I have a complicated relationship with sounds. I’m very sensitive to them. I feel them in my body, either as strong emotions or in a very physical way which is not always a pleasant experience.

Some smallest sounds can make me uncomfortable or anxious or even so nauseous I almost vomit. I spend hours in silence, everyone in my house is forced to use headphones and we don’t have a sound system or television at home. Obviously I can’t demand strangers to be quiet but when the kid behind me at The Voice played with his cracking empty water bottle making my head almost explode I just went and took it away without feeling guilty.

Luckily it works also the other way around. Beautiful music makes me go through extreme emotions and can be an amazingly sensational and very physical experience. I enjoy only rare voices but when that happens I’m filled with happiness and can feel how the music goes through my whole body and every muscle, starting from my neck or throat, moving to my arms, fingers and stomach and finally to my legs. Listening to symphony pop makes me happy, inspired and absolutely knackered. It’s like my muscles had physically worked in those new environments where the songs transported me.

For that reason I rarely listen to albums at home. It’s different at gigs, that experience happens in another, different world where everything is possible. In the middle of my everyday life it would be too much and too emotional. Too overwhelming. I rather choose one or two songs suitable for my mood and focus on them. I talked about this on FB and someone said they do exactly the same and called it a ritual and I loved it, that’s exactly the right word. My rituals are either meditations or celebrations.

My favorite meditation is listening to symphonic Relax. It clears my mind and puts my thoughts in order. My LICM mini playlist starts with my long lost friend Ring Ring in which I immediately recognize anxiousness I seem to have in myself as well. I listen to the song and magically the anxiousness goes away. I move on to acoustic Relax which is the most calming song I know. It gives me serenity but has also a tiny, very subtle amount of excitement I can physically feel in my throat and arms. That wakes me up and makes me sharp and ready to continue whatever I was doing.

From TBWKTM I choose I see You and only that song alone. It goes directly to my heart in every meaning of the word. I can literally feel the music in my chest, the area around my heart. This song has tension that starts from the first note and stays through the whole song. The lyrics tell about watching someone from distance, holding on to our illusions and being afraid that something is not what we imagine it to be. I can’t relate to that. We shouldn’t be that worried, we should just trust our instincts. Reality can be better than our wildest hopes or expectations and small imperfections make life only more interesting and memorable.

The first time I heard I See You was in Boston 2009. It was my favorite song from the new album, I had looked forward to the performance and had huge expectations for it. It was everything I had hoped for and much more. It was perfect. It’s been 10 years since the gig and I still see it as one of my dearest gig memories and almost can’t believe I was lucky to be there. I love it how singing barefoot makes the performance somehow symbolic. There’s something so pure and bare in the song and the way Mika sings it feels extremely genuine. Like he had really gone through those fears or at least given them careful thought.

From TOOL I often choose acoustic Kids. This song tells about not getting along and is that way a bit sad and again, I can’t relate to the lyrics that much. I often think adult problems are highly exaggerated. People assume that having relationship problems is an essential part of being an adult, that everyone has them all the time. It’s not true. People are just tired and life can be demanding. However, I love the comforting tone in the singing. Comfort that I get from Mika’s voice helps me to face the world even on chaotic days.

Last Party from NPIH is one of the songs that are enough on their own. It has all the colors of the rainbow. It tells about every aspect of life, it’s like a life time compactly in less than four minutes. It has a strong background story. There’s sadness but there’s also all the comfort in the world. When the party starts it’s pure fireworks. I love every part of this song and how much impact it has on me.

My usual celebration song is Boum Boum Boum which never fails to make me in a good mood. I like it with a playful intro and preferably without any talking in the middle distracting the atmosphere. The mood in the song is exact, right and correct. I don’t need to understand French to know what this song is about and that way I find it one of the most successful songs Mika has done. I often listen to this song on Fridays or Saturdays to celebrate a fun weekend, to be in a light mood.

My new ritual is listening to Sound Of An Orchestra. I can feel it in my whole body. I listen to it and simply can’t stay still. I have to move but I don’t dance, I walk. When I stop walking I start to move my arms (and then pretend I’m stretching them so it wouldn’t look too weird). I love it how some parts of the song go to my stomach and I really love the beginning with different instruments. It makes me think of the opening scene in one of my favorite films (one of my favorite film scenes for sure).

Listening to these songs can be so powerful my whole day becomes special. I was raised telling normal life is supposed to be ordinary. I refused to believe it then and I refuse to believe it now. Our life is as special as we make it and music is one of the easiest ways to make any day a beautiful occasion. xxx

Listening to Mika’s music and writing about it is my favorite thing to do. I enjoy writing about his television career as well but I miss his music and after seeing his lately studio updates it feels suitable to write about music again. A couple of days ago I listened to all four Mika albums one after another and it was an emotional thing to do and made me go through all kind of feelings, thoughts and memories. It made me even a little bit confused – it was almost hard to put things on the timeline – and so clearly to remember why I love his music.

Listening to Life In Cartoon Motion made me immediately wish I could have known a younger version of Mika. It made me wish I could have seen him on stage performing those songs for the first times, maybe even met him at the time he still had young person’s dreams and point of view. The confusing thing is that some of his most timeless songs like Any Other World were recorded that time. And he grew up but in No Place In Heaven I sometimes wonder if the singer is that grown-up man or a young boy and I can’t decide. I’ve said it before but age is a complicated thing.

In my imagination I picture young Mika with his long legs walking on a street, trying to look like everyone else, trying to look as normal as possible when in reality he was carrying a whole another world inside of his head. His mind was like a hidden, secret universe. It was expanding and had no limits in it. It was full of music and sounds, colors, people, characters and an endless amount of stories and it was the kind of place I had wanted to visit all my life. Relax gave me a door to enter it and every time I listen to the song I become emotional and a little bit teary and can’t help but thinking what if I hadn’t heard it. What if I hadn’t paid attention.

After discovering Mika’s music 2007 I watched Grace Kelly videos and can remember one acoustic clip especially well. Mika was sitting at his piano. He had beautiful long curls, a distinct profile and strong mouth. He was wearing a white shirt and had long pianist fingers and he looked young yet sophisticated. He started to play Grace Kelly and it was a pleasant surprise. His piano playing wasn’t sophisticated at all. It was quite rough. You know how he plays, sometimes he hits his piano so hard I feel almost sorry for the instrument. I thought he had character and that’s why I fell in love. He started to sing and his voice was everything. Everything. His mouth articulated words so clearly I couldn’t stop watching it, I was hypnotized for hours.

I remember booking a trip to London to see my first gig and how seeing him on stage was even better than I had imagined, better than any video could ever imply. I remember how I walked out of the venue after the gig every cell in my body filled with happiness and positive energy. I thought I should go to concerts more often. I felt I could do anything, I would never be tired again. I had discovered a secret energy source and I didn’t know if I should talk about it or stay quiet so no one would know about it and it would last longer.

I didn’t stay quiet. The world deserves to know this wonderful music exists and everyone, especially an artist this good, deserves to know they are loved and appreciated. Quality music can’t be used up. You don’t have to save good music to make it last longer, it can be listened again and again and it stays equally powerful.

Filling myself with live music energy is just one way to enjoy Mika’s music. I use his songs as small meditations almost every day. I listen to symphony versions of them and enjoy his voice and every instrument finding their places and magically my thoughts seem to find their places as well. It’s a clarifying experience, my thinking becomes clearer and it’s easier to focus.

LICM is like a collection of colorful animations but has also a darker side. Happy Ending is amazingly beautiful but don’t let it fool yourself, it’s a sad song. However, it was The Boy Who Knew Too Much that really made darkness and combining it with cheerful elements Mika’s trademark. Rain makes us dance but is actually a break up song. Toy Boy sounds like a nursery song but tells a cruel story. The third album The Origin Of Love shows a bit happier expression but still screams love is overrated in this God damn world.

The message of tolerance is important to me. Sometimes it’s hard to face the world we’re living in today. I’m afraid to open news pages and try to avoid social media as much as I can. There’s so much cruelty and hate in our every single day, people compete over things I couldn’t care less and day by day it’s more obvious we need someone like Mika to teach us how to understand and value ourselves and each other.

Gives me hope that someone like him tells us we are golden and this is love not war, explains nothing is only words because that’s how hearts get hurt and makes us live in the moment asking if you could look into the future would you. If you could see it would you even want to? Gives me hope to hear him singing about freedom and the true origin of love. Origin is actually one of the songs I appreciate most. It makes me feel light but I can put it in context. It sounds easy for him now but I know there was a long journey to it. X

I love seeing Mika concerts in France, I’ve loved since the beginning. France has a special place in Mika’s heart, the audience responds to it and there’s always love in the air. I love learning to know French people. It’s a long but rewarding process. They don’t automatically accept you, you have to earn it and you have to respect them. The better I learn to know them the more I like them. I even like the tiny hint of open rudeness in them because I see it genuine and that’s something I appreciate. During the past couple of years I’ve noticed I absolutely love Paris, always warms my heart to go back there.

The first concert I saw in Paris was Parc des Princes in 2008 and it was a massive and unforgettable one time only experience. After that I’ve seen several big concerts (Bercy twice in 2010 and once in 2016, Zenith twice in 2015) and charming smaller gigs (Cirque d’Hiver twice in 2009 and once in 2018 and Casino de Paris twice in 2012). I saw the tiniest and sweetest gig at Comedy Club in 2009 and the very special equality concert at Place de Bastille in 2013. However, it’s been my numerous trips to see the Voice of France that have made Paris a familiar and that way important place for me.

