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

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

Seeing Mika during the rehearsals on Friday was a rare treat, it was a wonderful, relaxed day and we all knew Saturday wouldn’t be relaxed that way. The piazza would be absolutely packed, we would have to come there at dawn to get a decent spot behind the vip area and to keep the spot spend 12 hours under the sun without toilets or eating or even much drinking. It would be very hard and all my friends told it would be too much for them and that they would rather listen to the concert outside the main area and I could understand them very well.

Spending the whole day in the heat for a short performance in the evening was a lot. Some people had booked places at terrace restaurants in advance to have a view over the crowd but I wasn’t clever enough to do that and traveling all the way from Finland to Milan and not seeing the event itself felt somehow wrong. I had to spend the day at the piazza, I would meet my friends after that and we could have dinner together.

I arrived to the venue early and joined some people I knew in advance. The gates were opened at 10 am and I hurried my way to the barrier being well aware that standing the whole day without it would be impossible for me. It was a sunny, burning hot day. The area became full in a short time and had no toilets inside of it so it was clear we couldn’t use one until the late night after the show. That meant drinking as little as possible (even water was available as much as people needed) and in that heat not drinking enough made people dehydrated and the medical group carried fainted out one after another, not just 5 or 10 but dozens, during the whole day.

I’m not used to heat but I knew I wouldn’t faint, I would just feel exhausted and have a headache from lack of coffee. Young girls in their orange and yellow shirts worked for the event and kept offering sunscreen and hats and quite early in the afternoon things on stage started to happen and that kept the crowd entertained until it was time to officially start the concert around 8 pm. I was not next to anyone I knew in advance but the girls on my both sides spoke English so I could ask if needed any information.

The day was hot and tiring but the organization for the event worked much, much better than the one in Naples a few years ago. In Naples basically no one helped the audience (no water, no security, nothing) and this time I could see dozens and dozens of people just taking care of the crowd. If someone wasn’t feeling well they could get help immediately, at least around the area where I was, and everything was that way very safe. Also, even I was tired and had a headache later during the day I could still enjoy watching everything that happened on stage a lot.

During the past few years I’ve visited Italy many times and learnt to love the country. I love the art, culture and history. I love the food and especially the coffee. I know people from all over Italy and because of Mika have visited several corners of it. My personal favorites are places like Naples and Catania – I love shabby places with volcanos and in south I can easily find food suitable for my gluten-free diet – but every part of Italy has their own special features and it’s always interesting to learn to know them.

After all my trips to Italy I feel it’s becoming familiar to me the same way I feel in France even these two countries are otherwise so totally different. I can watch an event like this concert in Milan and recognize many artists and songs because I’ve seen them at Casa Mika or other events related to Mika and I enjoy that even I might not be into every artist or genre myself. I can’t explain who Beyonce is yet I can immediately give a list of at least 5 Italian rap artists and that’s just insane. In a twisted way it’s somehow cool to learn to know all these random things and that way be able to get a familiar feeling in a foreign country.

What surprised me most was how incredibly well people knew the lyrics for most of the songs. Many of the songs were catchy indeed, I still have songs by Ghali or Thegiornalisti playing in my head and can’t seem to make them stop. Also, I especially like the Italian way to give credit and show respect to older artists with long careers. In my country people don’t really care if someone is older or respect their age or the work they’ve done and it feels wrong and it often warms my heart to see how different it can be in some other countries.

The vip area in front of stage started to fill late afternoon and the beautiful view we had was gone. I knew to expect that in advance and can understand the system very well. The companies promoting and advertising at free events want value for their money and giving a special experience to their customers or influential people at the vip area is one way to get it.

The line-up was long. My headache got worse and I wasn’t feeling well any more and even I enjoyed watching different artists at some point I just wanted to see Mika on stage. After several rap artists it was turn for Fedez. I’ve seen him a few times but never really understood what’s the thing with him. His face and gestures give the impression that he knows his worth if you know what I mean by the expression.

It’s hard for me to see any difference between these numerous Italian rap artists, but on Saturday I saw several of them in row. And something changed the exact moment Fedez came on stage. Every single person around me raised there hands and mobiles at the same time. Suddenly everyone was awake and there was electricity in the air. I could feel it in my body and I could finally understand what’s the thing with him. He looks like he knows his worth because he knows his worth. He has this weird, incredible status and as a foreigner I don’t know where it comes from but it was interesting and impressive to see how people react to him.

