Mika at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival
Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr.
18 August 1983
|Other names||Mica Penniman|
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. 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. He topped the UK Singles Chart in January 2007 with "Grace Kelly".
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". The album was released internationally on 16 September 2012 and in the UK on 8 October 2012.
His latest album, No Place in Heaven, was released 15 June 2015.
Life and career
1983–2006: Childhood and early career
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 and was born in Jerusalem, where his own father – Mika's grandfather – was a diplomat.
When Mika was a year old, his family was forced to leave war-torn Lebanon and moved to Paris, France. The first piano piece he learned to play was "Les Champs-Élysées", by Joe Dassin. At the age of seven, he wrote his first song, a piano instrumental called "Angry", which he describes as "awful". 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. 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. As a child Mika was trained by Alla Ardakov (Ablaberdyeva), a Russian opera professional.
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. His debut radio appearance was on Dermot O'Leary's BBC Radio 2 show in September 2006.
2007–2008: Life in Cartoon Motion
On 19 January 2007, he appeared on Later... with Jools Holland, and on The Friday Night Project . Mika is rumoured to have a vocal range of five octaves, but claims that it is actually closer to three and a half octaves. That same month, Mika was on the top of the BBC News website's Sound of 2007 poll. 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 brought comparison with artists such as Freddie Mercury, Scissor Sisters, Elton John, Prince, Robbie Williams and David Bowie. "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 and 14 February 2008 and for Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 27 March 2007. He also performed live on So You Think You Can Dance on 26 July 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. 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."
2009–2010: The Boy Who Knew Too Much
Prior to the release of his second studio album, Mika released a limited-edition extended play titled Songs for Sorrow on 8 June 2009. 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. The song "Blue Eyes" was used to promote the EP, and was A-listed on the BBC Radio 2 playlist.
Mika's second studio album The Boy Who Knew Too Much was released on 21 September 2009. 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. 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.
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." On 6 August 2009 it was confirmed that the album's title would change to The Boy Who Knew Too Much.
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 and was released for download on 6 September 2009, with the physical release following on 7 September 2009. 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.
"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. 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. 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. On 21 March 2010 Mika performed "Gave It All Away" with Boyzone on ITV1 for Boyzone: A Tribute To Stephen Gately.
2010–2015: The Origin of Love, X Factor Italy and Songbook Vol.1
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. Mika announced the title of the album, The Origin of Love in a French interview on 17 June. 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. 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. The song served as a buzz single for the album. On 14 June 2012, "Celebrate", which features Pharrell Williams, was announced as the album's lead single. The album was released internationally on 17 September 2012 and in the UK on 8 October 2012.
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. 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. 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. 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. On 17 February 2015, Mika announced that he will be releasing his first live album, recorded during his concerts with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
2015–present: No Place in Heaven
Mika's fourth album, No Place in Heaven, was released on 15 June 2015. He describes the album as "direct, low-down, open, candid, playful, yet a mature pop album which takes its inspiration from '60s pop music". The following year, he began filming for his own television show in Italy. In 2017, he performed at the Sanremo Festival in a tribute to the late George Michael. His Italian show, Stasera casa Mika, won the 2017 Rose d'Or as Best Entertainment Series.
In May 2019, Mika released the single "Ice Cream" and announced his fifth studio album, My Name Is Michael Holbrook, for release on 4 October 2019.
His given name was Mica but, frustrated at how often it was mispronounced, he changed the 'c' to a 'k'.
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, Spanish and Italian 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.
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." In an interview in the US gay magazine Out he stated that "there is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels."
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 ..." 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." In an August 2012 interview with the magazine Instinct, the singer described himself as gay.
- Dodgy Holiday Tour (2007–2008)
- Songs for Sorrow Acoustic Tour (2009)
- 1955 Tour (2009)
- Imaginarium Tour (2010)
- The Origin of Love Tour (2012)
- An Intimate Evening (2013)
- No Place Like Heaven Tour (2015–2016)
- Tiny Love Tiny Tour (2019)
- Revelation Tour (2019–2020)
Awards and nominations
|2007||Premios 40 Principales 2007||Grace Kelly||Best International Non-Spanish Song||Nominated|
|BBC Sound of 2007||Mika||Sound of 2007||Won|
|World Music Awards||Best-Selling New Artist||Won|
|Best-Selling Male Pop/Rock Artist||Won|
|Best-Selling British Artist||Won|
|2007 MTV Europe Music Awards||Best Solo Artist||Nominated|
|"Grace Kelly"||Best Track||Nominated|
|The Record of the Year 2007||Record of the Year||Nominated|
|IFPI Hong Kong Top Sales Music Awards||Life in Cartoon Motion||Top 10 Best Selling Foreign Albums||Won|
|2008||The 50th Grammy Awards||"Love Today"||Best Dance Recording||Nominated|
|2008 BRIT Awards||Mika||British Male Solo Artist||Nominated|
|Life in Cartoon Motion||British Album||Nominated|
|"Grace Kelly"||British Single||Nominated|
|Mika||British Breakthrough Act||Won|
|2009||2009 MTV Europe Music Awards||Best Male||Nominated|
|2010||2010 BRIT Awards||British Male Solo Artist||Nominated|
|2014||World Music Awards||World's Best Live Act||Nominated|
|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|
|Other awards and nominations|
|2007||Q Awards||Mika||Best Breakthrough Artist||Nominated|
|Best Hair on an Artist||Won|
|Vodafone Live Awards||Best Male Artist||Won|
|UK Festival Award||Best Festival Pop Act||Nominated|
|BT Digital Music Awards||Best Pop Act||Nominated|
|Premios Principales||Best International Non-Spanish Language Artist||Nominated|
|"Grace Kelly"||Best International Non-Spanish Language Song||Nominated|
|Virgin Media Awards||Best Track||Nominated|
|Mika||Best British Act||Nominated|
|Best Male Artist||Nominated|
|2008||NRJ Music Awards||International Revelation of the Year||Won|
|"Relax, Take It Easy"||International Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Life in Cartoon Motion||International Album of the Year||Nominated|
|"Relax, Take It Easy"||Music Video of the Year||Nominated|
|Swiss Music Awards||Mika||Best International Newcomer||Nominated|
|ECHO Awards||Best International Male Artist||Nominated|
|Best International Newcomer||Won|
|Capital Awards||Best British Male Artist||Won|
|Life in Cartoon Motion||Best British Album||Won|
|Amadeus Awards (Austrian Music Awards)||"Grace Kelly"||Best International Single||Nominated|
|MTV Video Music Awards Japan||"Grace Kelly"||Best New Artist Video||Nominated|
|MTV Australia Video Music Awards||Video of the Year||Nominated|
|TRL Awards (Italy)||Mika||Man of the Year||Nominated|
|Ivor Novello Awards||"Grace Kelly"||Best Selling British Song||Nominated|
|Mika||Songwriter of the Year||Won|
|Nickelodeon UK Kids' Choice Awards||Best Male Singer||Nominated|
|MTV Asia Awards||Favorite Breakthrough Artist||Nominated|
|TMF Awards||Best International Pop||Won|
|Best International Male Artist||Nominated|
|2012||NRJ Music Awards||Mika||International Male Artist of the Year||Won|
|2017||Rose d'Or||Stasera casa Mika||Best Entertainment Series||Won|
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