I’ve managed to build there routines I don’t have in Helsinki. I’ve discovered cafes where I can go and have coffee or eat soup and read or write in the middle of the people. In my favorite cafe I can focus as easily as I can at home even when the place is crowded. Their coffee is excellent, something not to take for granted in France. I try to see something new (like an exhibition or a museum) during my every visit but it’s these familiar places and my favorite views and walking routes in Montmartre that I miss when I go back home.

During my latest trip I spent in Paris a long weekend from Thursday morning to Sunday. Only Friday was scheduled for The Voice recordings so I had two whole days to do whatever I liked. On Thursday I just wanted to walk around and visit my favorite English bookstore. They have a large non-fiction selection and I always discover some interesting, not recently published books that can be otherwise hard to find and this time wasn’t an exception.

One of the books I randomly saw was This Is Our Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin and the chapter explaining “why we like our favorite music” made me naturally add the book on the top of my shopping pile. According to the book one of the reasons we’re willing to make ourselves vulnerable to our favorite musicians and to connect our very personal feelings to their music is that they often make themselves vulnerable to us or convey vulnerability through their art.

That makes sense. I like it when I get the feeling artists genuinely put their personality in their music and yes, I want to do the same while listening to it. Of course I admire also their capability to convincingly tell a story when it’s not personal at all, that’s one of the skills needed on stage. And it’s not only about how music sounds in my ears that’s important, it’s also what it represents and the values behind it. Stories that I can either relate to or continue in my head, thoughts the music provokes. Levitin’s book is waiting on my nightstand, it explains some basic things about producing music and creating the sound and I know so very little about those topics that it will do good for me to read it.

Saturday was supposed to be my museum day but after two recording sessions on Friday I had a lot of details to remember and felt I need to write them down immediately so I sat in a cafe and wrote a few hours. The international group (girls from France, Italy and some other countries) had dinner plans for Thursday and Saturday and I joined them both nights. It was good to see people after spending time alone and I enjoyed visiting proper restaurants, the kind of places where I wouldn’t go on my own.

The food we ate on Thursday was really good and the creamy pumpkin soup so delicious I had to point out to the waiter their soup is amazing. He gave me a cold look and told “all our food is amazing”. I learnt my lesson and didn’t tell him their crème brûlée was the best I had tasted. Thursday night was clear and the weather was good so after the dinner we walked to the Eiffel Tower to be there at midnight and it was the best ever idea. No matter how many times I’ve seen the Eiffel sparkling it’s equally magical every single time. A huge thank you to the girls for their bookings and lovely preparations for the both nights!

I enjoyed my walks and having time to be in my own thoughts and couldn’t help but thinking what a suitable location Paris would be for Casa Mika. I have this dream that one day Mika will have his own place, like a small theatre, that is his real life Casa Mika. A place where he can do small concerts and music theatre productions, record music, film television, guide new talents or whatever he would like to do. Host fabulous fashion shows for his designer friends or organize private parties for rich people who all wish they could be like him. Just imagine being able to see everything he does inside of just one building! It would be an empire of his own where no one says something is not possible or not sensible and where he can do anything he ever wants. He travels between different countries almost on daily basis so maybe still a distant thought but one day.

Before my trip to Paris I listened to Sound Of An Orchestra non-stop, having my headphones in my ears just focusing on the song and nothing else again and again and it was almost a new experience to me because I rarely listen to music at home this intensively. I listened to it during my flights and I continued my listening back home and it’s been a wonderful experience even it’s just one song and actually a tune written for television.

It’s fascinating how there can be a whole another world behind one single song if we just focus on it enough. I realized I like getting new songs this way, being able to focus on them one at a time. I love the idea (another dream) of releasing songs one by one so that they form a trilogy or a series of songs which has a common theme and is released during a few months or one season. They would come with short films (remember clips for Origin and Make You Happy, loved those), first digitally and always connected to a very, very special live event – organized at Casa Mika of course – and later published as a physical collection with illustrations and maybe even stories (remember Songs For Sorrow book). I would absolutely love it, every song would be an occasion.

No trips to Paris for a while, The Voice live shows will continue later this spring. I enjoy looking forward to the album and I enjoy this anticipation, I even bought a new shirt I can wear when the album is out, and can’t wait to listen to all the songs as intensively as I’ve listened to Sound Of An Orchestra, with my headphones, catching everything he’s singing, every part of the voice, feeling it in my body. In my muscles and my heart and my stomach. Then there will be gigs, finally. Nothing compares to live music. There’s something truly magical seeing and hearing music being created in front of you, seeing how the show is built night after night, watching the chemistry between people on stage, watching the whole dynamics and the artist guiding the audience, leading everything. I can’t get enough of it, I want to see every single detail. X

The Voice of France battles continued on Friday. The production had added new music and lights to create extra excitement and the studio audience could clearly feel that in the atmosphere. According to the new rules coaches could either immediately choose the winner, choose to keep the both contestants or not choose anyone at all. During Friday we saw all that happening and a couple of times the coaches indeed decided to make a new combination offering the contestants an opportunity to work together and I really liked these new options and thought they bring in more color compared to the old system where one was always in and one out.

Friday’s schedule had two sessions and some of us spent in the studio more than 12 hours. I like these long sessions because they mean less waiting outside and more focusing on the recording itself and I always feel I can see a lot and have a lot to go trough afterwards. The coaches don’t much interact with the audience during the battles and sitting in the audience means following performances and the related discussions and watching how the recording is done. Generally I find these both interesting especially after seeing all the previous recordings (meaning I already know the contestants and have my own expectations for them). Before the battles we saw the coaches and several guests performing several times and that’s always my favorite part of the recording although this time Mika had only tiny roles on stage with short lines to sing.

Every coach started with eight candidates and that meant four rounds of battles and four finalists in the end for every team. I’m going to shortly go through all four rounds without mentioning any names or song titles to describe how it was. For television everything will be cut and edited in a totally different order so I don’t think this is too much information.

The first round was started by Soprano’s team and he brought on stage two rap guys. The first one was obviously more confident and stronger on stage but despite of that Soprano chose the other one explaining the other one needs it more. That made me think of the purpose of talents shows in general. Are the coaches supposed to choose the contestants who have the best possibilities to make it in the competition or the ones who can most benefit from being there, being that way able to create a better career afterwards? A difficult question and requires considering different aspects in the long run and asks experience and good knowledge about the industry from the coaches as well.

I felt totally indifferent about Jenifer’s and Julien’s first battles but then it was turn for Mika’s team and the setting for his first battle was extremely interesting. He put two very peculiar contestants against each other and I thought what a brilliant thing to do. Both of these talents are quirky and yes, have a very peculiar singing style and I kind of like them both but obviously had already doubted if they can go any further than this. Putting them to battle against each other meant it would be easy to let one of them go or – thanks to the new rules – even let them both go. The surprising thing was that the two talents sounded really good together and it felt impossible to choose and Mika seemed to feel the same way because in the end he chose them both but as solo singers, not as a duet. I hadn’t expect that to happen but really liked his decision. Of course, after giving it some thought I realized that no matter how good they sounded together he still has these two contestants separately but it’s not my job to worry about that. I assume that even though the decision was made in the moment Mika and his team must have gone through all the options in advance and must have plans for them both.

Team Julien started the second round. The talent Julien chose was a girl who I had expected to see in his final team but the song was not interesting so I felt totally indifferent about the result again. After that it was Soprano’s turn and the group that I have liked since the very beginning. There’s something sympathetic in them and I really like their positive energy and especially the tall guy who is the heart of the group. The battle wouldn’t be easy though and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The final result – suggested by Mika – was unusual but not totally unexpected and I really liked it and believe and hope that the group will do well even though they don’t represent any genre I usually listen to.

Jenifer’s second battle had a contestant I find too pushy but there are always contestants who divide opinions. The song chosen for the battle was bold, to put it mildly, and made me sweat in an unpleasant way. The pushy contestant continued in the competition, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised to see Mika’s second choice either. His third finalist is not my taste or style but still someone I have assumed to see in his final team since the blind auditions. I hope to see something energetic from this contestant during lives because her stage energy was what caught my attention in the first place.

We were halfway through the battles already. The third round was a bit less exciting than the other three. The talent from Team Jenifer who has a strong show personality continued to live shows exactly as I had expected and hoped. Soprano had two contestants with somehow similar style but from different age groups and he chose the younger one who seemed to have more energy than the other one. Mika put his two rap style contestants against each other and explained they had worked hard for the performance. It still wasn’t good enough and he had only one place left so he let them both go, no other option there. The boy who reminds me of young Mika went to the finals from Julien’s team. His performance wasn’t impressive but I blame the song, not the contestant.

The last battle round was definitely the most interesting of them all to watch. Soprano started with a contestant I could remember well because of his relaxed, very particular style. I liked this guy and found him very entertaining and would have loved to see him at live shows. However, Soprano chose the other one so my favorite was out. Then Team Mika and my two favorites from him against each other. Only one place left and my biggest favorite who was clearly better already during the knock outs continued in the competition also this time. He’s been the most interesting of Mika’s talents since the beginning and I’m extremely curious to see what will happen with him.