Then it was finally time for Radio Italia World and Mika. Mika was wearing a colorful, glittery jacket and looked smiling and very happy, his performance was absolutely beautiful and the reception to it warm, appreciative and loving and I enjoyed being there and experiencing it all. During Stardust little sequins in both Mika’s and Chiara’s outfits sparkled making a lot of little lights (like in one of the pics below) and it was somehow so suitable. In the end of the performance he surprised the audience with L’Italiano, the song by Toto Cutugno that was released the same year Mika was born and actually even translated in Finnish that same year (it was a huge hit in my country as well) and his Italian audience loved it and I, as a foreigner, loved it. We saw a beautiful and charming four song performance.

After Mika’s performance I wanted to leave the crowd as quickly as possible to meet my friends as planned. I was tired and worried that I wouldn’t manage to get through the giant packed crowd so I asked the security guy at the barrier if i could go that way and he was kind and helped me over it. The problem was I had no idea how to go back to the audience on the other side and had no battery in my mobile left to call my friends but I was happy to leave the pushy crowd and thought I would figure something out. Luckily, there seemed to be an easy route to the other side and I could be there in a minute.

Except it wasn’t that easy. A security lady told I wasn’t allowed to use the route and that my only option to the other side was to walk around the building next to the concert area. I thanked her and did as told but by walking around the building also exited the official area and wasn’t let back in. I explained to the security guy stopping me that I was supposed to meet my friends and was only following instructions given by his colleague and very politely asked if he could let me back in. The guy said no. I saw my friends and tried to shout their names but they couldn’t hear me.  I had no battery in my mobile so maybe the guy could shout their names, his voice was surely louder than mine? The guy said no.

Without my mobile I couldn’t find my hotel as the street I earlier used was closed and it made me worried and extremely politely I explained that one more time. The guy said no one more time. He wasn’t interested in my problems, he told he couldn’t care less. I saw my friends walking away, probably to the restaurant where we were supposed to eat but had no possibility to reach them and just stood there practically in tears after the long and tiring day.

Finally I saw people who knew my friends and could call them. One of them arrived immediately and told they were already waiting for me inside of the restaurant and not to worry any more. She would explain the situation to the security and we could have dinner together. And she did explain – in Italian and in an extra polite way – and asked if I could just enter the restaurant, that I wasn’t going back to the concert (which was free btw) and that I had just lost my way when coming to meet them. The guy said no. So I didn’t join my friends for dinner.

I tell the  story because it’s small things like this that make me think Milan is an unfriendly place. It was disappointing that moment but fine in the end. I stayed with the girls who had helped me and waited until my friends had finished their meal and then finally met them all. They were all happy, smiling and in a good mood and I would have loved to chat with them longer but after everything that had happened felt better to return to my hotel. The whole group insisted walking me there and before saying good bye sang L’Italiano just for me and it was all very sweet of them.

This is how Italy is, everything is so extreme. It makes you love in a big way and it makes you annoyed in a big way. Milan has offered me many fantastic Mika moments and this weekend was one more to add on that list. What will stay strongest in my thoughts is things like Mika singing Beautiful Disaster watching Duomo di Milano, his Stardust performance with Chiara sequins in their outfits sparkling like little lights, L’Italiano in the end of his performance and my friends singing the same song after that. The other side of the experience like the burning heat, headache, people pushing or security guys using their tiny, tiny power in a wrong way will be just “something adventurous” and that way a part of the dear memory.

I can’t describe how good it was to see Mika on stage again, it filled my heart with love. Thanks everyone xxx

I hesitated a moment before traveling to Milan for a free concert at Piazza Duomo. Free summer events (this one was organized by Radio Italia) with big crowds and the burning sun are physically hard. The line-up for the concert was long and for that reason Mika’s performance expected to be quite short. Flights and hotels were insanely expensive and generally, Milan is an unfriendly place. On the other hand, the city has offered me some of my dearest Mika moments and the event on Saturday was going to be the only gig for the summer, maybe for the whole year. I couldn’t miss it, I would awfully regret if I did. Of course I had to travel to Milan.

I arrived Milan Thursday evening.  The location of my hotel was perfect and I had only a short walk to Piazza Duomo and I went there right after checking in my room. The first thing I saw at the piazza was a huge stage next to the cathedral. What a special place for a gig! I was thrilled just seeing the stage and could feel my adrenaline level going high. I had so missed that feeling. I watched a few artists doing their soundcheck on Thursday night and hoped to see more on Friday.

