Mika (singer)

Last updated

Mika Cannes 2014.jpg
Background information
Birth nameMichael Holbrook Penniman Jr.
Also known as
  • Mica Penniman
  • Mika Penniman
Born (1983-08-18) 18 August 1983 (age 35)
Beirut, Lebanon
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • piano
Years active2006–present
Website mikasounds.com

Mika ( /ˈmkə/ , born Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr.; [4] [5] [6] 18 August 1983), stylised as MIKA, is a Lebanese-born English recording artist and singer-songwriter.


After recording his first extended play, Dodgy Holiday , Mika was named the number-one predicted breakthrough act of 2007 in an annual BBC poll of music critics, Sound of 2007. [7] Mika released his first full-length studio album, Life in Cartoon Motion , on Island Records in 2007, which sold more than 5.6 million copies worldwide and helped Mika win a Brit Award—winning Best British Breakthrough act, and receive a Grammy Award nomination. [8] He topped the UK Singles Chart in January 2007 with "Grace Kelly".

<i>Dodgy Holiday</i> 2006 EP by Mika

Dodgy Holiday is the first extended play released by British pop singer Mika. It was released digitally on 20 November 2006, prior to the release of Life in Cartoon Motion, his debut album, which was later released in February 2007. The name of the EP was derived from the lyrics of the song Billy Brown, which was included on the EP. A physical version of the EP was available for a limited time only and contained an exclusive 24-page booklet containing unseen photos and lyrics. Mika's first official headlining tour was named in honour of the EP. The EP was also made available via Target stores in the USA.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

<i>Life in Cartoon Motion</i> 2007 studio album by Mika

Life in Cartoon Motion is the debut album released by British recording artist Mika. The album was produced by Greg Wells and Mika himself, mixed by Wells, with co-production on two songs by Jodi Marr and John Merchant. The album was released via Island Records on 5 February 2007 in the United Kingdom, and via Casablanca Records on 27 March 2007 in the United States. The album's lead single, "Grace Kelly", stayed at number one on the UK Singles Chart for five weeks straight and became a number-one hit in many countries.

Two years later Mika released his second extended play, Songs for Sorrow , of which limited edition copies are now sold out worldwide. In 2009 Mika released his second studio album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much . Finishing his worldwide tour, Mika recorded his third album, The Origin of Love , stating it would be "more simplistic pop, less layered than the last one". [9] The album was released internationally on 16 September 2012 and in the UK on 8 October 2012. [10]

<i>Songs for Sorrow</i> 2009 EP by Mika

Songs for Sorrow is the second EP by singer Mika. It was released in digital form on 15 May 2009, and in a limited edition book & cd physical form on 8 June 2009. The song "Blue Eyes" was used to promote the EP, and was A-listed on the BBC Radio 2 playlist. The EP received the name Songs for Sorrow because the theme of the songs is sorrow. The physical edition consists of a 68-page hard cover book, containing lyrics and illustrations of the songs. The illustrations were made by some of Mika's favourite artists from around the world.

<i>The Boy Who Knew Too Much</i> (album) 2009 studio album by Mika

The Boy Who Knew Too Much is the second studio album by singer Mika. It was released on 21 September 2009, under Casablanca/Universal Republic in the United States and Island in the United Kingdom.

<i>The Origin of Love</i> 2012 studio album by Mika

The Origin of Love is the third studio album released by British singer-songwriter Mika. The album was released in France on 17 September 2012, and in the United Kingdom on 8 October 2012, via Casablanca Records and Barclay Records respectively. The album was preceded by an alternate lead single in each region. "Elle me dit" was first released in France, whereas "Celebrate" served as the first official single for the United Kingdom.

His latest album, No Place in Heaven , was released 15 June 2015.

<i>No Place in Heaven</i> 2015 studio album by Mika

No Place in Heaven is the fourth studio album by British singer-songwriter Mika, released on 15 June 2015 via Republic Records (Casablanca).

Personal life

Mika was born in Beirut, the third of five children to an American-born Lebanese mother and an Israeli-born American father, Joannie and Michael Holbrook Penniman. His father was a banker [11] [12] and was born in Jerusalem, where his own father - Mika's grandfather - was a diplomat. [11] [13]

Beirut City in Lebanon

Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. No recent population census has been conducted, but 2007 estimates ranged from slightly more than 1 million to 2.2 million as part of Greater Beirut. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, Beirut is the country's largest and main seaport.