Jenifer’s last battle was between two boys who are very similar type. The other one has a skill to talk and sing really fast and the other one is generally quite comfortable on stage. The first boy has his brothers in the audience and they all look exactly similar as the contestant and I’m not sure which is more fun, watching the talent on stage or his brothers cheering in the audience and I always hope to see the boy to continue just to see his supporters’ reactions. This time I felt a bit bad knowing it would mean the other contestant being out and Jenifer seemed to think the same way and she offered the boys a possibility to continue together. I believe these boys can – if just work well together – go far and not only in the competition, people will love them. Julien’s team performed last and the boy who Maryanne knew from school made it to the final team but the song wasn’t interesting at all, I must say.

In the end all the teams collected together and then run to their coaches and Mika’s weird little team run to him and he opened his arms and welcomed them and they all were like “we are yours, we are yours, you chose us” and he hugged them and patted them on their shoulders smiling and probably also thinking “oh god what will I do with these kids??” and the smaller boy was at first a little bit outside of the hug and I wanted to shout “the little one, see also the little one” but then he saw and took also him in the group hug. Super, super cute and so funny I had to laugh out loud.

Then quite a long debriefing about these two recording sessions, it was well past midnight already, and then it was all over except for the coaches who still had interviews to do. Mika must have been so tired already but he said good night to us and went backstage to continue his work and we left. No more recordings until the live shows. Always good to see familiar faces, thanks everyone xxx

I can’t think any better way to celebrate the first Friday of the year than listening to a new Mika song. Sound of an Orchestra was written for a new Italian television series La compagnia del cigno but also released worldwide and that way meant for all of us to enjoy.

Hearing the first tiny promo clip didn’t make me as excited as I had thought in advance it would. The first small music part felt something to breath through. Something catchy and light written just for television, a little bit like It’s My House which for me had a bigger meaning and purpose representing Casa Mika than as a song of its own (still loved that of course).

Then I read the lyrics for Sound of an Orchestra and they were incredibly pretty and meaningful. Extremely meaningful.

Then I heard the whole song and it made me so happy I cried.

I cried and had to walk around the house like I do when something is almost overwhelming and I can’t find the right words and I simply can’t stay still. I walked so much my family almost lost their patience with me. I woke up this morning and started my walk again. My heart is bursting with happiness with this song. Such beautiful, beautiful singing. Mika’s voice goes up and down and up and down and up and down again and again and it’s so wonderful I almost can’t handle it. His voice is so expressive I can picture his face singing every second of the song.

I can relate to this song so well. Sounds have an important role in my life, in good and bad. I need a lot of silence around me and outside of the silence even tiniest sounds can have a huge effect on me. My internal sound detector is constantly scanning everything around me ready to cause an immediate reaction and I can hardly understand what’s going on when it’s happening already. My body reacts to Mika’s voice in a very physical way. His voice is familiar and safe so my muscles can relax and I can feel in my chest how my heart is filled with love and happiness. It’s like my body had sensors that are there just to react to his singing.

I love the instruments in the beginning of the song. So cute and playful. And I love a hundred people playing and it’s just for me part, that’s an amazing thought of course, but my favorite part is the one that starts “before you even say”. His beautiful voice in it makes me think the final step to a free fall and I really love that. And I like how the song ends with a very quick smile. I don’t need to think about it, I just automatically smile back. xxx

The Voice of France continued with four more recording days and I decided to stay in Paris the whole week and be back home just before Christmas. I enjoy traveling this time of the year, it makes me in a good mood, and I didn’t know how and what particular day the coaches will choose their teams so it felt safer to see all the sessions to be sure I would be there for Mika’s session.

The system was different compared to previous years. Instead of battles we saw knock out sessions where each coach saw their whole team, meaning 18 talents, performing one by one. After every talent the coach had to decide if to keep the contestant or let them go. The goal was to choose 6 talents and in addition to that to steal two more talents from the other coaches. That way every coach would have 8 talents for the battles in January. When the coach wasn’t sure if to keep the talent or not, the contestant was located on the red zone on the other side of the stage until the end of the session when it was time for the coach to make the final decision. Red zone meant also that the talent was available for the other coaches to steal.

The sessions happened in the chair order. Soprano on Monday, Mika on Tuesday, Jenifer on Thursday and finally Julien on Saturday. Monday’s session started with a guest performance and Arcadian who did their song three times. The coach team arrived to watch the performance all wearing black or black and white, Mika looking super elegant in his simple and very impressive black outfit. I loved his very classy “international pop star look”, one of my all time favorites.

The first session felt exhausting and too long and we watched several contestants sitting in the red area the whole night and I couldn’t see the point in that at all. The audience wants to know if the talent is in or out and avoiding obvious decisions feels a bit annoying and also cruel for the talents.

On Monday the whole session on was generally quite boring as the contestants in Soprano’s team are not genuinely interesting for me or my taste and the highlights of the evening were moments where Jenifer and Mika stole Soprano’s talents for their own teams. Jenifer got a boy who was a particularly good dancer and that way good on stage, Mika was lucky two times. First time maybe partly because the moment/contestant touched him and second time because he thought the contestant was too good to be sent to the red zone and I agreed with him about that. One of the talents in Soprano’s team was a good showman and managed to surprise the audience both during the auditions and knock out sessions but was still not chosen and I thought that was a shame. I would have loved to see him continuing, maybe even Mika stealing him to his own team, but after two contestants that night Mika’s limit was full.

When the first session was over Mika said he wants to be clear with his decisions on Tuesday and in my opinion he succeeded in that very well indeed. He sent his contestants either in or out putting only 3 or 4 of them to the red zone (which had to be somehow used I guess). When the contestant was out he kindly but also very honestly explained the reasons behind his decision and it was a manly thing from him to do, I was pleased to watch his approach which was very different compared to what we saw from the other coaches during the week. I very much liked his style and also how he spoke to his team so directly yet in a caring way and thought he did this phase of the competition particularly well. Postponing the obvious is painful for the audience to watch and it’s easier for everyone if the coaches just make the decisions they are supposed to make.

On Tuesday everything was more exciting for us and for everyone I believe. The level of contestants was better because Mika’s team is this year generally good quality. The coaches had changed their outfits and Jenifer was wearing the cutest girly dress I’ve seen on her, Soprano had a stylish suit and Mika had his “uncle look” with white jeans and a blue cardigan. That was a nice touch and he looked like an understanding adult giving useful advices to his young contestants and I immediately thought the outfit was much more suitable for this situation than the gorgeous, slim and elegant pop star look we saw on Monday would have been.

In the beginning of the session we saw one of the Zazie’s winners from the past and then it was time to start to go trough Mika’s team, the moment I had waited to see this week. I wrote notes about every talent to remember their names and the songs they performed but at this point I can’t give any details so I just list a few thoughts about the session and about Mika’s team after the knock out phase.

First of all, both of my favorites from the auditions are still in the competition! My biggest favorite performed first and was actually even better than I had remembered. He seems the type that takes a lot of risks which can obviously go either really right or really wrong but so far he has done well and I find him the most interesting of all Mika’s talents. My second favorite didn’t do as well as in the auditions but because Mika had seen him doing well in the earlier phase he luckily kept him. My third favorite is a girl who has an extremely weird voice and performing style. I can hear Lily Allen songs in my head when I listen to her but also think there’s something very unique in her as well. The strange thing is that I can’t even say I enjoy listening to her singing, she just makes me smile. For that reason I hoped Mika would choose her and I got the impression Mika felt the same way, that the girl made him smile as well and she’s still in the competition.

The fourth talent in Mika’s team is a girl who in my opinion is not interesting enough but who I expected Mika to choose. The third boy he chose used a weird vibrato that I didn’t like at all (didn’t remember anything like that from the auditions) and the third girl was chosen from the red zone. I liked it that Mika chose the best available from the red zone instead of the one who just sat there for the longest because it was an important decision and it was time to be rational and not just nice. Together with the two contestants he stole from Soprano he now has 8 contestants in his team for the battles.

The girl I found pushy during the auditions was out because her performance wasn’t good enough to continue in the competition. Some contestants were too young and not ready for live shows and Mika explained that to them in the kindest possible way. Two contestants ended up in Soprano’s team the same way his contestants were stolen to Mika’s team on Monday. After Tuesday I felt the most interesting and important part of the knock out phase was done but also knew that Jenifer has a good quality team so I looked forward to Thursday.

On Thursday we heard Louis Bertignac as the guest performer. He is the coach Mika replaced at The Voice and I heard as soon as he started his song that he’s actually a guitarist and a very good one indeed. He did one song and only once and after that the coaches gathered around him and Mika naturally wanted to try his guitar a little bit and that was a funny little detail for us to watch.

Then Jenifer’s team started and as an opposite to what I had expected I could remember only a couple of her contestants really well so not sure her team is as good as I had thought in advance. I could remember the contestant who has a very strong show personality and this talent was selected to continue to the battles. Another contestant from Team Jenifer has an ability to sing very fast and has also a very enthusiastic support group in the audience so it was easy to remember him and he was selected in as well. I must say I didn’t always agree with Jenifer. She chose a singer who didn’t seem good enough at all and left out another one who did a surprisingly good performance that night performing an extremely difficult song. Luckily the latter one was saved by Julien who now has two talents from Jenifer in his own team.