The audience was allowed to watch the rehearsals from distance and on Friday we stayed at the piazza the whole afternoon located on the left side of stage (seen from the audience) between the stage and the cathedral and saw almost the whole line-up doing their soundcheck. I loved watching how the artists walked to a certain specific part of the stage and suddenly paid attention to the view opening to the cathedral and how their faces expressed admiration in very similar ways. The stage view must have been amazing, one of the most impressive in the whole world for sure.

In the pic below is Mika watching the view. This was the moment I had looked forward to most: Mika watching Duomo di Milano singing Beautiful Disaster. Below that Fedez watching to the same direction and below that Fedez promoting his shoes the cathedral on the background (in his photos, not in mine).

Watching rehearsals is a different experience compared to watching the gig itself and something I find really, really interesting and being able to see what happened on stage on Friday made my trip much more special than it would have been without it. The vibe is always different compared to the gig afterwards. Gigs are done for the audience, rehearsals are done for other reasons, to prepare the show and to make it as good as possible, so the atmosphere is often more serious. This time rehearsals were open to the public and every artist was aware of that and took a little bit contact with the crowd and said ciao and grazie tutti after finishing but stayed still mostly focused on the soundcheck and on working with the musicians and the stage crew.

My photos are taken from very far away (the area near the stage was reserved only for groups with special passes) so they are not good quality but I still add them here to describe the day better. The photos are taken with a big zoom and for that reason look like weird paparazzi pics but they were not in any way secretly taken. People were free to be there and take as many photos as they liked. The event was also streamed and I want to thank the organizers for doing it this way. Because of the location it was probably difficult to do in any other way but I still appreciate they didn’t try to make it harder for people and I really enjoyed watching everything on Friday, maybe even more than I did on Saturday. Being able to watch rehearsals is rare and during the concert the vip area around the stage was full so it was much harder to see anything at all.

Made me smile to see Mika and Fedez in their matching black and white outfits, Mika having a black jacket with butterflies, Fedez a black shirt with a gun pattern, and I immediately wondered if they had planned it that way, as a joke to describe “their personalities” or if it was just a coincidence and described their personalities. I love the butterfly jacket, it must be one of my favorite Mika jackets. On Friday Mika came on stage after Fedez around 9 pm and they did Beautiful Disaster together – twice – and that made me very happy. I had specially looked forward to the song. It felt an obvious choice and I knew to expect it in advance and it had been playing in my head the whole week.

Stardust performed together with Chiara felt as obvious as Beautiful Disaster so it was not a surprise to see her on stage after Fedez. Stardust is not one of my biggest personal favorites but it’s still a lovely song and it was sweet to hear it again after such a long time and again, twice.

I had hoped to hear Underwater, it’s a powerful song for big crowds, but maybe because of the nature of the concert the third song on the setlist was Grace Kelly. A few more photos from the rehearsals below and more about the event in a separate post. The jumping pic is poor quality but it was a funny discovery among the other pics. It was beautiful to see Mika on stage again. It was just like the old days, like there was no time between at all.

I bought my ticket to see the Top 14 grand finale as soon as Mika announced performing after the game but been busy with different family things and couldn’t be sure about being able to go until a couple of days before the event. I decided to do a short 24 hour trip and still managed to have a few hours to spend in Paris before going to the stadium. I walked up to Montmartre like I always do and had lunch with the girls at my favourite crêperie and it all felt like a lovely day off I had needed and the best part was of course coming at Stade de France in the evening.

We arrived to the stadium quite late and the game had already started when I finally entered and found my seat. The place looked giant and I was sitting far away but exactly in the middle and above the presidential area and the journalist/television space (see the first pic below). I had a beautiful symmetrical view, it gave me a lot of pleasure to watch it even of course it was more important during the gig than during the game. I couldn’t much follow the rugby part. I had tried to learn the basic rugby rules in advance but was still totally unable to focus on the game. Finally the match was over and it was time for Mika and his show.

Preparations started and a big, heart-shaped stage with wings was brought in the middle of the field. I loved it and thought this giant show element had an important role during the show. The impact wouldn’t have been the same with an ordinary stage and the heart made the setting look Mika style since the beginning.

