Rage!/Rave! - Mika
To believe or not to believe the hype
Doug Johnstone: Mika is not the next big thing. He is merely the latest creation of the music industry’s marketing machine.
At some point in Chris Morris’ sublime Brass Eye, the comedian sanctimoniously declared, ‘Find out what to think after this break’. I’m reminded of this line every year when the full weight of the music industry gets together to tell me exactly what music I’m going to find wonderful over the next 12 months.
Music pundits have always liked to predict the winners and losers for the forthcoming year. But recently something much more sinister has emerged. The lines have blurred between pundits, journalists and DJs and the music industry and its mighty marketing machine. The ‘predictions’ of what’s going to be huge are nothing more than a fait accompli, a self-fulfilling prophecy with no connection to an exciting underground act actually breaking out of nowhere to stardom. Even worse, sheep-like pundits tow the line for fear of not looking zeitgeisty enough.
This year’s musical muppet heading for the big time is, of course, Mika. With the colossal promotional muscle of Universal behind him, how could ‘Grace Kelly’ fail to go straight in at number one? No doubt the album will sell millions, and he’ll be duetting with Elton John and fronting Queen for charity before the year’s out.
The single is passable glam pop with a Freddie Mercury clone at the helm, hardly worth the extraordinary hype. I’m sure he’s a nice bloke. But it’s all just so underwhelming, and I can’t help getting annoyed at how I’m supposed to swallow (from the music industry, via the media) that this is some massive new extraordinary pop talent.
It’s the emperor’s new clothes, repeated year after year. Corinne Bailey Rae - yes, very exciting. Keane and Razorlight - fantastic. Joss Stone and the Scissor Sisters - who could’ve predicted something so bland would sell loads? Oh, wait, me.
In this age of alleged internet-fuelled musical democracy, it seems it’s really just business as usual for the music industry and the predictable pop pap they continue to foist on us.
Sandra Marron: The hype and hysteria surrounding Mika is joyfully justified. His music is catchy, fun and witty.
Last month, the BBC published the results of its Sound of 2007 survey. One hundred and thirty of the UK’s most influential music pundits had been asked to name their favourite new acts. Those questioned included Glastonbury Organiser Emily Eavis, Alison Howe, the producer of Later with Jools Holland, and a number of Mercury Music prize judges. Top of the pile and number one was Mika. Why? Well, probably the same reason that he reached number one with Grace Kelly: because he clearly has talent and no amount of labelling, marketing or hyping can take that away from him. His melodies are preposterously catchy, his lyrics fun and witty. The ‘next big thing’ label is bound to stick to someone like Mika and what of it? The guy is a talented singer/songwriter who has worked hard and is now reaping the rewards.
Granted, sometimes it takes an influential person in the media to proclaim an artist’s greatness before other people take note, but surely recommendations are one of the main ways people find out about new talent. Somebody has to start the ball rolling. Like going to the theatre or the cinema, most people try something as a result of someone else’s endorsement, a review perhaps or the buzz surrounding it. And give people credit, they can make up their own minds. Nobody is holding a gun to the public’s head and telling them to buy Mika’s single because he is ‘the next big thing’. As for Mika himself, from what I’ve read he is pretty much like any 23-year-old who finds himself the toast of the town - excited, honoured, yeah, a bit conceited but he can afford to be.
Mika’s debut album Life in Cartoon Motion is out now on Island. Mika plays ABC, Glasgow, 20 Feb.