a fan of Scissor Sisters and part of what we do comes from the same place. But it is different because I’m a solo artist.

Blogs in particular have championed you in the U.S.. How do you feel about that?
There is no real agenda with online press so blogs tend to be brutally honest. So to get positive reactions from blogs really means a lot to me.

How did the song “Billy Brown” about a gay affair come about?

I was reading about a similar situation in a paper in London. It seemed to have a lot relevance to people and I thought it would make a good theme for a pop song. As soon as I started to play it, people were saying 'oh this happened to a friend of mine, or this happened to so and so.' I was surprised nobody had written about it before.

Rumors have been circulating about your own sexuality. Are you gay?
I don’t' really discuss that. I don’t feel I really need to. My music speaks for itself. I have total freedom with what I do musically and the way that I live my life. And I feel really comfortable with that.

Are you ready to conquer America?
Breaking into the U.S. market as one lump is a little scary, but nowadays it is not necessary as much because you can do a lot of online stuff.

Do you ever pinch yourself?  It is pretty amazing what’s happening to you.
Totally. It feels like I’m living one of my pop songs. It is like a hyper-reality. [Laughs]

What is your live show like?

We’ve been able to re-create the energy from the record. It is just a little bit louder and more aggressive.

Time for some fun questions. Do you prefer Kylie or Madonna?
Kylie at the moment. She’s gone through some amazing few months. She’s a magnet.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
[Laughs]  Where do I start? My music collection from complete trashy pop, the most ridiculous collection of novelty records from Japanese pop to French baby pop. 

What can we wake you up for in the middle of the night?
I tend to be a little grumpy if you wake me up when I’m sleeping. There’s not much that will get me up. [Laughs]

Arjan is the author of the music blog Arjan Writes, where you can find new music, free downloads, album reviews, and more artist interviews. Life in Cartoon Motion has its official U.S. release on March 25.

You may have missed...
Cracking Mika's Enigma Code [tr]
Pop Phenom Mika Takes Manhattan in Candy-Coated Showcase [tr]

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  1. I don't feel the need to discuss my sexuality = YAWN!

    George Michael, Queen, Scissor Sisters all rolled into one annoying package. His sound is not new. Scissor Sisters hit well before him.

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 22, 2007 4:39:11 PM

  2. Thank you Ricky Martin, Johnny Weir, Robbie Williams, Kevin Spacey, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Liberace, blah blah blah....

    Does this dick in my ass make me look gay?

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 22, 2007 4:41:06 PM

  3. Um, yea. Definitely not interested in anyone who refuses to simply state whether or not he's gay. Is it really that hard of a question? Yawn.

    Posted by: Anita Woodward | Mar 22, 2007 5:00:46 PM

  4. "They wanted me to become something I was not, but I refuse to tell you what I am exactly."

    Posted by: anon | Mar 22, 2007 5:05:42 PM

  5. When is Anderson Cooper interviewing him?

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 22, 2007 5:13:09 PM

  6. seems like Mika's a huge part of the euro-pop media-ocre scene he complains about.
    frankly, his music is alright at best... so, i don't really care if he's gay, or if he's proud, or if he's lebanese, or if he likes kylie over madonna.
    If he was an amazing talent then i'd figure it a damn shame that he's not behaving like a proud man, but he's not worth our worry.
    his loss.

    Posted by: A.J. | Mar 22, 2007 5:22:48 PM

  7. You guys are hilarious...and swift. LOL :)

    Posted by: M | Mar 22, 2007 5:38:53 PM

  8. He won't talk about being gay because he's afraid it'll hurt his career in America. YAWN. Come on, Mika, if you're so full of the creativity and integrity you proclaim to be full of, coming out won't make one bit of difference.

    Posted by: Jason | Mar 22, 2007 5:44:08 PM

  9. Arjan that was a great interview! Mika seems so down to earth. I once left a humourous message to him at his myspace on the spur of the moment, and he answered me back!! which really caught me off guard lol. He's a very sweet guy.

    And c'mon folks, he's not denying he's gay nor claiming be straight! he just won't discuss the topic, but confirms that his music speaks for itself..that says it all, if you're willing to hear him out. He's written a song about homosexuality, which isn't something many artists in the mainstream will do.

    So it's like this: gay indie artists do not get enough support from the gay community, yet we wanna get mad at artists like Mika for playing the mainstream game as much as they can...And you just know that if he came out tomorrow The Advocate would take him off their covers & GLAAD would ban him from their future nominees list (as they do with gay media) cause 'he no longer needs the support from the community'. And most will rally behind those orgs saying they're right..

    Go figure, eh?

    Posted by: Da | Mar 22, 2007 5:48:43 PM

  10. Give it a rest people.

    He has to deal with fame and now you want to pile on him over his sexuality. Let him come out when he is ready. He's a good guy.

    Posted by: Jack! | Mar 22, 2007 6:45:44 PM

  11. This just in: Associated Press, March 22, 2007. Best Dressed, blue-eyed boy wonder of CNN, Anderson Cooper to release first album. CNN star Anderson Cooper has announced that he's just finished mixing his first CD to be called, "Peace In the Valley—Roxy, the Only Woman I Ever Loved." The disco compilation includes all the songs Cooper used to dance until dawn to at the now shuttered Big Apple hot spot. Cooper: "February 5th, 1990. The Roxy mens room. I remember it like it was last night. It was the first time I had let a guy cum in my mouth since Yale. Until then, I thought "Crystal" meant "Crystal Gayle," and I kept pissing people off who asked me if I had any Tina by saying I'd interviewed her at her Swiss estate." Cooper has not yet decided which of the following tracks will be made into music videos but he's been seen huddling with Ricky Martin and several Latino chorus boys and trying on skin tight leather pants and black muscle Ts. Simon Cowell is on the other line, and Mika and Jake Shears are also rumored to be involved