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What a fabulous show it was. Everything was huge and I immensely enjoyed watching it all. It was good to see Mika on stage again. Generally, a stadium size venue is rarely a flattering background for any artist to use. Giant, cold and impersonal space is always difficult to fill and this time the situation after the game was even harder as the audience was naturally not on the field like during ordinary concerts but all distantly seated and far away from the stage. This was a great opportunity to perform to a large audience though and to build a colorful show in the middle of the field and I could easily see what a big team of people had worked for it and genuinely thought every part of it went as well as possibly could and that it all was incredibly impressive. A fantastic, big-scale show, I couldn’t stop smiling watching it.

I added some small clips of my favourite parts on FB, nothing great quality, just tiny video clips I had on my mobile to give an impression what I’m talking about. The show started with a rugby inspired dance intro for Relax and then the song continued with a beautiful light show (the pic above). I think both the dancers and lights worked really well during the whole performance and for example glowing outfits and pink M formed by the dancers during EMD created a cool detail and the lights and fireworks during WAG an impressive surprise. My biggest personal favourite was “let’s talk about love” – a part of Origin – added in the middle of the songs and as always Underwater felt the most powerful song in circumstances this massive.

The majority of the crowd stayed for the music show even the game was already over and I had totally not expected that. I haven’t read any feedback afterwards but the reactions in the audience around me were very positive. People were listening and focusing on the performance (not always the case if they didn’t particularly come to see the artist) and seemed impressed by it. A stage this big and a venue this gigantic must be challenging as an environment (because it means moving a lot) but in the live situation I didn’t give that side any thought at all and was only admiring how well the combination of music, energy and show elements managed to fill the giant stadium.

It would have been a pleasure to watch Mika a bit longer – it’s too rare to see him on stage these days – but the show was meant as a highlight after a rugby game and as that it was generous, not just a couple of songs but almost a half an hour real mini gig and I felt so happy to be able to be there. I wish I had proper photos to share but stadiums don’t officially allow cameras and I wasn’t sure I could sneak in mine so left it home. Thanks again everyone I met in Paris xxx

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Back home from Paris and The Voice after the third live show week (I think this one was called ”demi-finale”) and a quick update about the show. This time my focus was purely and only on two teams and three contestants in them meaning Pascal’s and naturally Mika’s teams and more specifically Xam, Frédéric and Casanova as the talents. I hoped Xam to show to the television audience that he’s clearly better than Ecco who’s the other talent in Pascal’s team and to be chosen for the final week, he’s smart and the only contestant I personally find genuinely interesting this year. Also, I wanted to see Mika’s team doing well and even I wasn’t sure which one of his contestants would continue in the competition I was curious to see them on stage and had high expectations as the both of them had been evolving and showing us better and better performances each week. Raffi Arto and Maelle from teams Florent and Zazie felt obvious finalists from their own teams and they both made it to the final and I thought and still think they both deserved their places being finalist or even winner level but for some reason wasn’t interested enough to really look forward to their performances this week.

Ecco started with Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and I knew as soon as heard the song title that Xam will have good possibilities because the song chosen for Ecco felt too big for her and it was that indeed. She did well but wasn’t impressive and it made me wonder if the song was chosen on purpose just to show the difference between these two contestants. After Ecco it was Xam’s turn and he did – like my local friends described – this ”monumental” French song and I loved his performance and of course didn’t know the song well enough to put it into perspective but could see just watching my friends’ faces that they loved it as well and knew to expect Xam to continue in the competition and he did. The first goal for the evening was that way achieved.

We had to wait Mika’s team until the end of the show but we could see his contestants when the teams gathered together on stage in the beginning. I noticed my two favorite teams stood out even in that situation and looked different than the other two teams. Xam in Pascal’s team could hardly stay still to be in the group and Mika looked adorably protective and proud holding his talents on his both sides Frédéric looking tiny on the other side and persistent Casanova who had been fighting against the expectations since the beginning on his other side – and I loved watching them and found the whole setting very Mikaish. I naturally also knew that despite of his small size Frédéric has both a big voice and personality and that even Casanova hasn’t been a favorite in any way he has two important advantages for a contestant. He’s eagerly learning and well using the coaching and advices given to him and also extremely likable. For those reasons he had already previous weeks won over and convinced both the voting audience and Mika, simply by doing better in each performance and being easy-going, easy to like contestant.

