International music star Mika sets sights on U.S.

Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:18pm EDT
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By Richard Smirke

LONDON (Billboard) - At first impression, the man no one knows as Michael Penniman seems uncharacteristically quiet. As he takes a well-earned break from rehearsing for a tour to promote one of the year's most eagerly anticipated music releases, he seems tired and anxious, a far cry from his usual ebullience.

He knows it, and he apologizes politely for his demeanor before taking a drawn-out pause to refocus and return as the witty, charming, unashamedly upbeat force of nature the world knows and (mostly) loves as Mika.

"It's always a big stress figuring out how to do things live," he says, becoming more animated with every word. "It's really kind of terrifying. I wish I could just mime. I'd be so much happier."


"I'm joking, of course."


"Witty," "charming" and "unashamedly upbeat" are also words that could be used to describe Mika's music -- a winning mix of radio-friendly piano ballads, sexual ambiguity and melodic pop. His debut album, "Life in Cartoon Motion" (Island/Universal), sold 5.5 million copies worldwide, according to his handlers at London-based Machine Management.

His U.K. base -- Mika was born in Lebanon but has a dual U.S. and British citizenship -- contributed 1.6 million of those copies, and Mika regularly leaves his London apartment to find gifts from fans or even fans themselves, camping overnight outside his door.   Continued...

<p>Singer Mika poses as he arrives at the 2009 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in West Hollywood, California February 22, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>