Thursday was not as interesting as Tuesday but after the recording we had a small Christmas party to wish Mika Merry Christmas. We had to wait our turn to exit the studio space so Mika was actually quicker than us but he pretended he needed some more time and we could organize everything ready for him. Katia had brought a christmas tree all the way from Sardinia and Ani had baked a cake and Corinne who had a car had brought a lot of lights and decorations with her. We had bought champagne to make a toast and everyone brought small gifts to put under the tree and I hope it all gave Mika a warm Christmas feeling. He arrived smiling and spent a generous amount of time with us speaking different languages, receiving Christmas gifts, taking photos and even filming small messages and it was all incredibly sweet of him. A few pics below.

Saturday was the last of the four knock out days and Julien had his turn to choose his team and he appeared on stage wearing a petrol colored jacket. Mika was wearing a golden jacket and golden shoes, the others – I can’t remember. I had thought in advance Julien’s team is not as high quality as the other teams and realized before the session I can’t remember any contestant from him, not a single one even I had seen them all during the auditions. I thought they would look familiar when on stage but they didn’t, I saw most of them like the first time or had only a distant memory of seeing them before.

When I saw Julien’s team on stage I could clearly remember only two of his contestants, one because he looks exactly like young Mika and another one simply because I disliked her. The first one continued to the battles. The second one didn’t continue and that really cheered me up and I even said that aloud which was of course a horrible thing to do. Someone’s distress shouldn’t cheer me up, I can sometimes be so insensitive I surprise even myself. In addition to these two talents I can now remember also the last contestant from Saturday because Maryanne knew him from school so I paid attention to him.

Julien’s night was somehow weird, even a little bit awkward. It was hard for him to send people out so at first he put several talents on the red zone and even clearly turned to Mika asking his opinions almost like expecting him to say the words that didn’t come out from his own mouth. Not sure if he’s just so nice and didn’t want to select or if it was difficult for him to select because there were no clear favorites in his team. I could very well understand he asked Mika who on Tuesday made it all look so easy. It doesn’t work that way of course, Mika has his own team and Julien improved his decision making a lot during the night. I didn’t agree with all his decisions but of course the audience sees the situations differently than the coaches who work with talents and know who has potential and who’s responding to their coaching.

This phase of the competition was quite tiring even to the audience and the coaches must have been exhausted after focusing such long hours so I imagine they all felt relieved to start their holidays and to have some rest before the battles in January. When the Saturday’s session was over Mika waved us good night and we all said good bye to each other and left.

I enjoy watching this season a lot, for several reasons, and I hope the television audience will enjoy it too. I like the coach team, the vibe is relaxed. I like observing people and details more and more. I’m not specially interested in talent shows but I’ve built interest in this concept so I can enjoy watching Mika at his work and won’t feel left out. I like how familiar everything is. Also, my body doesn’t expect Mika to sing like it used to do so it’s easier to enjoy his coaching. In the beginning my whole neurological system was prepared for his music and it was hard not to hear it. Now I don’t expect it and it’s easier to enjoy other things. This will of course change as soon as the new album is out and I can see him on stage again.

I had such a good time in Paris which is becoming my very favorite city. I walked a lot around Montmartre and sat in my favorite lunch place eating vegetable soup and reading a book. I had a very colorful Friday with the girls first seeing the Basquiat exhibition at Foundation Louis Vuitton and later watching Jean Paul Gautier Fashion Freak show at Folies Bergére. I had read an interesting book about Basquiat’s life a while ago and absolutely loved finally seeing his art and the Fashion Freak show offered a fantastic experience with incredible dancers and crazy outfits. Demi Mondaine who I could well remember from Zazie’s team last year had a big role in it and she looked very comfortable on stage and did a good performance and I generally enjoyed the whole show a lot.

I feel this year was a bit challenging on a personal level but I end it with very grateful and positive feelings looking forward to 2019. Can’t wait to hear Mika and his The Art of Song on BBC2 on Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day and I’m especially excited about the new song Sound Of An Orchestra released 4th of January as a soundtrack for a new Italian television series La compagnia del cigno. I’ve heard only a tiny snippet on the trailer but the lyrics seem absolutely beautiful. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. xxx

My earlier report about the first week of the The Voice France blind auditions is here, now some thoughts about the second part of the auditions last Monday and Tuesday. This time I had a couple of mornings to spend in Paris and really enjoyed having time to walk around. On Tuesday it was sleeting but Paris looked as pretty as ever and I walked in Montmartre and saw mothers with their babies and school groups and people walking their Dachshunds and as the weather was quite awful had my nails done in a funny old ladies place. It made me smile and I thought maybe I can go there also next time, maybe it can be my new routine.

Recording days are not always he same, they are all different depending on the songs and the general mood and for many other reasons. This time Monday was a little bit boring compared to the other days. Maybe too many slow songs in row, maybe a bit less interaction between the coaches. A bit weird atmosphere that is hard to explain, everyone somehow distracted. Tuesday on the other hand was extremely entertaining including numerous funny details and a lot of interaction between the coaches. It was the last day of the blind auditions so every coach had to complete their teams and use their blocking options and they were teasing each other in a nice way, creating many hilarious moments especially between Mika and Jenifer and it was all fun to watch. During a break Mika gave his little nephew a small tour on stage again and it was cute and it gave me a warm feeling to know his family is there to support him.

This year we’ve seen interesting guest singers who usually perform their songs three times each (once before the coaches arrive and two more times in front of them to make sure every detail is recorded) and without exceptions I’ve enjoyed watching them all. This time we saw Zazie, Slimane and Frédéric Longbois on Monday (the last one not as a guest but making an appearance) and Soprano and the guy from Fréro Delavega (his name, anyone?) on Tuesday. I was impressed by Soprano. I couldn’t understand the lyrics but heard the story translated and thought it was different than I had expected and now I look forward to hearing also Julien Clerc to learn to know his style and naturally pray that this year we will also see Mika on stage. I can’t tell if the guest artists really are that much better than previous years, it’s possible they are now more familiar to me and for that reason I can enjoy them more.

The level of contestants is generally good and clearly much better than it was last year. I’m curious to see which contestants Mika will keep. He has a lot of good material and can have a very good quality team and I’m curious to see which way he decides to go, obviously there are several options.

Just a few words about the contestants without giving too much information. At least a couple of times I expected contestants to choose Mika thinking they were extremely lucky to have him turned his chair but eventually the talents chose someone else. That didn’t make any sense, knowing Mika is particularly interested in their genre or style. I can’t tell if it wasn’t an independent decision from them or if they just weren’t smart enough to choose him. A couple of times contestants had very special singing techniques. These cases sound always too special for me but on the other hand, Mika loves them and I enjoy watching him being genuinely interested and having a sharp look in his eyes.

A couple of times contestants performed those songs I always think no one should ever perform in a talent show. This time it was songs like Nothing Compares 2U and Wicked Game, both very complicated to cover. There’s a time period in my youth I can hardly remember. I remember nothing until I hear Nothing Comparers 2U and random little images start to flow into my mind and it must be the same for everyone in the audience old enough to remember the original songs. No one wants their personal memories to be connected to a wrong version of the song. Performing Sinead O’Connor or Chris Isaak or maybe Sia from more current names is rarely a good idea. Surprisingly I wasn’t that annoyed to hear Nothing Compares done by a talent show contestant, first time that has ever happened.

After the last recording night Mika said thank you to people who had come to see him in Paris, many from far away. It was after a long recording day and he probably couldn’t wait to have some rest and some private time, yet he made the situation look very relaxed. In my experience Mika is always in a hurry. He has always a minute schedule and he is always busy moving from one commitment to another or has worked hours in front of people and just wants to get away from them (which we all understand very well) or is simply hoping to be somewhere else, having so many things to do and so little time. On Tuesday he made it look he’s not in hurry at all and I thought it was the sweetest thing to do. Very sweet indeed.

Thanks again everyone I met in Paris and who helped me in so many ways, translated and kept company. Hope to see you all soon X

The crowd at Cirque d’Hiver was exceptionally good to be a private gig audience and was dancing, clapping and singing along considerably loudly. I was thankful for my possibility to be there and hardly breathed and also kept my camera in my bag so I have only a few mobile vids to add in my post. Basically everyone in the audience was filming with their mobiles and have been sharing pics and vids on Instagram so I decided to share my small clips as well. I really wanted people to see them, Mika sounded and looked stunningly good and it’s important people are aware of that while waiting for new gigs in the future. It’s easier to be patient knowing something is surely worth waiting.

It was wonderful to see him on stage again. The gig was joyful and made me incredibly happy. I was smiling and then had tears in my eyes because everything was so beautiful and then smiled again and was relieved I could finally remember how it feels to be that happy about live music again. It’s a magical feeling, like it could fix everything. Like there were no worries in the world at all. Mika is in great shape. His voice tells he has been both exercising and practicing fiercely, I could hear he’s in excellent physical condition. He moved beautifully on stage and I heard from the sound he and the band are experimenting some new things for the old songs like always between tours so people can have new interest in them. At Cirque d’Hiver he did 11 songs which was a proper amount for a corporate gig like this one.

I’ve been a bit frustrated to read about his many private gigs lately. I’ve felt he’s not on a gig break like he says, I’ve felt he’s just choosing his audiences and it has made me sad not to be good enough to hear his singing and to be in the audience. Now I kind of saw what I have of course on a rational level always known. Artists would be mad turning down these gigs when offered to them. Private gigs mean more money with shorter gigs and less commitment with the audience and must be generally easy to fit in their schedules. The usual audience is so much more demanding than this more general crowd was.  At private gigs there’s no stress about rare songs or new music. Basic, energetic setlist is enough. To develop and improve his shows further he will (well just my opinion) need his own audience, crowds that are genuinely into his music and react quickly to changes and new details.

