Mika @ XF8 bootcamp in Milan

Some impressions from the XF8 Bootcamp in Milan (1-2 July). The audience was reminded that photos, videos and sharing any details are strictly forbidden so I can’t give any spoilers, just writing down my own thoughts and impressions about these two days/ XF in general.

As you know these talent shows attract a lot of new – mostly young and excited – Mika fans both in France and Italy. Italy is more hectic at the moment, imo. People are almost encouraged to a small hysteria just to create hype around the show. The first day of the bootcamp (Tuesday) was more organized as people coming to see the show were not totally aware where to go or what to do and the security had to guide a bit. On Wednesday they already knew better and the day started with a chaos where the crowd was first let to pack behind the gates and then run huge stairs up and down to find seats cameras ready to film the whole mess. I felt exhausted after this little exercise not to even mention how humiliating everything will look on possible television or video clips. All this happening when I’ve barely survived The French Voice recordings keeping some level of dignity. I could live a normal life but I’ve chosen to put myself into situations like this. I can’t explain it. The recording days were full of embarrassing moments, cameras following the audience and their reactions. I hope that the production wants to be nice with their material. One of the cameramen was extremely interested in Sylvie’s translating project (me naturally nodding next to her, giving her a sign her explanations made sense to me).

After finding our places we sat an hour or two listening to instructions/waiting for the production group to get ready, the schedule was similar as in the auditions. Most fans were grouped in front rows. I really enjoyed seeing such positive vibe coming from the group. People had arrived to see the show and to support Mika but also to have a good time together. I was sitting next to Sylvie both nights and she patiently translated me every important comment, a huge thank you to her. Finally everything was announced to be ready, the intro music started, the audience stood up and started clapping and the judges showed up. This is the best part, there’s excitement in the air, love this little moment. The judges took their places and the show started. The groups for every judge were announced in the beginning of first night and doesn’t seem to be a secret that surprisingly Fedez and Victoria got the traditionally most popular groups (young boys and girls) whereas Mika and Morgan got adults and groups. However, Mika’s team got luckily the most obvious winner (hahah, just my opinion of course, we never know how the television audience will vote) and Morgan has at least one good quality group to play/do musical experiments with so everyone should be pleased.

Mika must be thrilled to have a contestant with such talent and character and his whole group looked interesting with very different, even challenging singers. I have only this one favorite among adult contestants so far but I trust Mika to bring out their potential and I’m looking forward to seeing different sides of them. I must admit I didn’t find any of the young girls interesting enough to remember them well. I didn’t see much sense in Victoria’s choices in general and wasn’t the only one. I really like her as a person though, she is both entertaining and funny and elegant and pretty almost Penniman girls style. I had two favorites in the younger boys group during the bootcamp, sadly the first one (who made me think of Jim Morrison and who I paid attention to during auditions already) is out now, the second one – a very sweet boy with a lot of personality – is still in the competition. He concentrated more on his performing than his singing but I still really liked his style. Naturally the audience can’t totally understand every choice. The judges have sometimes heard the contestant several times and they need to think not only their skills/performing but also their style, music genre and future position in the market. Personally I don’t know much about music, obviously even less about Italian pop industry. I simply enjoy someone’s voice or not and pay attention especially emotions people can create.

The atmosphere was different than during the auditions. The judges were more serious (as they should be), this time they made personal decisions about every contestant in their group. I could feel a lot of drama around the judges on the first night. Usual provoking. Talking about playing, games and strategies. The second night was different as Morgan was “stuck in the traffic” and the three other judges had to do the show without him, the group dynamics that way naturally totally changing, everything going surprisingly smoothly. Fedez has taken a role to guide the audience and keep the atmosphere polite and respectful and he is absolutely great doing it. Fedez and Mika seem to be the ones taking responsibility and genuinely realizing how much their words/decisions can have an impact on people’s life. These people (at talent shows) are real, it’s not only about a competition, game or tv show. A few days or weeks can change these people’s life forever.

In the beginning of the Tuesday’s recording Mika was quiet compared to earlier. After the break he focused, warming up during the later night and starting the next day working really hard. At some point he took off his jacket and literally rolled up his sleeves, sat down and went through contestants and their performances one after another, being brutally honest, evaluating their skills, giving useful advices still keeping in mind both the competition and the real life music industry. He is obviously the one with the best musical knowledge and understanding and his words are valuable to every contestant. He says he has his freedom as a judge but the production keeps buzzing around the judges in their high heels, keeping things tightly under control and can’t help but wondering how it feels for a creative person to work under such controlled circumstances. He is totally professional every moment though, staying calm, controlling his emotions, giving space to the others, being a humble part of the system and concentrating on his Italian (which must be very tiring). I really admire this man and his attitude to work.

I enjoyed watching the bootcamp events (even the auditions were more playful) as the level is getting better during the competition and I’m definitely planning to follow this season and Mika’s team the same way I did last year. Many contestants made clear mistakes, some were badly out of breath (while trying to keep up their choreography) or even screaming and my ears are still hurting but it was totally worth it. The system feels familiar already. Loved meeting people from our fan community. Saw Mrs Penniman walking by further away and loved seeing her there as always. I love it that Mika keeps his family near him and found his discussion (about his mother) with Dario Fo absolutely endearing. I flied back to Finland, saw my husband at the airport, got a hug and now in the middle of my “back home from Mika trip routines” eating salami pizza. A blurry picture from Tuesday night below.