Text and transcription of MIKA‘s speech by – Federica Dogliani, Giuditta Armiraglio and Marta Gorletta

 

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picture by – Vukobratovic Natasa

 

 

 

Last night something great happened, something that will remain somewhere between my heart and mind forever: I met Mika.

“The last two years changed my life I became pretty much a victim of people doing your job or the job you are hoping to do. They came very close to ruining everything that I was”.

On the 11th of December Mika talked to a room full of Bocconi students in a circumstance that was mainly supposed to be a “marketing lecture”, but turned out to be much more than expected, better than what was expected. It was a storytelling of something genuine and inspiring: the journey of an artist. What truly inspired me was being able to look back at the struggles, the battles faced while beginning a career and comparing it to the present and what came to be, along with being able to see all the achievements and rewards that came of that journey that spark pure joy in the eyes of an artist.

Mika also indirectly suggested that sometimes it is important, when taking a decision in which our mind says NO, to let our sub-conscious take over and say YES. Surprisingly, the clash between what his mind told him to do and his words “saved” him in the last years.

The text that follows is extracted by the speech that Mika gave at Bocconi University. Unfortunately it was hard to put into words all the fluctuating emotions he portrayed during his speech and even more difficult, to capture through text, his ability to involve the audience. His necessity to open up, to be heard, and to express himself were obvious to all of us who were there.

“Somebody may know me as a musician, somebody may know me as a person on an Italian TV show or some of you may not know me at all. My name is Mika and that’s not actually really my name, my name is Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr and…yeah it’s sexy! And I’m 30 years old which I think is pretty sexy. In January I’ll be in Los Angeles to start my fourth album which is really everything I have in my life, it is the most important thing.

Currently I’m a judge at the Italian X Factor, I’m also a coach of the Voice at the same time in France and I have a design company which I started with my sister 8 years ago: it’s a lot of stuff, and strangely I’ve never been more exited to go into a studio and make a record. At the beginning of my career, I did the opposite of what you are supposed to do, I was very closed and I had my own vision of a purist marketing strategy, to preserve me from the eyes of the media and of the public, I thought that this was going to give me some kind of freedom. Now I’ve realized I was completely wrong, this isolation that I thought was protecting my music, actually came close to hurting me. I became far more reliant to the manipulations of my record company. I think is very important for a marketer to protect and preserve a person that is going through a transition from becoming unknown to commercial. My first album was realized in 2007, but my singing career started when I was 11 years old. I’ve been expelled through school and after a year of doing nothing but training with a Russian singing teacher, who was hitting me when I wasn’t doing things improperly, I got a job.

I was and I’m still am a very very dyslexic dropout, who is unable to read music. As a boy performer I had two specialties, I used to perform and record unlistenable contemporary music and on the other hand I was also a specialist in very quickly recording the worse advertising jingles you have ever heard, and they were shit, trust me! The same day I was getting out from school I was recording a Japanese song with two different orchestras, and then a jingle for a milk ad or for British Airways or Orbit Chewing gum. The fact that I couldn’t read music at the end means that I am focused in doing both things in the same way; they were just two jobs. I was making some money, and there is nothing dirty in making some money, while you are having fun, only people with way too much money tell you it’s dirty to make money.

Eventually my voice broke, shit happens, thank God it happens! In a couple of weeks my job was gone, so I decided to fix the problem by writing songs and sending out demos like a maniac. Not surprisingly I was completely turned down, so then I said “I’ll be an Opera singer” then I was doing auditions for every music college and I was rejected by every single one at pretty much the first audition, so very upset at the end I got a place at the London School of Economics and I went on my first day. I had my first lecture and I spent 495 Pounds for my text books, they were all in front of me and I knew it was the end of this life I had since the age of 11, my dream of staying in the music business was ending, I had a moment of panic and after two hours I left the books on the table and I left the LSE and never returned again. I went to the Royal School of Music where I stood outside for four hours and waited for the head of the vocal studies that had turned me down. I followed him to his car and then I begged him, almost crying for a second audition. I needed it! I told him I had left the LSE, I was all dressed up because I thought people where dressing well their first day of college, but actually no one was dressed up: I was the only one with a suit and a tie, thinking this was a thing normal people do when they go to university but they thought I was a freak. He finally gave me another audition probably because I was so weird and at the end they gave me a one-year trial. That’s when I started having a music role, as soon as I got my one-year trial. I found any possible way to not be sent away, so I started doing my research and I found out that the government was protecting people with disabilities. Dyslexia is not something you can make up and you can prove that it is real, so I got my report I took it to the head of the royal college and said “Here you cannot expel me, because I have given you an explanation”. They didn’t kick me out but I failed all my theoretical exams, and with this bursary I got I actually didn’t pay my fees for a year and a half and instead used them to get myself to Miami.

