Jeff Katz's picture

Cover Guy: Mika

Mika is the first to admit he’s a kid at heart. An affinity for cartoon art, bright colors and playful melody quickly became a calling card of sorts when the curly-haired entertainer exploded on the pop scene in 2007. Mika, the performer, and his music were seen by many—industry and otherwise—as a refreshing change from the manufactured (mostly female) pop stars of the moment. After all, this was a classically trained musician who was writing his own songs, all with a clear sense of who he was and how he wanted to be portrayed to the public.

That is, who he thought he was at 21.

But like (hopefully) most of us, Mika has come to realize that the “kid” the world met years ago isn’t the same person who today is sitting nervously in a London hotel room, where a group of 60 fans have flown in from all over Europe to hear the first preview of his new album, The Origin Of Love, out Oct. 16. One would think that after more than 7 million albums sold, years touring the world and a Grammy nomination, a pop star of Mika’s stature wouldn’t be too fazed by a listening party. Except that this album, his third, is poised to reveal a completely different Mika—more confident, more comfortable and more honest than ever before.

“The album kind of tracks the cutting up of my personal life, really for the first time,” Mika says. “I said I was going to write about myself and not just put characters in my songs. The first, and to an extent second, record had this kind of precociousness, childlike and brazen in a good way. But now the caricatures have disappeared. Now it’s a lot more to heart.”

Heart and, if we’re to judge an album by its title, love. The Origin Of Love not only encompasses the theme of the album, but it’s also the name of a song, Mika’s self-professed favorite. It was the first track he wrote for the album—in fact the first he wrote after a dry spell of more than a year and a half—and he did so in a moment of what he calls “lyrical vomit,” completing the verses in just 15 minutes.

Where did the inspiration for such a rush of joyous affirmation of love for someone come from? Matter-of-factly and proudly, Mika responds that it was his boyfriend.

“This is a song about someone I love, and it’s okay to love anyone—even if I am in love with a man,” Mika says, for the first time discussing his relationship publicly.

“‘The Origin Of Love’ is my version of the ultimate love song. It basically says I will find confidence in your love, and through this relationship I can conquer any mountain, any hate, and I can throw away all the prejudices and all the things I’ve had resting on my back. It dealt with sexuality in its most positive way.”

Because as instantly as his first single, “Grace Kelly,” became a hit around the world in 2007, so, too, began public questions about Mika’s sexuality. He never lied or denied when the media asked pointed questions. And he certainly, as he emphatically points out, never wore a beard. He simply would redirect interviews back to the subject at hand, the reason he thought there was public interest in him in the first place: his music. That was until the publication of one particular article in 2009.

In an interview with Dutch magazine Gay & Night, Mika was once again asked how he defines his sexuality. And he responded, as he had many times before, that he doesn’t like the idea of labeling and defining people by the strict social terms we use to classify whom people sleep with. Except this time he took it a bit further in dealing with the near-obsessive need to label him as something and added: “Call me whatever you want. Call me bisexual if you need a term for me.”

In our age of media immediacy, the quote and subsequent magazine cover, with the headline “Mika Clears Things Up: Call Me Bisexual,” spread like wildfire. The only problem was that the news didn’t clear things up at all—because it wasn’t exactly what Mika intended to say.

“If you read the article, it was very disjointed and a very odd thing. I was actually really unhappy with it,” he says. “I didn’t care that he quoted me saying, ‘Call me bi,’ but the way that it came across was so nonchalant, in a kind of flippant way, because of the way the interview was structured. It annoyed me because I’ve been so considerate about sexuality and so respectful. It was just too flippant. I didn’t like it at all, and it really irritated me.”

Mika says he made the bisexual statement within a discussion about having had past relationships with both men and women. But the gay blogosphere immediately pounced, calling the move a mere tiptoe out of the closet, a sign of fear of a career backlash.

For his part, Mika says he stayed away from the (sometimes harsh) commentary that followed the article, instead focusing on work. As for the questions that some lob about why he hasn’t addressed his sexuality again since that 2009 article, Mika responds with poise and consideration on the subject, something that he says he may have needed a little time to understand.

Read more about Mika in the September issue of Instinct!