Mika’s team performed and Frédéric’s Nessun Dorma was wonderful and somehow done in his very own style which I didn’t know was even possible for the song and Casanova’s French meaningful song balanced and very pretty performed together with a young talented dancer boy. Frédéric is a better singer but Casanova pushed his way to the final the same way he had done every week and it felt deserved because like in life in general things happen when people want them and work for them enough. Mika’s face when he realized Casanova is going to the final show was absolutely priceless and even neither of his contestants did the best performance of the show the sum of the their solo performances was still better than for any other team and team Mika’s group performance definitely the best of all teams being genuinely funny and not forced at all. The second goal for the night was achieved.  All the success for Mika’s team is due to the coaching and the decisions and choices made during the competition and thinking that makes me happy and pleased for him and I think he can be very pleased with his work as well no matter what the result for the final week will be.

Everything seems open for the final show. I still think Xam is the best and most interesting of the talents but would naturally be happy to see Casanova and team Mika doing well or even winning. I also assume Maelle is popular among the voters but have no idea what the numbers are and feel that anything can happen depending on the songs and how everything eventually goes during the last show. No pictures of Mika or his contestants to share this week, sorry. I had no possibility to take any and just saw the show xxx

I started to read Uncommon People by David Hepworth while waiting for the 2nd The Voice live show and the book is full of interesting, funny and sometimes even dirty anecdotes about the biggest ever rock classics and it made me laugh out loud as I could almost hear Mika’s the Art Of Song voice in my ears while reading it.

The forewords for the book claimed that the age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. But the idea of the rock star, like the idea of the cowboy lives on. There are still people who dress like rock stars and do their best to act as they think rock stars would have acted in an earlier time…

I mention the quote because that was my first thought when I saw Xam from Team Pascal on stage during the auditions. That boy wants to be a rock star. He had the rock star attitude and gestures, he did his best to do them all, and I thought he immediately branded himself with all that and was clever and consistent while doing it. He was a good performer since the beginning but I wasn’t sure whether I will like or be annoyed by his possibly calculating attitude. Then I looked at his face. Such an innocent looking, young face. I can’t help it, I hope that kid can be a rock star and on television two more weeks until the final show.

We will see how it goes next week. This week Ecco was the audience favorite in Pascal’s team and can be too much for Xam to win. She’s a good singer and very sweet. The whole Team Pascal was super cute, see the pic below. Betty Patural was not bad at all either, just unfortunate to be in the same team with these two distinctively good other contestants. Xam’s performance was everything it was supposed to be, he was wearing leather pants, hanging inside and on a giant cage, singing, screaming, dancing and jumping like a rock star.

After Team Pascal came Team Florent Pagny and Raffi Arto was as awesome as he was during the previous rounds. He’s my another favorite and someone I would be glad to see winning as well. I love his style and why wouldn’t we all like this smiling and energetic young boy. Personally I didn’t like the Elvis song chosen for him because that kind of vibrating singing hurts my ears a lot but he did very well and both the audience and all the coaches seemed to appreciate his performance and he was voted to continue in the competition.

Otherwise I found Florent’s candidates a bit boring. During Hobbs’ performance I had my focus purely on the dancers. I turned my head on the left and saw Isa doing the same and then on the right where the coaches were sitting and it looked to me Mika was watching the dancers as well but I can be wrong of course and have imagined it all. Florent had to choose between Hobbs and Yasmine Ammari and he chose the girl to continue in the competition with Raffi Arto.

This time I didn’t know what exactly to think about Mika’s contestants. I knew both the audience and Mika likes Frédéric a lot. Casanova is smiling, charming and very pleasant and could be voted also for that reason and after the two previous performances Guillaume was my own favorite and I hoped him to continue. Mika’s team felt the most unpredictable of all the teams. I took quick pictures of his candidates earlier and they all impressed me being extremely nice and polite with everyone around and kindly agreed to have their photos taken (I was a bit shy to ask that).

During the live show I very much liked the songs Mika had chosen for his team. Frédéric is so theatrical that his every appearance is like a small scene and it’s almost too much, so the song without any extra show elements was extremely suitable for him and made him the audience favorite. Guillaume did well but maybe had too much happening on stage during his performance (I felt a bit distracted) and eventually Mika chose Casanova over Guillaume. He explained his decision, unfortunately I couldn’t totally catch it but he seemed very proud of what Casanova did after demanding so much from him. Obviously there’s a language barrier between us and I miss many details but I still try to enjoy the show and performances.

With Zazie’s team I didn’t have any strong opinion in advance or even during the show. I knew Maelle is popular and she was again voted safe by the audience and after that Zazie eliminated Eduard Eduard and B Demi-Montaine will continue in the competition.