The gig started in French with Un soleil mal luné and continued with Relax, Blue Eyes, Big Girl, Boum Boum Boum, Grace Kelly, Underwater, Lollipop, EMD, WAG and Love Today. Approximately in that order, please correct me if needed but at least these were the songs we got. Loved it that we heard Blue Eyes and absolutely loved Boum Boum Boum – I love the atmosphere and Mika’s voice in it, it’s such a strong favorite for me – and burst in tears during Underwater after waiting to hear it such a long time. Not surprising these were the biggest highlights for me. I loved Relax and the three energetic songs in the end. It was hugely emotional to see Cirque d’Hiver again and watch the round center in the middle of it, it’s been 9 years since the last two gigs I saw there 2009, it’s such a special venue and I loved watching Mika using the circle shape of the stage to reach every corner of the audience with his microphone (see the Underwater video).

A couple of videos below. I might have also some smaller clips and will add them to FB or somewhere. Thanks everyone who made this possible and who kept me company! X

It was time to start The Voice France season 8 so I flied to Paris on Monday morning to watch the first four blind audition sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It was good to be back at the studios and gave me a warm feeling to see the chairs and Mika’s name on one of them. I’ve seen these recordings many years now and they feel like a part of my annual schedule. Mika had earlier commented that everything is different this season and the new coach setting looked totally fresh indeed: we saw Soprano, Mika, Jenifer and Julien Clerc (in that particular order).

Jenifer hasn’t been my big favorite previous years but now I suddenly really enjoyed seeing her there. She looked familiar, tiny and cute and someone I can somehow predict in advance. Soprano is a rap artist and I had seen him on stage only once before but knew that many people like him and that he’s generally described as a “nice guy”. During the first audition day he wasn’t as entertaining as we could later see but still immediately gave an impression as a pleasant and smiling person and his interaction with Mika who was next to him looked natural and easy and I soon noticed his candidates are much in line with his own musical style.

At first I wasn’t sure what to think about Julien Clerc. He’s a French singer and songwriter and his audition style is clearly different compared to the others and he has chosen to push the button only after very careful consideration. He seems calm and controlled and talks in a long, considerate way and as I have to rely on translations and base my perception (of the coaches) not only to their comments and words but also to their gestures and decisions it was harder for me to observe him.

During the three recording days Julien gradually started to show also his softer side. He kept his strict line but a couple of times totally surprised the audience and maybe also the other coaches pushing the button very last moment to a candidate everyone else seemed to ignore. He chose a boy who was obviously nervous during his performance and another one who did a small, delicate performance (apparently of one of Julien Clerc’s own songs) that didn’t get attention from the others and both times I thought what a nice thing from him to do to push the button. Of all his candidates I can remember clearly only these two as all the others in his team were the same, more specific type. Of course, I couldn’t help but paying attention to Julien’s little son who run to give him kisses during breaks causing cuteness reactions in the audience.

Mika was his usual self yet still totally different than previous years. He still requires not only good talent or potential but also something that excites him, something that is different or unusual and can somehow be distinctive. He’s kind as always. He says his honest opinions in his kind, caring way offering candidates something that can be genuinely useful to them. However, this year his strategy seems different than before. He pushes the button a lot and with that I mean a LOT and to many kind of talents being very successful with what he’s doing. He is gathering material, leaving nothing last minute. He hears something exciting, his eyes start to sparkle and his fingers do a little dance and sometimes he seems to push the button just because he wants someone to turn their chair – without thinking if his own team needs another talent or not – like it was his personal responsibility to prevent a tragedy where someone who deserves an opportunity is not chosen.

After winning his fifth contestant during the first session the production gave Mika a small reminder not to be too enthusiastic. Actually I can’t know if that happened for real as we can’t hear what the production says but that’s how it looked and he really was extremely enthusiastic with the button. Soon after that we heard a young female contestant with an unusual and quite strong voice and saw Mika struggling to control his fingers and trying to give signs to other coaches to push the button and finally he pushed the button himself wanting to give the girl a chance. That was my favorite moment that day. He genuinely seemed to do that just to be fair to the girl in the situation where he already had gathered a full amount of contestants for one session.

He now has a colorful group of contestants in his team and just editing what he has can result a good, strong team. Both of my two own favorites were chosen on Wednesday and are exactly the type I like in candidates and artists in general. They are male, have a strong unusual voice and a lot of passion in their performing. Of course I need to see my favorites performing again to be sure they really are as good as I thought but I still already hope at least one of them can make it to his final team. On Wednesday Mika won also a good female candidate but even though the girl was energetic and comfortable on stage I didn’t find her interesting enough simply because I think there are already too many singers like that in the music scene.

The level in the competition is better than last year but from a huge amount of candidates only a few stayed on my mind after the first hearing. There’s a duo in Soprano’s team that is interesting and has a good energy and one of the contestants in Jenifer’s team has a touching story on the background (and these personal stories can have a meaning in the concept).

A couple of candidates stayed on my mind for negative reasons and for their rude, pushy behavior. Unfortunately the first one ended up in Mika’s team. First I wasn’t sure if the girl is a comedian or if she behaves like that just to get attention but I guess it was the latter one as she wasn’t funny in a good way and made Mika uncomfortable. Of course, Mika did push the button and he also continued talking making the girl to choose him. Another, very pushy candidate ended up in someone else’s team and I was relieved about that. In addition to these I can clearly remember only a few more candidates but won’t write more about them as all of them were quite unusual and difficult to describe without telling too many details. Let’s just say we saw some colorful show elements and outfits! Otherwise it’s hard to remember each talent only after one hearing, the days were long and full of performances.

The system has a small change in the rules. Every coach has now a possibility to block one other coach one time preventing them to get the contestant even if they’ve pushed the button. Mika used his possibility almost as soon as the recordings started. I found that quite surprising as the new rule could have been used as a tactical move later but was now used just for fun. Turned out Mika might have not known this in advance, it’s possible he thought there’re still two possibilities left (to block the two other coaches). However, the production made it clear for him and now he knows his only blocking option is used and it can be better this way. Now there’s no need to think or plan that option any more.

I really enjoyed these first recording days. We saw interesting guest performances including Pascal Obispo, Jenifer, Claudio Capéo and Kendji Girac who’s still my favorite of all Mika’s earlier talents. So pleased that one of his discoveries started such an incredibly successful career. We saw the coach team performing their song at least six times and I loved it and almost cried when heard Mika giving an example of his voice behind the curtains before coming on stage. I miss his singing so much it hurts my heart and loved it that we could at least have a tiny taste of it. On Wednesday Mika brought his little nephew on stage and let him sit in Soprano’s chair and the whole situation was adorable and naturally caused quick admiring sighs in the audience.

I especially enjoyed the new relaxed atmosphere among the coaches. There are four totally different personalities, the whole group dynamics has changed, everything is fresh. I like it that there’s no visible tension and nothing visibly threatening. I like it that Mika can breath knowing his role is desperately essential. The production could replace any of the other coaches and it would still be fine but they couldn’t possibly replace him, it wouldn’t work any more, it wouldn’t be interesting enough any more and I like his position this way.

The coaches can’t obviously communicate with the audience much but I could see Mika made extra effort to be thoughtful and patient with people during the whole week and it was very sweet of him. I was back home on Thursday and was asked if I enjoyed seeing his face again. Can’t even describe how much I did. Had such a good trip, thanks everyone who made it so lovely X

I arrived Florence on Friday night so I had the whole Saturday to do whatever I liked. I was happy to be back. My husband and I visited Florence on New Year 2016 to see the symphony gigs and fell in love with this beautiful and historical small city. I wanted to revisit some of the places we saw that time. I like building routines in foreign places, that way it’s easier to learn to know the city and I feel I can have a proper relationship with it.

I woke up early and headed to the Boboli gardens and had the most beautiful start for the day. The weather was sunny and hot for September but the morning was still fresh and the park was practically empty and I almost felt I was there alone, saw only a handful of runners during my walk. I got the similar feeling I get when I walk to the Montmartre Hill in Paris early in the morning, like it could be possible to feel the essence of the whole city just by going to one particular place. I walked in the park at least two hours and took some pics. I made special effort to find the green little building I could remember from our last visit. I think it’s an old coffee house, sadly not open for public anymore, and my imagination goes wild when I see it, a very special and pretty small building.

After my morning walk I took care of some practical things. I went to Palazzo Vecchio to get my wristband for Sunday and then walked past the Duomo, officially called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, to a travel agency to book a guided tour in Uffizi for the afternoon. It would be impossible to visit the Uffizi Gallery without buying a tour, the place would be too crowded, and I thought a small lecture could be useful. I needed something gluten-free for lunch and googled a small gluten-free pizzeria right next to the Duomo and had my lunch there.

After the lunch I decided to return to the book cafe my husband and I discovered during our previous visit. The place is called Todo Modo and it’s cozy and full of books and the kind of place I would visit every week if I lived in the city. Most of the books are in Italian but they have also a collection in English and different kind of notebooks available. I bought a small traveller’s notebook and had a chat with the guy behind the desk. He told the place would be crowded during the afternoon as filmmaker Terry Gilliam (who was talking at the Wired event that day) would be there signing his books and I decided to be back a bit later after my Uffizi tour and have something to eat as well.

