Coming out (and stripping down) with the British pop star
by Chris Azzopardi -
SGN Contributing Writer
After years of speculation, Mika has finally confirmed it: He's Gay. Totally Queer. One hundred percent into men.
Now, moving on: The Grammy-nominated (Best Dance Recording, 2008) British performer's third full-length studio album, The Origin of Love (out October 16), is his most self-reflective work yet. In it he explores themes from opening up about his sexuality to the ebb and flow of love, and even the bullies he fended off as a kid.
Mika, who looks more GQ than Toys 'R' Us these days, caught up with us to chat about whether he's over talking about being Gay (fortunately for us, he's not), his female alter-egos, and what helps him hit the high notes.
Azzopardi: So... you're Gay. Are you sick of talking about that yet?
Mika: [laughs] The question before was, 'Are you Gay?' Now the question everywhere I go is, 'What's it like being a 29-year-old who's Gay?' It never irritated me, and it's never something that has bothered me, so I'm not sick of it. It's not essential to understanding my music, but I guess if you want to understand me as a real person - as a person with facets and different angles - then it is important. So no, I'm all right with it, and I'm still answering those questions. It certainly didn't make them go away. If anything it's becoming even more a theme for conversation in interviews.
Azzopardi: How do you respond to people when they ask you what it's like to be Gay?
Mika: I'm like, 'What do you want me to say to that?' There are so many inappropriate things I could answer back. [laughs] I'm like, 'It's not a color of a jacket that I chose that day.' It's how I've always been programmed. It's my brain. It's part of who I am. I don't really know how to answer that. I'm like, 'Well, what's it like for you to have brown hair?'
Azzopardi: Do you think the public is too concerned about celebrities' personal lives?
Mika: I don't know if the public is too concerned. I think that at the end of the day, let's face it, it's a choice - anyone who says that every celebrity or public person doesn't have a choice is insane. For many years I always said I'm not hiding my sexuality - it's innately a part of what I do and what I've always done in my music - but whether I label myself or not, that is my personal choice and I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I did frustrate people and have to deal with the consequences of those choices, just like I have to deal with the consequences of labeling myself at this point in time. But the reason I was comfortable to label myself is because it was a decision I made on my own. I did it from a position of joy and confidence, and I felt like it was the right time. There was nothing negative, or no pressure, associated with the process or act of labeling myself as Gay.
Azzopardi: For years, you were considered Bisexual after you were misquoted, as you've said, in a Netherlands magazine. Why didn't you come forward [then] and clear that up?
Mika: What am I supposed to say? 'No, I'm not Bisexual'? If I'm gonna talk about, I'll leave it until I talk about my sexuality in an open, confident, and unpressured way. Again, I made that decision, to take time and do things at my own pace. And I was like, 'When I deal with this, I'll deal with this properly. There's no point dealing with something in a small way. When I do it, I have to do it in a positive way.'
It's not a negative thing. Whatever it is, it's not negative. If you zoom out and look at it with perspective, there's no part of this that's negative, because it's a developing story. I'm 29 and I'm probably going to be a different person when I'm 33, so maybe we'll be having a conversation then about sexuality or the politics of sexuality, and I may have completely different things to say about it. But all I know is that I'm happy and totally comfortable with my sexuality, and I can talk about it and say I'm not the 13-year-old who was looking at himself in the mirror and thinking, 'How the hell am I gonna shake this sense of fear or pressure that I feel? Is there a way out?'
So when I did the interview with Instinct recently, quite honestly I was a little nervous - but I wasn't fearful. That's why I knew it was the right thing to do. I said to myself, 'Talk as if you're talking to this 13-year-old who doesn't know how to get out of how he's feeling right now.'
Azzopardi: You're 29? You seem so much younger.
Mika: There is a naive childishness to my music. Even with this new record, which is definitely an evolution - it is more mature, but it's still got this sense of mischief. There is that sense of youth. It's essential to always be able to look at stuff in life in awe - if you know you can be in awe, or be awed by something, you know that you're alive. I guess people can sometimes misunderstand that for childishness, because often it's children who stand there with their mouths open, but I guess I'm very comfortable standing there looking at things with my mouth open, being in awe. [laughs] If an extremely beautiful person is walking down the street, I'll just stand there and stare, and they'll think I'm the biggest psycho in the world.