I enjoyed watching the show. People often tell they don’t like talent shows and my first reaction to that is to ask why anyone would like talent shows. I find most of them boring and I haven’t even had a television in years. However, after all these years The Voice has become something much more than a talent show. It’s a world of its own and I enjoy following it. I generally like watching how recordings and especially live shows are done and I like it how familiar everything has become. I can recognize a half of the audience, not only those who come to see Mika but many other groups as well and of course people organizing, filming, doing technical stuff, styling etc. The organization is always nice to the audience and it’s something I appreciate a lot. I can’t know how it is for Mika and the other coaches to work for The Voice because we can’t see that side and there must be a lot of pressure behind the scenes but for us the atmosphere is good as long as people behave nicely and follow instructions and we all do our best to do that.

I tried to spot some special details during the night. Nikos had a lovely blue jacket and blue shoes instead his usual grey outfit and I liked them a lot. Zazie had amazing comfortable looking red shoes as an opposite to the female host who is very pregnant and was still wearing insanely high red heels. I felt for her so much. The funniest moment was Mika putting his brother to sit in his chair instead of him wearing his jacket and I was wondering if they’re planning to joke with that during the show but Fortuné escaped last minute before the filming started. We were not allowed to have our mobiles inside so no photos from the studio but below a couple of photos of Mika talking with the crowd. There were people between us so I had to crop the pics but I still add them so we can remember how he looks. Don’t you just love that hair?

Back at the Voice studio this weekend and it was exciting as always to see the change that happens in contestants between the battles and live shows. On television it’s just a week between, in reality it’s been months since the previous phase and the talents have gone through many – both external and internal – changes. I often think them going through a “machine treatment”. Styling, receiving coaching, practicing, getting confidence and getting used to the idea of this new possible career.

Young talents experiment with styles trying to find their own, older contestant stop holding back, show more of themselves and possibly hope to sharpen their original style to finally break through. Either way, the difference is always huge and fun to watch, not forgetting the rest of the package: familiar faces, live show excitement and busy atmosphere inside of the industrial looking studio building.

This time our international group was lucky to be located in the camera corner nicely close to the chairs and we had to stay focused and ready to move every time the camera man moved his equipment. I was surprised to realize our group of six represented six different countries (Poland, France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Korea and Finland). I hadn’t met my Korean friend Jieun for a while so I felt grateful for this good timing and for having a possibility to spend some time together.

The coaches marched in and I loved the outfits Mika and Zazie were wearing, a golden embroidered jacked for Mika and long grey/blue silk shirt for Zazie. I didn’t pay attention to what Florent and Pascal were wearing but Pascal made gestures to make the audience yell as soon as he arrived whereas Florent was quite quiet the whole evening and also furthest away from our corner.

Zazie’s team started with Maelle, then Eduard Eduard, Liv Del Estal and B Demi-Mondaine. Maelle and B Demi-Mondaine were selected by the audience votes as expected and Zazie chose Eduard Eduard also as expected meaning Liv was eliminated. Maelle is an interesting singer and seems quite popular already, B Demi-Mondaine has a strong character and style and Eduard Eduard is a charming showman. Very curious to see what will happen in this team next week!

Pascal’s team continued first with young, talented and very pretty, tiny and cute Ecco who sang Eurythmics and then with Xam and his French song. They both took my attention already during auditions and I must say I find it surprising if Pascal doesn’t win this year considering this is his first year and considering how good his contestants are. Crazy Xam is as much a rock cliche as a young contestant can be and at first I wasn’t sure how much it will bother me but I’m warming up to his performances and he seems smart so I’m already starting to think him as one of the four final contestants and kind of hope that will happen (but not sure about that yet Ecco being that talented and that pretty, tiny and cute). The third contestant in Pascal’s team was Betty Patural and fourth the electro duo who was eventually selected out (also as I expected).

Florent’s team started with very young and energetic Raffia Arto who I could easily remember from his Johnny Hallyday performance and who kept me awake with Blues Brothers this time as well. The rest of Florent’s team made me very sleepy and I can’t remember details, I just can’t remember. I checked the names and also Jasmine Ammari and Hobbs will continue in the competition.

Finally it was the turn for Mika’s team! Sherley Paredes started and Mika looked genuinely happy to watch her performance. Then Casanova and Frédéric Longbois who’s starting to show his super theatrical, funny side more than he did earlier and as the last one Guillaume who became my favorite in Mika’s team after Mennel was out of the competition and after hearing Guillaume’s version of the Harry Styles song which I liked very much. This time the audience result was different than I had expected. I expected Frédéric and Guillaume  to be selected by the audience votes, maybe Mika did as well. That way he could have chosen Sherley as the third contestant.