I continued my walk to meet Federica. She is one of the Italian girls and lives in the center of Florence and was organizing an animation festival at Theatre Odeon next to the Palazzo Strozzi that day. Fede came to meet me in front of the theatre and invited me in to see the building – Odeon must be one the most gorgeous old film theaters in the whole Europe – and then to listen to international lecturers they had that day. I felt a bit embarrassed to disturb her as she was obviously busy hosting their guests but she just kindly said “you come, you come” and took me to follow a Q&A at the big theatre hall where John Pomeroy, known for Disney films like Pocahontas, answered student questions and talked about his career and some highlights and future prospects of it.  After that I joined Fede and her team for coffee and then listened to another lecture.

I so much enjoyed this possibility and can’t thank Fede enough for being so kind and generous in the middle of her busy day! It’s things like this I find most interesting when I travel, meeting people I’ve met during my concert trips, being able to see their every day life and work and even having a possibility to learn something totally unexpected, this time secrets of animation.

The second speaker was Victor Navano who has worked for Pixar and done animation on numerous films like Monsters inc., The Incredibles, Cars, Finding Nemo – just to mention a few – and he talked about characters and their goals and obstacles and generally the basic structure of the film scene. As an example he showed a raw scene from the film Finding Dory, analyzed the characters in the scene and pointed out the challenges in it and then showed the final version. I’m not very familiar with the animation genre and found it interesting to notice there is not only equally much but maybe even more analysis behind the characters than there is in regular films. When the film is done well it’s easy for the audience to momentarily forget the structure, the analytically built characters and the work behind every scene and just enjoy the story.

Naturally that same goes with music as well and listening to the lecture made me think of this old interview Mika has given for Wired at the time NPIH was out about writing music and building a show and the science behind it all (the article and translations inside the link).

I left the film theatre to be on time for my Uffizi tour and was glad I had my ticket bought, the place was so crowded it was difficult to even find my group but finally saw the right person and got my ticket and an ear piece to listen to the lecture. An obviously very experienced tour guide took our group and started to spot suitable possibilities to see as many of the most important paintings as possible and I was pleased to receive a lot of information and listen to the lecture which was as much about the Medici family and the history of the time as it was about Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo.

This was only my second visit in Florence so it was good to hear the facts again. I’m horrible at memorizing details, dates and names. My mind works differently, it looks for connections and analogies. So it was not only Flora’s dress in Primavera or that cute tiny baby foot on Raffaello’s painting that reminded me of something familiar, I paid attention also to wavy patterns in colorful angel wings and small buildings that looked exactly like the time machine at Casa Mika and I felt a bit guilty my mind wandered that way. I was looking at classical art after all and many of the topics seemed somehow holy. Of course it wasn’t all holy that time either. The artists painted their patrons in the paintings as well. There’s always been a connection between artists and important, influential people, there’s always been money or privileges involved.

I spent wonderful and extremely informative two and a half hours in Uffizi and after that felt quite exhausted. I walked next to the river back to the book cafe and saw the bridges, all of them but especially Ponte Vecchio, crowded that time. I asked the nice lady at the cafe a glass of pleasant wine and something gluten-free to eat and she smiled and brought me both including hummus and some gluten-free snacks and I just sat there an hour watching books and thinking how lucky I was to spend that Saturday in Florence and hoped everything would go smoothly the next day (and it did, see my report here).

Below a few pictures of Grazia magazine that Grazia (also one of the Italian girls) kindly carried to me to Florence. The whole special edition magazine is both in Italian and English so the interesting conversation between Mika and Pierpaolo Piccioli is easy to read. Special thanks to Grazia not just for carrying this giant magazine all the way but also patiently answering my questions on Sunday during the Wired event. Hope to be back in Italy soon X

The Wired Next Fest digital media, technology and innovation event was hold 28th-30th of September in Florence and Mika was scheduled to speak in the evening of the last day of the event. I had booked the whole weekend for other commitments months in advance but eventually changed my plans to travel to Florence. I hadn’t seen Mika the whole summer and thought it would be good to see his face again but also wanted to travel for other reasons. I’ve spent a lot of time comfortably at home lately and thought traveling would do me good and give me some energy and sharpness and I also wanted to visit Florence just to feel the atmosphere again. Mika has spent there time this summer recording his album and it’s many ways an inspiring and sophisticated small city. I was right with my decision and spent there an enjoyable and interesting weekend and have a lot of thoughts to share. A small report about the WNF event below and more about Florence in my next blog post.

Earlier this year the city of Florence awarded Mika with the keys to the city making him an honorary citizen of Florence which was a well deserved honor after his collaborations with Opera di Firenze. The ceremony was hold in Palazzo Vecchio and the award was given by Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence. I couldn’t be there to see the award ceremony but the Wired event was hold in the same impressive building and Dario Nardella was one of the speakers and even that was a random coincidence my mind made a small connection between these two events.

Wired Next Fest was free and open to everyone but an online registration was required and to make sure things would go smoothly on Sunday I did my registration in advance, picked up my wristband on Saturday to have it ready and went to Palazzo Vecchio in good time before the doors were opened on Sunday morning. I saw maybe 20 people waiting, joined them and soon after that saw more familiar faces. The doors were opened, we could go in and the event started exactly as scheduled. The timetable for the day was extremely tight without any breaks but worked well as planned which impressed me (we were in Italy after all). Below a pic we took before going in with some of the Italian girls I know.

I went to the Wired Next Fest just to see Mika but as a pleasant surprise the whole day was much more interesting than I had thought in advance. On Sunday two guests spoke in English: Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, and interface designer John Underkoffler, known for inventing the data interface for the science fiction film Minority Report. Both were obviously experienced public speakers (see their Ted profiles here and here).

Vint Cerf was a charismatic gentleman in his grey beard and a stylish hat and his speech well structured and easy to understand. He went through the history of the internet and pointed out issues important in the future, most of them something everyone knows yet no one can (yet) solve. The final impression he left was optimistic. There are still issues related to safety, reliability and preserving the data that need to be considered and kept in mind. For example, an insane amount of mobile photos is taken every year and none of us knows what will happen to them in 15 years. This is a topic I’ve given a lot of thought and the reason why I want to do manual archives in our digital age, I simply can’t be sure what will happen to my digital archives in the future.

John Underkoffler’s presentation was entertaining and a bit Hollywood style. He showed a Tom Cruise scene with holograms and either that particular scene or similar scenes from other movies are familiar to everyone. We think the holograms we see are futuristic special effects but for designers all that is future reality and according to John Underkoffler the future user interface needs to adjust space and motion and collaborative use, just to give a few examples.

Some of the italian speakers we saw would have been interesting but unfortunately the topics were too difficult for me to understand in italian. However, generally the schedule before Mika wasn’t still boring at all. We saw some music performances and I especially liked the first guest, a singer-songwriter called Dente, and found his acoustic performance very relaxed. We saw film, youtube and television persons and I add a couple of photos of Alexandro Cattelan below because his face is familiar to everyone who has followed Mika’s career in Italy. Cattelan was on stage with Andrea Delogu talking about social media and the images from their Instagram accounts showed on the background made their talk easy to follow and to put in context even it was in Italian.

Finally it was Mika’s turn, watch his interview here (I hope there will be a translation on his fan club page and will add it later). He talked about his new album, about his stay in Italy and the country in general, about using social media and also simplicity which was the main topic for the whole event. I was happy to see his face again. I could follow his answers about music and the album quite well because my mind could put things in context and his words made me curious and impatient and to wish I could hear the album immediately. I couldn’t understand his talk about the house because I couldn’t see where he was going to (I think nowhere, it was just chatting) but the talk about social media felt obvious as he has many times clearly said he doesn’t like it.

I can understand him very well. Real life events are important to me because I want to feel the atmosphere in my body. When the atmosphere is relaxed, my body is relaxed, when it’s tense my body feels tense and I need to be there to experience these things. Sometimes the aggressiveness in social media is so strong my body can feel it even online. The upper part of my stomach starts to hurt and I can’t breath. There’s a huge difference between occasional, sharp sarcasm and constant bickering and judgmental comments. If people want Mika to use social media as a person and not only as a brand they should remember he reacts as a person. Negative pressure and repeating the same complaints can be too much for everyone.

After the interview he was finally asked to sing. Obviously the piano was left there for this reason and I had hoped it would happen. He didn’t look that enthusiastic but walked to the piano. I hoped he would do Boum Boum Boum, I thought it would be suitable even it’s in French and that he could play the intro and easily sing it. I think only a part of my telepathic message went through and he got only BB instead of BBB as he did Billy Brown instead and I was happy with that as well. I put down my camera and just enjoyed the song and it was beautiful.  A short but lovely moment. After that he waved to the audience and disappeared backstage.

I knew in advance the event would be crowded meaning I probably wound’t see him from close enough to say hello. I also knew that even if I saw him I couldn’t actually talk with him, there would be too many people around him, so I had just in case made a small thank you card with a note to give him. He left quickly though and I waited for the girls and started to ask questions and translations and we went out all together. The whole area outside Palazzo Vecchio was full of people leaving and we walked around the corner to see even more crowds.

A man was opening a car door so I stopped for a moment to give him space and suddenly realized he was opening the door for Mika. In two seconds he was in front of me, saw my face, smiled and said “hi how are you” and I stood there astonished by this incredible timing. The man who opened the door took the card I was holding in my hand and then the car was gone.  Everything happened so quickly I barely had time to think “this is what they call the flow and perfect timing”. I don’t know what happened to the card but it doesn’t matter, I did my best delivering it to Italy. I went to have drinks and snacks with the girls and then back to my hotel to get some rest before traveling to Finland.