Over there, there was a woman that was willing to work with me making my music and she was named Jody. In Miami Jody and I were begging and borrowing studio houses and in exchange we were lending our voices. Jody was translating lyrics. At the end Jody and I were prostituting ourselves for studio time. Money didn’t really exist so we were going into the studio from 8pm to 3 in the morning. I wasn’t able to drive so we made a deal with Jody who was picking me up, and dropping me off at a gas station in North Miami on the corner of the street that isn’t very pretty at 3am.

 This is where I met Carolina. She was a prostitute in her mid-fifties and she was there pretty much all night waiting for customers but actually wasn’t getting many. I became fascinated by her, but mostly I was fascinated by her incredible strength. One day she disappeared and I’ve never saw her again. I wrote several songs dedicated to her, one of those was Love Today. A couple of years later I was getting a Grammy nomination for a song that was written about a hooker. But this is not a funny thing, it’s a sincere thing. The truth was that Jody and I were prostituting our voices and minds to terrible companies. We hated it but it was for studio time. The difference between my life and Carolina’s was that I was at the start of my journey and Carolina was clearly at the end. Carolina for me represents my first years.

 I came back to London prepared for a battle with new demos and a sense of confidence, shamelessness. I was sick of being rejected for not having the right look or a sound that was too different, I decided do take control and with my sister Jasmine I created a distinct visual world. My thought was simple: if the problem was that I wasn’t fitting into people’s current world, I would just create my own world and invite them into it, and this is still the aesthetic I work with today.

What is happening now is that majors are expanding exponentially and the number of artists that could have the opportunity to have a prior marketing roll-out are a handful. I’m now an artist in a minority within an industry in crisis. I depend on radio plays and sales all over the world: I’m a sum of all my markets. And without a serious international roll-out I’m seriously jeopardizing my potential.

Last years I did a joyful album called The Origin of Love that wasn’t really good for radios but I didn’t care, as I know that careers are not made by chasing radios 100% of the time. Without the radio my international promotion schedule from Universal started fading out and disappearing. I quickly started my own promotion, I searched for sponsors from a toothpaste in Indonesia to radio logos on my tickets in Europe.

 

I decided the best thing I could do was climb the Himalaya at -20°C. During one sleepless night, in the freezing cold, I made a decision that actually changed my 2013: I promised myself not to be pushed aside and work very hard because I was proud of the music I made.

This is the first year where I’m not waiting for Universal to tell me that I can go on and promote my record.

 I want to dedicate this speech to the strength that Carolina had, which translated into something very positive in my life: courage, shamelessness, consumption, creativity, popularity and credibility. These words are not opposites, they can co-exist, and If you wanna call me a prostitute, then I’m fine but then you are all pimps.

Prostitutes have always been muses for artists, from la Traviata to Roxanne. They all talk about the same thing. Freddy Mercury says we are all musical prostitutes and I completely agree, but the best prostitution quote actually comes from Winston Churchill. He was at a cocktail party and  asked a lady about prostitution: “If I say I’ll give you 5 million pounds to sleep with me would you say yes?” And she says “Well, for 5 million pounds the terms could be discussed” and then he goes “If give you 5 pounds would you sleep with me?” and then she says “what kind of woman do you think I am?!” and so Winston Churchill replies “we have already established the kind of woman you are, we are just talking about the price.”

 

 

9 Risposte

  1. Mônica

    MIKA deserves everything because he’s a great and beautiful human being. Thank you, MIKA!!!

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  2. Sonia

    Mika is always interesting because he look at things in a different way. Maybe He has learned to observe because he could not read music. There is always a reason behind everything!

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  3. Caitlin

    so inspiring and Mika is always so interesting

    I just translate it into chinese which almost took me three hours ;-P

    just want to thank you for posting this amazing article xx

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  4. Maria

    I still don’t understand what is going on in life of Mika – everything is so foggy. Only one thing I want to tell: he is talented. Thank you 4 attention 😉 —8—8—@

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