However, Frédéric and Casanova were selected and to keep Guillaume – which felt an obvious thing to do as Guillaume was the best contestant in his team this week – Sherley had to be out. I thought this was totally fine, I prefer male voices any way but not sure this was what Mika wanted. He looked sad for her elimination and comforted her with kind gestures.

An entertaining night in many ways. My favourite part was the small dance group seen quickly in the beginning of the episode. We could watch the group rehearsing before the show started and it was very impressive even the official part was over so quickly. After the show I took my bag and continued to the airport with Jieun who had an early flight as well. I spent a few days in Paris before Saturday so I collected a few Paris pics from my mobile below. Blog wise it would be more interesting to discover some new things during every visit but I’m not that kind of a person, it’s the possibility to have routines in foreign places that makes me happy.

I booked a hotel near Sacre Coeur to be able to climb the hill every morning and often also day and evening time. It’s hard not to feel grateful and very blessed in life while watching gentle morning colors and the beautiful view over Paris. I spent time with the French girls whom I’m very fond of (love the pic of us at the photo booth). I visited the English book store and bought 4 or 5 books like I always do (that’s my limit as I carry only a backpack). I chose a museum and this time it was d’Orsay which is one of my favorites the building included. I sat in cafes. Small things. Very much enjoyed my week, thanks everyone xxx

 

After auditions and final auditions in December it was now time for the Voice France battles and they were done during two Saturday sessions on the 13th of January and our full day was both interesting and entertaining so I decided to immediately write a description of it not to forget the details during the break which will continue until the live shows (starting in April).

Two sessions during one day means long hours. For a person like me traveling from far away (in this case from Helsinki) only to see these recordings this kind of a schedule is ideal and means good value for money as I can arrive on Friday night, spend the whole Saturday at the studio and be back in Finland and with my family already on Sunday.

However, it’s quite hard for the coaches to do two sessions in row and I could see Mika felt really uncomfortable in the end of the latter session. He had explained to the audience his eyes were hurting and that he saw things a bit blurry and spending hours and hours under bright studio lights probably made him feel much worse and his head hurt and I felt so sorry for him, I could so well remember my own horrible headache during the December recordings. Of course, with the full studio and big expensive team the production has no possibility to do any big changes and they just have to finish the work and all four coaches stayed relatively sharp even they had such a long day.

The afternoon session started late because of rehearsals and we were let in the building but still waited in the so called waiting area almost two more hours. Luckily it was early and I didn’t feel tired at all and waiting was just fine for me and eventually we had our places in the studio. The coaches did their song together as usual and this time it was David Bowie’s Heroes. They all had new outfits for the battle round and Mika was wearing dark trousers, a white shirt, a navy casual jacket and really cool red and gold shoes. Florent was totally in grey, Pascal had a metallic shiny outfit and eye glasses that reminded me of old-fashioned driving glasses and Zazie had a long black shirt and boots. No skirt or proper pants I think, but it wasn’t as weird as it sounds because she can really wear anything and look gorgeous.

The system was different than in previous years and included four rounds of battles (so afterwards every coach had their final teams of four)  but this time every battle duo did a song together instead of doing their own separate songs and it made the performances look like real battles and was very interesting to watch and showed how much of an effect the song choice can have and how it can make two totally different singers either closer to each other or make the difference between them even bigger (depending on what’s the wanted result). The audience was quite loud, partly because on Saturdays they always have more kids than during week night recordings but also because both of the sessions were entertaining so the audience was not bored at all.

Two times two rounds of battles. Every coach had chosen two singers for every round and Zazie’s team started the first round singing Sweet Dreams. I’m going to avoid mentioning contestants and songs by names to protect excitement but I mention Sweet Dreams because it’s one of the songs Mika used to cover years ago so naturally my mind started to wander through different versions he’s done, versions I’ve seen live and versions I wish I had seen and all that took most of my attention but I still got the impression the performance was good and one of the biggest favorites in Zazies’s team was in the first duo and went to finals as I expected. After that it was turn for Team Pascal and again, probably his biggest favorite and I imagined the battle would be clear but the song was chosen to make the difference look smaller (at least that’s how it looked to me, they could have made the favorite to look even more special) and it was really interesting that way, even though the winner was clear of course.