I was a bit too far away to get good pics, sorry, but added still some to give the impression how it was and how smiling he looked. Thanks everyone, it was good to see you all again xxx

I’ve not yet figured out how to organize my magazines and newspaper clips in a creative enough way but I wanted to blog about another, similar type topic and show how I organize my music related collectibles. I prefer collecting experiences rather than objects but have still built a small collection during years and have a glass vitrine where I keep my favorite items so they can be a part of my everyday life.

In addition to albums and vinyls I’ve collected some of the colorful items Mika and his sister Yasmin have designed for their design collaborations. I used to store all my collectibles in an upstairs cabinet. I loved the idea of having these objects at home but didn’t know how to mix them with my own color scheme. Going to a concert meant stepping into another, extremely colorful world and was a huge, very strong and powerful experience for me. At home my life had less colors. Also, as an adult it felt weird to put for example tour posters on my walls, I hadn’t done something like that before.

Then things changed. I noticed the botanical illustration in the Montreal symphony poster and the mix of different dark blue colors in the China Tour promotion poster were exactly my taste. I looked at them at home and neither of them looked out of place at all. I had the posters professionally framed and the result looked so gorgeous I immediately wanted to find a place for them. Also, I understood that if people want to disapprove me they have plenty of bigger reasons than posters on my wall and to be honest, I didn’t care at all. My relationship with everything material had become different than it used to be as well. I wanted everything at home to be something I can either use or at least think and that way enjoy all the time and having things hidden in upstairs cabinets didn’t serve this philosophy.

First we built a small library in the middle of our house and organized all our books there and even it looked really colorful I absolutely loved it. I put the framed China tour poster on the opposite wall of the library and the colors fit perfectly. The place in the middle of the house was suitable for the poster also because my husband and I traveled to China together so it’s a special memory we share together and I must say I enjoy seeing the poster there every single day and it makes me remember both the concerts we saw and people we met (the second pic below is from Shanghai).

After noticing how much I enjoy having my books visible I wanted to do the same for my collectibles and bought a glass vitrine and located it in our bedroom. So pleased how pretty and fresh it looks there! The cream color vitrine is metal and glass and it’s inexpensive (from Ikea) but very suitable for the purpose and a practical solution to collect together many extremely colorful items in a way that is not too much or not too distractive. It’s like a small colorful gem in otherwise light room and I think the flowery Montreal poster will look beautiful next to it.

I couldn’t fit everything on only three shelves but chose the most important ones. There’s a signed pic I got in mail after sending some illustrated Moomin books for Mika’s birthday 2008. There’s a copy of Songs For Sorrow EP/book from 2009 and a tour book from 2010 and a signed cover art print for TBWKTM (that one is very special for me). There’s a Mika coke bottle designed 2010, three tofu dolls and naturally all three Swatches (two of each so I can wear one if I want to and have one safely stored at home), Pilot pen boxes, some vinyls and Korean magazine edition albums.

It’s interesting to see all these items from the past ten years at one look. I can see almost similar masks in the Happiness Coke box from 2010, in Kukulakuki and Kukulakuku from 2013 and in Mumu from 2016 (all three Swatch designs) and wish I knew the whole story behind the mask.

I bought an Imaginarium tour poster with a mask in Berlin 2010 after a fantastic, very energetic gig and had a short relaxed and smiling moment watching Mika sign it and that made me think Berlin has good vibes so I was back there 2017 to see Mika receiving his Golden Rose award. And I surely couldn’t see that coming the time I bought the poster but now my mind puts these things together and I can’t help but thinking how unexpectedly yet still quite amazingly things sometimes turn out.

Also, makes me smile to see the signature dedicated to “Mina” written on the Imaginarium tour book after the second show at Bercy in Paris. The result didn’t look correct that time but now it looks it was meant that way because it makes me remember the moment so well (I think Mika either misheard my name or the combination of Nina and Mika was somehow confusing for him). Above the tour book is a Mumu box from Lisbon 2016 and a small heart in the box has my letters as well, written correctly and only a few days before another big concert at Bercy, six years after the previous two. (I noticed the heart only when back home and thought what a super sweet thing to do, I didn’t ask for it and Mika was still overwhelmed after the biggest audience he had ever had.)

So rather than collectibles these items are something that help me to put dots on the timeline and that way see things in time perspective. Of course they also represent someone’s career and give me a possibility to see a piece of the world I usually experience only at gigs also at home. They are colorful and pretty but watching them gives me a warm feeling also because of the memories attached to them.

I couldn’t fit in my CDs or DVDs so I still need a colorful hat box to put on the top of the vitrine. It will look pretty and there will be space for new CDs as well. I’m looking forward to new music as much as everyone else and just wish there wasn’t so much pressure for it. It would be nice to think Mika has space to breath while writing and choosing new songs so the album will tell what he wants it to tell. I’m curious to hear the atmosphere in it.

Every album has special themes and tones. From LICM my mind picks the kind of strong, extreme emotions people often have at younger age, not just joy and energy but darker emotions as well. In TBWKTM I can hear insecurities and vulnerability. Songs like Rain or Toyboy or I See You where the person is too afraid to even talk to someone. TOOL is all about freedom. In the notebook I had with me at the album listening party I wrote “Origin makes me feel I can fly” and I still feel that way when I listen to the song. NPIH is the saddest album I’ve ever heard. I cried a lot when I heard it for the first time. It was the first time I realized how much sadness there is and how well Mika’s voice can transfer it. It’s still my favorite one of these four. The NPIH vinyl, see pics below, looks amazing and is one of my favorite things just to hold in my hands, love it  xxx

Mika is turning 35 and I wanted to celebrate it organizing a small library party. Library party means cake, flowers and chat about books and is my usual way to celebrate everything worth celebrating in life. I needed a theme and thought nothing could be as suitable as a Moomin garden party. I’ve been re-reading Tove Jansson stories to my son this summer and The Exploits of Moominpappa (1950) and especially the description of their fantastic garden party made me immediately think of Mika and different fantasy elements in his shows and how much he – at least I imagine so – would enjoy a party like that.

A journey through a green wild flower garden. A beautiful, blue lake and explosions and showers to wet the guests in their little boats in the middle of it. A giant fake spider built to scare the whole crowd. A merry-go-around with white horses, an orchestra playing on the background and an egg-hunting lottery with golden painted eggs. Some lottery prizes meant for lazy ones, some that can be found with methodical search and some asking for a certain amount of imagination. The last group naturally meant and available only for the most creative ones!

Tove Jansson’s biography Tove Jansson Life, Art, Words by Boel Westin  is a description of Tove Jansson’s life and career not only as seen from outside but also using her own words and thoughts as written in her numerous personal diaries and detailed letters she wrote throughout her whole life. It was not a coincidence Tove Jansson became the world-known author and illustrator she was. As a daughter of a sculptor and an illustrator she knew from an early age she wants and will be an artist and wrote and illustrated small books since she was 6 and published her first story at the age of 14.

Despite of battling between art and responsibilities, the growing Moomin business expanding her duties, she always knew what is important. Her art. Her art and pure, honest joy. Young Tove Jansson attended several art schools in different countries and even after that never stopped learning. She constantly practiced new methods and techniques. She traveled, learnt from books, filled a notebook after a notebook with her texts, illustrations and research. She lived and spent time in her beloved Paris breathing the atmosphere and inspiration, pictured Italian landscapes from her trips in her stories and drew her sharp political observations in hundreds of political caricatures.

Even though Tove Jansson loved traveling, a small quiet island near the town of Borgå was her special place and she spent there summers writing, fishing and doing ongoing research on the sea and nature, making notes about colors and textures to later use in her books like Moominpappa at Sea (1965) and Moominvalley in November (1970).

One of my favorite Moomin books is the short story collection Tales from Moominvalley (1962). It starts with Snufkin on one of his many adventures. Snufkin, Moomintroll’s dear friend, stays in Moominvalley only summertime, otherwise he’s away. He needs his alone time and loving Moomintroll stays in the valley sitting at home, waiting and longing for his friend, trying to be brave, trying to accept that Snufkin must go away. Makes me a little sad to think about loving Moomintroll and his terrible longing but as Moomin wisdom tells “you can’t ever be really free if you admire somebody too much” and while walking Snufkin writes his spring tune and I always wonder if writing songs is like that in real life as well.

“It’s the right evening for the tune, Snufkin thought. A new tune, one part of expectation, two part of spring sadness and for the rest, just the great delight of walking alone.”

The other short stories in the book include the story of Fillyjonk who feared an unknown natural disaster, then faced a storm and experienced a weird feeling of freedom after that – when the worst has happened there’s nothing left to be afraid – and the heart-breaking story of the invisible child. When children are treated badly they eventually become invisible and no one can see them anymore and takes a lot of time and good care and learning to fight for them to become visible again.

The first Moomin book The Moomins and the Great Flow was written 1945 in the end of World War II to create something innocent after the depressing war years and the second book Comet in Moominland was out a year after that. As an opposite to cheerful Pippi Longstocking by Swedish Astrid Lindgren (equally familiar to many generations and published at the same time) Moomins bring the war, the darkness and fear, natural disasters and people leaving their homes for everyone to see. The both authors had a nontraditional, even bohemian perspective to the concept of the family. Pippi lives alone accompanied just by her monkey and horse. The Moomin family is enlarged and includes friends and foster children and the door of their originally round-shaped house is always open for everyone in need of warmth and comfort.