    "Peace In the Valley"
    "This Used To Be My Playground"
    "Where the Boys Are"
    "Love Is A Drug"
    "Just Like A Queen"
    "Mother & Father" [Dedicated to Gloria Vanderbilt & Wyatt Cooper]
    "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" [dedicated to Carter Vanderbilt Cooper]
    "Nobody Knows Me"
    "Waiting In The Darkness"
    "I Am What I Am"
    "My Empire"
    "Turn Me Over"
    "Work It To The Bone"
    "That's The Way I Like It"
    "It's Raining Men"
    "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"
    "Last Dance"

    Posted by: Leland | Mar 22, 2007 6:46:24 PM

  12. While I've no time for Mika's equivocation, I can't help but agree with the comment about the gay press, whether online or in print, focussing almost exclusively on dance/pop, often in a desperate search to find more gay artists while ignoring openly gay musicians in the rock world or elsewhere. The Advocate has a broader agenda than most, so I can imagine them interviewing someone like Bob Mould (Hüsker Du, Sugar) but the gay mags in the UK generally ignore anything that isn't club music.

    I love Scissor Sisters and the Pet Shop Boys but I like a lot of other music besides; if music be the food of love then a monotonous diet is bad for your health.

    Posted by: John C | Mar 22, 2007 6:49:28 PM

  13. DA, you are right. That is what would happen.

    Posted by: Jack! | Mar 22, 2007 6:50:07 PM

  14. DA,

    So you're saying he should not talk about his sexuality so he can still win a GLAAD award but he's actually not discussing his sexuality because he wouldn't win a mainstream award then.

    You're brilliant!!

    How do we know he's a gay indie artist? He won't discuss it.

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 22, 2007 6:50:53 PM

  15. Like the addition of music interviews from Arjan. Arjan, let me know if you need any assistance with a Tracey Thorn interview.

    Posted by: Kurt | Mar 22, 2007 7:13:31 PM

  16. I don't understand anyones interest in this person's career, music or personality. This whole thread is a waste of bandwidth, IMO.

    Posted by: A | Mar 22, 2007 7:55:25 PM

  17. Please, Andy...enough about Mika! He is a marginal talent (at best). If you *must* post about him, then make it a weekly column called 'Mika Weight Watch' in which we all place bets guessing his current weight...winner gets to stuff a peanut butter sandwich in his mouth. Until Mika!!!!



    Posted by: peterparker | Mar 22, 2007 7:57:38 PM

  18. How cool has Towleroad become with Arjan as a guest columnist. Andy, smart smart move. Arjan Writes is the first blog I visit each day. Before the news sites, before Huffington, Towleroad or J.M.G. Glad your expanding the franchise with such worthy additions. You just made the blog that much better.

    Posted by: lexxicuss | Mar 22, 2007 8:52:18 PM

  19. "So you're saying he should not talk about his sexuality so he can still win a GLAAD award but he's actually not discussing his sexuality because he wouldn't win a mainstream award then. [...] You're brilliant!!"
    Posted by: Mike |

    Mike I never said what he should or should not do, those are his choices and I respect them...I'm simply taking to task those on their pedestal, and suggest they turn the fingers back on themselves:

    Instead of asking "why doesn't *he* come out?", ask yourself "why don't *I* stop supporting a system that force artists in the closet?".

    Forget Mika for a moment.

    We already have tons and tons of artists who are out & proud, and we do not give them the time of day! GLAAD and The Advocate continually ^refuse^ to promote or award them, and they find all kind of justifications for it..and us as consumers enable them to do just that, by not challenging their blatant homophobia.

    So the point is : why would we ask more artists to come out, if we don't do a lick to support those who are already out, nor even challenge the system which contribute to this problem?

    Rufus is an example of an artist who came out while on the mainstream, and it made his career fizzle for a bit..he's mentionned many times how naive and frustrated he was to find out the gay press did not support him, because all the interest was in dance/divas, and beefcake straight-acting models..So not fitting those categories he was out, so to speak. (mind you, things have changed a lot for him lately which is great) - but there's a business and media reality to consider for artists who are out..

    "How do we know he's a gay indie artist? He won't discuss it."

    Again, your gay indie artists are already out there in the hundreds languishing on, and if you want to see in what kind of dungeony setting they are celebrated in check out these pics from Out Music awards:

    Now contrast it with lavishiness of the GLAAD awards where the gays reward the heteros:

    Posted by: Da | Mar 22, 2007 9:18:03 PM

  20. You'd think he'd get some sympathy in the British press though.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 22, 2007 10:34:55 PM

  21. I could care less if he is on the cover of "Out" or if her wins a GLAAD media award, but for some reason it pisses me off when people in the media refuse to acknowledge their sexuality when asked. If he was asked whether he was Lebanese or not and refused to answer that would sound equally ridiculous.

    Posted by: mjb | Mar 22, 2007 11:19:36 PM

  22. "Turned off by mediocre television singing contests and inspired by great songwriters of the ‘70s, Mika’s infectious brand of flamboyant pop..."

    God, I need a life.

    Posted by: Rob | Mar 23, 2007 12:21:29 AM

  23. Mika's song is on a Motorola Razr commerical. Hooray!!! I love him!

    Posted by: Jack! | Mar 23, 2007 2:32:00 AM

  24. The only place I've ever heard about or read about this guy is on this blog. I'll assume that Andy has a man-crush on him ;)

    Posted by: Wayne | Mar 23, 2007 8:16:12 AM

  25. Not all homos love "hyper-real pop," or any "pop" for tht matter. Why must we be pandered to with this tripe?

    Posted by: Joe | Mar 23, 2007 9:10:59 AM

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