Jerusalem City in the Middle East

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

When Mika was a year old, his family was forced to leave war-torn Lebanon and moved to Paris, France. [13] [14] The first piano piece he learned to play was "Les Champs-Élysées", by Joe Dassin. [13] At the age of seven, he wrote his first song, a piano instrumental called "Angry", which he describes as "awful". [5] The family moved to London when he was nine years old. There, he attended the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, where he experienced severe bullying. He also had problems with dyslexia. In response to these experiences Mika was home-schooled by his mother at the age of 12, for six to eight months. [5] He then attended St Philip's School in Kensington, where he was the head of the Schola Cantorum (the St. Philip's Choir). Later he attended Westminster School and the Royal College of Music, which he left to record his first album at Casablanca Records. [15] As a child Mika was trained by Alla Ardakov (Ablaberdyeva), a Russian opera professional.

Lebanon Country in Western Asia

Lebanon, officially known as the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus is west across the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland facilitated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. At just 10,452 km2, it is the smallest recognized sovereign state on the mainland Asian continent.

"Les Champs-Élysées" is a 1969 song by Joe Dassin.

Joe Dassin French-American musician

Joseph Ira Dassin was an American-born French singer-songwriter.

His given name was Mica but, frustrated at how often it was mispronounced, he changed the 'c' to a 'k'. [16]

Mika at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England Mika Glastonbury cropped.jpg
Mika at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England

Mika has one younger brother and one younger sister along with two older sisters. His sister Yasmine, who works as an artist under the nom de plume DaWack, painted the cartoon art for his two albums Life in Cartoon Motion and The Boy Who Knew Too Much , and is currently a fashion designer.

Alongside English, Mika speaks French, [13] Spanish and Italian [17] fluently; in an interview on 28 September 2009 with The Chris Moyles Show on BBC Radio 1 he commented that he had taken Mandarin Chinese lessons for nine years but does not speak it very well; he also mentioned that his three sisters did all speak it fluently. He also speaks a little Arabic, in a Lebanese dialect, his mother's native tongue. [18]

His debut radio appearance was on Dermot O'Leary's BBC Radio 2 show in September 2006. He also appeared on Later ... with Jools Holland , and on The Friday Night Project on 19 January 2007. [19] Mika is rumoured to have a vocal range of five octaves, [15] but claims that it is actually closer to three and a half octaves. [20]

Mika playing keyboard at V Festival 2007 in Weston Park, Staffordshire Mika playing keyboard at V Festival 2007.JPG
Mika playing keyboard at V Festival 2007 in Weston Park, Staffordshire

Mika denied allegations that he steers clear of sexual taboos to appeal to the US market, pointing to the song "Billy Brown", which is about a married man who has an affair with another man. He is quoted as saying, "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." [21] In an interview in the US gay magazine Out he stated that "there is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels." [22]

In a September 2009 interview in Gay & Night Mika commented on his sexuality: "I've never ever labelled myself. But having said that; I've never limited my life, I've never limited who I sleep with ... Call me whatever you want. Call me bisexual, if you need a term for me ..." [23] Later he stated in an interview with This Is London: "I consider myself label-less because I could fall in love with anybody – literally – any type, any body. I'm not picky." [24] In an August 2012 interview with the magazine Instinct , the singer described himself as gay. [25]

In March 2010, Mika was honoured in France with the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier (Knight)) for services to music. [26]

Musical career

Early career: 2004–06

Mika's first single was a limited 7"/download release called "Relax, Take It Easy" (2006). It was play-listed by UK's BBC Radio 1 and was made Record of the Week by DJ Scott Mills. The Dodgy Holiday EP also became available for download. The song "Billy Brown" was available for free download for a week from the iTunes Store. A song titled 'Over-rated', which was recorded in 2004, was "unofficially" released online.

Life in Cartoon Motion: 2006–08

The comparisons to Freddie Mercury are fine. They started long before I made the record – I've even referred to it in Grace Kelly. A Freddie comparison is a compliment. He's a genius and one of the best there's ever been.

—Mika following being named the BBC's Sound of 2007. [7]

In January 2007, Mika was on the top of the BBC News website's Sound of 2007 poll. [27] His single "Grace Kelly" was released by Universal Music for digital download on 8 January 2007. It reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on 21 January 2007.

Mika toured the United States in June 2007, with support from Sara Bareilles and Natalia Lesz. Mika's début album Life in Cartoon Motion was released on 5 February 2007, and has brought comparison with artists such as Freddie Mercury, [28] [29] Scissor Sisters, [30] Elton John, [31] Prince, [32] Robbie Williams [33] and David Bowie. [33] "Grace Kelly," in fact, references Mercury in the lyrics: "I try to be like Grace Kelly/But all her looks were too sad/So I try a little Freddie/I've gone identity mad."