The Moomins and the Great Flow describes how Moominmamma and her son Moomintroll look for and eventually find both Moominpappa (who had gone away with hattifatteners) and a peaceful place to live in Moominvalley. Comet in Moominvalley offers a full range of dark, scary things. The comet that many ways can be seen as a symbol of an atomic bomb is coming and the red glow in the sky looks day by day more and more threatening. Everything is covered by grey dust, the ocean disappears and the dry bottom of it is soon filled by refugees who’ve been forced to leave their homes. In the middle of it Moomins try to hold on to small familiar things.”But first I should like to have some coffee.Oh I want to dance! Couldn’t we dance?

Many characters in Moomins are inspired by people close to Tove Jansson: her family, friends and lovers, both male and female. Moomintroll and later Toft (from Moominvalley in November) are said to be her own alter egos even both are actually male characters, Moominmamma ja Moominpappa have features from her own artist parents. The real life role model for Snufkin was Tove Jansson’s friend and fiancé Atos Wirtanen, a Finnish intellectual and journalist and, using Jansson’s words, “an enfant terrible” in our parliament. Tiny duo Tingumy and Bob in Finn Family Moomintroll (1948) refers to Jansson’s short but passionated relationship with theater director Vivica Bandler (characters are originally called Tofslan and Vifslan referring to Tove and Vivica) and energetic Tooticky in her red and white striped shirt is based on her long-time partner Tuulikki Pietilä, one of the most influential people in Finnish graphic arts. Moominland Midwinter (1957) where the two characters meet was written soon after the couple started their relationship in real life.

Year 1947 Tove Jansson painted herself and Vivica Bandler on a fresco ordered by Helsinki City Hall and in the biography Westin sees that something that can be compared to Tingumy and Bob opening their mystical suitcase, something that showed the couple’s love to the whole world. In Moominland Midwinter Moomintroll finally finds his inner freedom and Jansson writes in her personal letters how she’s finally arrived to the person she wants to be with, how she’s finally found the peace in her world. Sometimes the line between the fiction and real life is hard to see and according to the (biography) author it’s supposed to be like that. The reality fed the story and the story fed the reality and it’s hard to tell where something ends and something else starts and I find that astonishing. How someone’s personal life and art, their current time and the surrounding world could be integrated that way is fascinating beyond words.

People often read Moomins to children but the stories and wisdom in them are equally interesting and important for adults and that’s how Tove Jansson meant them. In the beginning her publisher was careful and said “the books might amuse also adult readers” but during time it became more and more obvious Moomins are not just for children and in some countries it was asked if they are suitable for children at all. Well of course they are.

Age is a complicated thing. I know from my own experience children are capable of very advanced thinking and on the other hand, the essence of us stays the same throughout our lives. What is deep in us was there already when we were children, it never really goes away. I know I can be as adult and mature as ever needed but when no one is asking or demanding anything I choose to do the same things I did when I was a little girl, I spend time with my dog and stay in my own thoughts thinking about different themes behind the books and music I love. I can’t always see the child in people, I can’t always see their real passion, maybe because our society often wants us to leave that behind. Lucky for us for artists it’s different. Their inner child is connected to creativity. Their inner child accepted, even encouraged.

I baked a berry cake to celebrate this special day hoping Moomins would approve it. I didn’t send any birthday gifts this year, there are no gigs at the moment and it felt appropriate to donate money to refugees instead. A lot of people are forced to leave their homes today the same way people were forced to leave their homes the time when Moomins were created. Happy 35th birthday to my favourite singer and one of my very favourite people. Have some cake everyone xxx

I’m not a collector type. I don’t hunt every rare magazine or mind if my collectibles are always signed or not. Concerts, experiences and live situations are more important to me. I love documenting though so of course I buy interesting looking magazines and newspapers if easily available and also save bits and pieces from my trips and clips people sometimes send me from abroad.

Unfortunately my home archives are a mess. I’ve made travel journals and tour books but not in a systematic way which I seriously regret now and in the future want to do things differently. I believe that documenting my trips and even my everyday life in an organized way could make my mind more organized as well and I’ve read a lot about the topic and different journaling techniques lately. I’ve started to organize my archives in time order and if I can ever find a creative enough way to put them together I will show it here.

I took a few pics while going through different magazine articles, partly just for fun but partly also because some of these clips are newspaper quality and after several years quite fragile already so it’s good to have them also in digital form.

The newspaper photo above was taken on the first Cirque d’Hiver night during 2009 Songs for Sorrow Tour and it’s one of my favorite pics. It was such a wonderful night. I enjoyed the gig so much and made me smile to see the newspaper pic day after the show. There was a full audience around the circus style stage and I was just a random person standing there, yet in the pic it almost looks like I had a meaning, like I was some kind of a character representing the audience (no one else can be seen clearly, even my husband sitting next to me is in shadow) and I found that funny and the newspaper clip a heart-warming memory.

A copy of the Songs for Sorrow book happened to be in the middle of my favorite  magazines so I looked it through the other day – I hadn’t done that for a while – and thought once again what a fantastic, artistic project it was. Just looking at it made me so emotional I almost cried. What a hugely creative project to do at that young age – Mika was only 26 that time – a beautiful collection of illustrations from many different artists.

I can remember that tour so well. I absolutely loved it. Everyone I know who was there loved it. Acoustic setting at super special small venues like Cirque d’Hiver in Paris and Passionskirche in Berlin. Several new songs. Energetic Mika in his white shirt and his friends Ida and Alex on stage with him every night! And yet I feel the idea (EP, book, tour) didn’t get the attention and publicity it deserved. Maybe it was too small-scale. Maybe it wasn’t what media was expecting from him that time. Maybe none of us understood the full value of it that time – we were all so eagerly waiting for the album and a bigger tour coming in a few months – but looking from the perspective I have today it was an incredibly creative, special thing to do.

The detailed picture on Spin magazine  from October 2009 with Mika on his bed introducing his favorite objects like a miniature theater and original Mad magazine cover art is somehow super fascinating and makes me realize Christian Louboutin was designing him shoes already back then. Almost ten years ago! We have seen many of these objects (Union Jack tapestry, Chinese wish pig) later on his Instagram or in different magazine interviews. I can still remember how thrilled I was to read new interviews about Mika, to learn new things about him thinking that way his music would make even more sense than it already did which was true of course.

The opened magazine below is Italian Max from 2010 and it looks like an ordinary magazine but the size is actually way larger than A4 which makes the photos in it look even more fabulous seen in real life. The style of the magazine is slightly pornographic, in an “artistic” way, and makes me laugh to see Mika jump out in the middle of it.

The colorful photo shooting for Observer Music Monthly from 2009 in the beginning of this blog post (and also in the featured pic) is one of my very favorites of all the photo shootings Mika has done. I really love the pictures and the idea of making a mess with paints. Below the cover and a page from the interview Mika did for Instinct Magazine 2012 when the third album The Origin of Love was out and it has special value as it started a new, more open era both in his music and public image.

Below some setlists I discovered in my piles. Most of the times I just take a photo of the setlist after the gig or write it down so I can remember the songs for my blog but every now and then I have one of the originals to keep and these were such a happy discovery as I actually have a setlist from every gig  I saw during the Intimate US tour 2013. I remember it as my favorite ever tour, such a beautiful and special experience. Just look at the songs we heard.

The photo with pleased looking, widely smiling Mika in the middle of all his creative siblings taken for Paris Match interview 2014 is somehow really cute. The group in their colorful outfits is obviously posing for the picture but this kind of family photos including his all three sisters and one younger brother are still rare so the impression is very intimate. A couple of pics in the gallery below are from Korean magazines, always gorgeous (but also very photoshopped style). The photo shooting for Korean Elle 2015 is especially interesting for me as I could visit the cafe where the shooting was done during my visit to Korea. Thanks to the Korean fans who took us there, such a cool visit and made me see those photos in a different way than I earlier did.

The cover of L’Uomo Vogue from 2015 and the photo for the article in it are taken by photographer Peter Lindbergh and I love the strong and magnetic stare in Mika’s eyes in the both of the photos and all the photos Peter Lindbergh has taken of him. Spectacular! In the latter one Mika looks like a man who has a vision. And is staring at it. I wonder what he was staring in the actual photo shooting situation.

These Italian Vanity Fair cover photos are very familiar but I wanted to collect them together because that looks so pleasing to the eye. The dancer theme is my favorite and I especially love the photo in the otherwise empty theater just a small group of dancers on the background – very thought-provoking isn’t it – but the red, black and white color scheme in the other two issues is extremely classy and elegant and I like them both as well.

I have kept brochures from different festivals and events but these two from symphony concerts are naturally more important and valuable than any other ones. The Montreal booklet includes a long and interesting interview also in English (not something to take for granted) and the Florence booklet contains the lyrics and more intense photos taken by Peter Lindbergh. This quote about the dynamics of an orchestra is from the Montreal booklet:

The most amazing thing I have had to get used to are the dynamics of an orchestra. It is not quiet, it is not loud. In pop and rock concerts we are used to the sheer volume of amplified sound and bass. With an orchestra the dynamics are totally different. It sounds with texture and incredible detail, without any interference from a speaker or electronics. It is a sort of reset for the ear.