Azzopardi: I also can't say I know many adults who dance around their bedroom in just underwear.
Mika: [laughs] And on the one hand, I'm fully aware that in that video [for 'We Are Golden'], there are moments of it where I look ridiculous, like in a bad way, and there are moments where I look great. It's the combination of those two things that I'm fine with. I quite like it.
Azzopardi: You don't mind looking a little ridiculous?
Mika: Sometimes. As long as you can look hot a minute later. [laughs]
Azzopardi: You sampled a Wicked tune for your song 'Popular' off the new album - a song that's directed toward bullies. Can you explain the process of writing that?
Mika: I wrote it with a friend of mine named Priscilla Renea - she's becoming really well known for writing a lot of urban and hip-hop stuff. She's actually the one singing on it with me. We were sitting there and I was like, 'Do you know that melody from the Wicked song 'Popular'?' And she completely geeked out and I burst out laughing. I was like, 'Listen to you. You walk around in your three-inch-long fake nails and you write raps and hooks on hardcore rap songs. Does anyone know you like Wicked?' And we laughed about it.
She was tortured in school. She was made to feel like shit every day. And we were laughing how the people who write pop songs are often the least popular growing up. It's that bizarre thing - you end up writing something that is innately popular or designed to be popular. So it started off like that. We wrote it as a conversation. I would say some things and she would answer back. I guess we were both thinking of that horrible feeling you get when you walk across the schoolyard. Bizarrely, I still feel that sometimes when I'm put in certain situations - that schoolyard mentality comes right back.
Isn't it weird? I can feel threatened sometimes, but when I'm onstage, no matter who I'm singing in front of, I feel like that's my boxing ring and I have nothing to fear, and everything to say. I guess that's where I found my outlet.
Azzopardi: So, Elphaba or Glinda?
Mika: Elphaba is too soppy. I don't feel sorry for her and her greenness. Like, she's green - tough shit, get over it. [laughs] I actually do find her really irritating. Gotta be honest. And when she sings 'Defying Gravity,' I'm like, 'OK, big deal.'
Azzopardi: What's the highest note you can sing?
Mika: It depends on the day and other various factors - altitude and whether I drank the night before. And it depends on the tightness of my jeans.
Azzopardi: The tighter the better, right?
Mika: The tighter the better. Always.
Azzopardi: Is the namesake on the song 'Emily' an alter-ego of yours?
Mika: It actually kind of is. I have various pen names, because I write for other people and sometimes it's easier when no one knows who's written or co-written a song. So I have this little fleet of girls' first names that I write under. One of them got discovered and it's out, but I've got a few others that are still nice and safe.
Azzopardi: How does your boyfriend play into The Origin of Love?
Mika: On the record you can hear a horrific breakup, you can hear me questioning myself and going on dates with other people, and then you can hear me finally finding love in the person who I was originally with - you see this transition through the record. I think for him, it's a record with a happy ending - well, for both of us - but it's definitely something that I think he sees a lot of truth in. As funny as it may seem, and as flippant and ironic as it may come across, 'Love You When I'm Drunk' was written completely from truth.
Azzopardi: There's no question that a lot of your songs have radio potential, but they're often overlooked by American radio. Do you think that has anything to do with you being Gay or your songs being flamboyant?
Mika: I was accidentally copied on an e-mail a couple of years ago, and it was from a person at [a] radio [station] saying that they wouldn't play 'Love Today' because it sounded like a guy who was singing in the range of a girl. I immediately assumed this had to do with sexuality or identity and I got really angry, and then I just was like, 'You know what? It's not - that's just an excuse. It cannot be a reason.' I may just be naive, but I don't know - it cannot be the reason. Maybe I'm just being a dick and I should take a reality pill, but if I took that reality pill then maybe I wouldn't have made this last record, and I think that would've been a shame.
With that said, I wanted to tour America again and [the label] was like, 'Let's do three shows and see how it goes.' So we put the three shows on sale and they sold out in 52 seconds - all three shows sold out in 52 seconds! I can sell shows in America when I haven't been there in four years and I haven't had a single played on radio. I can keep on building my niche and my fans are faithful and I don't have to compromise any part of myself or my writing. If that's the case, then I'll keep going.
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website, www.chris-azzopardi.com.
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