Mika was the musical act for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 26 March 2007 [34] and 14 February 2008 and for Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 27 March 2007. [35] He also performed live on So You Think You Can Dance on 26 July 2007.

Mika live at the V Festival, 2007 Mika at V Festival 2007.jpg
Mika live at the V Festival, 2007

On 10 October 2007, Mika began his Dodgy Holiday Tour, playing at venues across Europe. On 17 November 2007, Mika started the UK leg of his tour with support from Palladium. The North American leg of his tour began in January 2008 with support from The Midway State and Creature and continued through February with a stop in Los Angeles for the 50th Grammy Awards.

His debut album Life in Cartoon Motion has a coming of age theme and deals with his transition from childhood to the present, though he has stated that not all of the songs are autobiographical. His songs often deal with difficult topics. For instance, in "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" the theme of larger women suffering from discrimination is explored. Mika has said that the fact that his mother was a big woman, and that he had seen the prejudices against her, helped him to write the song. [36] In another example of dealing with more difficult subject matter, in the song "Billy Brown", Mika writes about a married man who has a homosexual affair.

On 20 February 2008, Mika opened the 2008 BRIT Awards with a live performance of "Love Today," "Grace Kelly," and a duet, "Standing in the Way of Control", with Beth Ditto. He was later awarded the BRIT Award for Best British Breakthrough Artist.

Mika has reportedly written songs for other musicians, saying "I write songs for other people under different names most of the time. I have a little family of three names. One of them has been discovered – it's Alice." [37]

The Boy Who Knew Too Much: 2009–10

Prior to the release of his second studio album, Mika released a limited-edition extended play titled Songs for Sorrow on 8 June 2009. [38] The EP includes 4 tracks and a 68-page book featuring lyrics and exclusive illustrated interpretations of each song by some of Mika's favourite artists. [38] The song "Blue Eyes" was used to promote the EP, and was A-listed on the BBC Radio 2 playlist. [39]

Mika's second studio album The Boy Who Knew Too Much was released on 21 September 2009. [40] Mika recorded the majority of the album in Los Angeles with producer and musician Greg Wells, who also produced his debut album Life in Cartoon Motion. [41] The album has been described as Mika dealing with his adolescent teenage years and "in a sense is kind of part two" of his first album. [42]

The album was originally titled We Are Golden after the first single from the album, "We Are Golden". On 20 July 2009 in an on-air interview with DJ Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 1, Mika revealed he was considering renaming the album, because he wanted "something a little more ridiculous." [43] On 6 August 2009 it was confirmed that the album's title would change to The Boy Who Knew Too Much. [44]

The first single from the album, "We Are Golden", made its radio debut in the United Kingdom on 20 July 2009, on BBC Radio 2 [45] and was released for download on 6 September 2009, with the physical release following on 7 September 2009. [40] The single debuted at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart on 13 September 2009. Mika's promotional tour of the single included live performances at the iTunes Festival 2009 at The Roundhouse in Camden, London and on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in September 2009. It was reported that Mika spent £25,000 on drinks after inviting fans to join him at his local pub via Twitter on 7 September 2009 to celebrate the release of his single. [46] [47]

"Blame It on the Girls" was released as the second single in the United States and Japan. This was alongside "Rain" being the second single in the United Kingdom which was released on 23 November. [48] It was confirmed that "Blame It on the Girls" will be the third single in the United Kingdom and will be released 15 February 2010. [49] His American promotional tour consisted of live performances on Good Morning America in New York City on 25 September 2009 and the Late Show with David Letterman on 14 October 2009.

In November 2009 Mika performed 'Rain' and 'We Are Golden' live at the Sydney Opera House for the Australian Idol Grand Final. He also performed on Sunrise on the Seven Network in Australia. On 30 November 2009, Mika performed "Let It Snow" in a duet with Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada. [50] On 21 March 2010 Mika performed "Gave It All Away" with Boyzone on ITV1 for Boyzone: A Tribute To Stephen Gately .

In May 2010 Mika released his new single "Kick Ass (We Are Young)", the title track to the 2010 film "Kick-Ass". [51]

The Origin of Love, X Factor Italy and Songbook Vol.1: 2011–15

Mika at his "Origin of Love" tour with his backing vocalists MikaSanderJanKlerkWesleyFaaijJelmerSwaerts.jpg
Mika at his "Origin of Love" tour with his backing vocalists
Mika at the NRJ Music Awards in 2012. Mika NRJ Music Awards 2012.jpg
Mika at the NRJ Music Awards in 2012.

