"In the U.K., they call this pop, but in America it's rock," Mika tells Billboard.com. "I consider myself a singer-songwriter -- although there's a bad stigma about the term.""In the U.K., they call this pop, but in America it's rock," Mika tells Billboard.com. "I consider myself a singer-songwriter -- although there's a bad stigma about the term."
The 23-year-old Londoner can add dance artist to that mix, as his track "Relax, Take It Easy" earns him his first chart ink at No. 44 on the Hot Dance Club Play tally. The songwriter's background is indicative of his diverse palate, marked by numerous years in a variety of prestigious music schools.
During his early teens, after moving to London from Paris, Mika dropped out of school due to difficulties with dyslexia and adjusting to the new digs. It was then that his mother got him lessons with a voice teacher and, ultimately, he was learning a number of musical instruments besides. He ultimately joined the Royal College of Music, after attempting the London School Of Economics for two lectures. ("I don't know, I thought being a geographer or something else useful might have been the route for me…")
The classical training put Mika in an awkward, if not liberating, spot with his compositions, as he was isolated from any of his school's or community's scenes.
"The classical world, honestly, was so snobby. The indie crowds didn't like me because I was too melodic and a lot of major record companies thought I was too weird," he says proudly. "I'm genre-flipping a lot. I think it's funny that my song is played as a club track because so much of what I do is organic -- it just happens to be very big and very loud."
Mika's big and loud album debut, "Life in Cartoon Motion," will be released on Casablanca/Universal Republic in March. Produced by Greg Wells, the album brings Beck, Bowie and Scissor Sisters to mind, with big goofy choruses and a bombastic vibrato voice. The "expensive" effort reined in contributions from veteran horn player Jerry Hey, guitarist Time Pierce and even a children's choir flown in exclusively for the recording.
Mika's fanciful imagination is not only captured in his "hyper-active rock" music, but also in the album's packaging and the artist's Web site: A whole animated world of "secret society" cartoons live online and in the artwork. Apparently, fans sometimes come dressed as the characters at Mika's live performances.
"I like to think of myself as a circus master, with all these sounds and visuals going on. I have my hands in production. I work with my sisters in developing these characters. I feel like I need to be constantly moving," he says. "I'm lucky to have a lot of freedom with the way I go about things."