Before the release of his newest album, Mika stated in numerous interviews that the new album will be more simplistic and less layered than the previous one. [9] Mika announced the title of the album, The Origin of Love in a French interview on 17 June. [52] Mika has stated he would include a number of French tracks on the album, and that the musical style will include elements of Daft Punk and Fleetwood Mac. [53] He described the album as less childlike and more serious. The first single released from the album was "Elle me dit", Mika's first French track. It was released online on 1 July 2011. Nick Littlemore of Empire of The Sun, Paul Steel, frYars, William Orbit, Doriand, Priscilla Renea, Billboard, Hillary Lindsey, Ellie Goulding, Pharrell Williams, Benny Benassi, Martin Solveig, Klas Åhlund, Wayne Hector, and Greg Wells were involved in the production of the album. MIKA contributed his vocals to the production of The All-American Rejects' 2012 album Kids in the Street. On 8 June 2012, the video for "Make You Happy" was released on Vimeo. [54] The song served as a buzz single for the album. [55] On 14 June 2012, "Celebrate", which features Pharrell Williams, was announced as the album's lead single. [56] [57] The album was released internationally on 17 September 2012 and in the UK on 8 October 2012. [10]

On 6 March 2013, Mika announced a new tour and that after taking some time off, he had begun writing his fourth album as well as songs for other artists. Mika also hinted that new material might be released towards the end of 2013. [58] On 23 April 2013, Mika was revealed to be the new judge on the seventh season of The X Factor Italy , replacing Arisa. He was the first international mentor on the Italian edition of the show. [59] Mika returned to the panel for the eighth and ninth series, of the show before leaving the panel to focus on other projects. Arisa will return as his replacement, for the tenth series. On 18 November 2013, Mika released a compilation album in Italy titled Songbook Vol. 1 including music from his three previous albums, plus new re-worked tracks. [60] On 17 January 2014, Mika took part in the Italian television show Le Invasioni Barbariche on La7, and performed a duet with the Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Dario Fo of the song "Ho visto un Re", written by the same Fo and played by Enzo Jannacci. [61] On 17 February 2015, Mika announced that he will be releasing his first live album, recorded during his concerts with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. [62]

He joined The Voice: la plus belle voix and in 2017 was confirmed for a fourth consecutive season as a judge. [63]

No Place in Heaven: 2015–present

Mika's fourth album, No Place in Heaven , was released on 15 June 2015. [64] He describes the album as, " direct, low-down, open, candid, playful, yet a mature pop album which takes its inspiration from '60s pop music". [65] The following year, he began filming for his own television show in Italy. [66] In 2017, he performed at the Sanremo Festival in a tribute to the late George Michael. [67] His Italian show, Stasera casa Mika  [ it ], won the 2017 Rose d'Or as Best Entertainment Series. [68]

In 2018, Mika will feature on Adam to Eve no Ringo, a tribute album to Japanese musician Ringo Sheena, covering Sheena's song "Sid to Hakuchūmu" from her debut album Muzai Moratorium (1999). [69]


Studio albums

Compilation albums



Awards and nominations

2007 Premios 40 Principales 2007 Grace KellyBest International Non-Spanish SongNominated
BBC Sound of 2007 MikaSound of 2007Won
World Music Awards Best-Selling New ArtistWon
Best-Selling Male Pop/Rock ArtistWon
Best-Selling British ArtistWon
2007 MTV Europe Music Awards Best Solo ArtistNominated
"Grace Kelly"Best TrackNominated
The Record of the Year 2007Record of the YearNominated
Third place
IFPI Hong Kong Top Sales Music Awards Life in Cartoon Motion Top 10 Best Selling Foreign AlbumsWon
2008The 50th Grammy Awards "Love Today"Best Dance RecordingNominated
2008 BRIT Awards MikaBritish Male Solo ArtistNominated
Life in Cartoon Motion British AlbumNominated
"Grace Kelly"British SingleNominated
MikaBritish Breakthrough ActWon
2009 2009 MTV Europe Music Awards Best MaleNominated
2010 2010 BRIT Awards British Male Solo ArtistNominated
2014 World Music Awards World's Best Live ActNominated
World's Best Male Act
World's Best Entertainer
"Popular Song" feat. Ariana Grande World's Best Song
World's Best Video
"Underwater"World's Best Song
World's Best Video
The Origin of Love World's Best Album

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Preceded by
Corinne Bailey Rae
Sound of...
Succeeded by