After these two favorites it was time for Mika and his team and obviously neither contestant in his battle duo was a favorite in advance and even though the song was really interesting – I really liked the choice – it didn’t start well and I already felt bad for Mika (because his team had to battle right after those big favorites from Zazie and Pascal) when suddenly something changed. The duo consisted of a girl and a guy and it looked like the guy suddenly realized this is his change to go to the final phase and got a weird amount of confidence and did an extremely good performance. A weird performance I think, somehow peculiar but the style fitted to the song and I really liked it and thought it was a very nice start for Mika’s team and much more memorable than the next performance by Team Florent from which I can remember only the dress the girl was wearing.

I was pleased Mika’s team got such a positive start and the same continued for the second round of the first session. It was time for his battle duo and I saw him staring the stage smiling and wondered what was happening when the most interesting contestant from his team appeared on stage. I’ve rarely seen anything as beautiful as this girl. She looks like a real princess in her exotic outfits and on Saturday I just stared at her and could very well understand Mika’s smile and his expression, she’s fascinating and it almost feels she’s taking the whole place under her spell, everyone was staring at her. Her voice is not that much my taste to be honest but I love her personal style, she’s very soulful and aiming to tell a story and to create different atmospheres and not only to sing, will be very interesting to see her during the finals. During this round we saw entertaining songs from the other teams as well. Team Florent did a Johnny Hallyday song (I think it was his song, please don’t blame me if I’m wrong) and I loved the energy and seeing the audience joining.

After the first session we had a small break and most people in the studio left and just fans stayed waiting for the second session. The staff gave people water and sandwiches (I had brought some bread with me) and we had a possibility to use a toilet. The second session started, also a couple of hours late. We had already seen the biggest favorite from Mika’s team and in the evening his duos were not as good level as in the afternoon. Both times I felt it didn’t make any difference who won the battle but during the last duo I really liked the performance, it was genuinely lovely (even I couldn’t understand the French lyrics, Melyssa translated me the idea though) and it was  a bit funny and very interesting and will look good on television as well.

Zazie had good quality battles also in the last session and the first performance from her team turned out to be an extremely emotional episode. A mature (I like to to use that word because it means more than just saying older) and a very young contestant did a song together and it ended up being strong and emotional, not only to the audience but also to the coaches and I can’t describe it more without giving spoilers but I imagine the production loved getting this kind of teary material. I felt weirdly sad after the performance.

Pascal had one of his biggest favorites in the evening session and I’m still not sure what to think about this contestant, something in him disturbs me. His every move is totally crazy but also very calculated. Not saying it can’t be his natural style but at least the contestant knows how well the craziness goes for people and how it makes his performances stand out and it’s all so arrogant. The contestant is good though. He’s really good and will definitely do well and might even be the winner. I don’t have much to say about Florent’s team in the evening session. The last battle for his team was genuinely awful. I felt a tiny bit bad for him but not too much, Florent is experienced and will without a doubt handle everything with style as always.

Then it was all over and Mika came to say good night to the audience and spoke mostly French but in the end said also something in English, that he will go and will be doing something, I hope that meant music. Would be so lovely to think he’s making music again. Thanks again everyone I met and talked with and everyone who helped me in so many ways. I felt Saturday was genuinely a very interesting recording day, maybe because of the new battle system but also because I liked many songs chosen and found them entertaining. I love these short trips. I’m starting to understand I’ve actually learning a lot during my regular visits to France. About the country and the culture and the people. I was watching a random French film the other day and so many things and details I didn’t think or even know existed a few years ago felt now so familiar. Love it. xxx

The view in the pics above is one of my favorites in the world and I try to climb to the hill Montmartre every time I have a possibility during my Paris trips. I love the color combination and different shades of white, cream, grey and pale green and I love how the light and clouds look always different depending on the time of the day. The place was not too crowded early in the mornings so it was lovely to walk there. I stayed in Paris five nights and had two whole days off between the Voice recordings on Saturday and Tuesday and used the time walking around, doing my Christmas shopping and visiting cafes.

All practical things went well I think. The recording sessions were quite interesting considering that this part of the recordings is generally less interesting than blind auditions or live shows. It was good to see people and it was good to see Mika and it made me happy to have a possibility to wish him merry Christmas. A small thing but always brings the holiday mood. He was very considerate and sweet to people both nights I saw him, paid attention to the audience and waved people good night and after the Saturday’s session tweeted both in French and Italian to thank his main fan groups. He came to have a little chat when saw us and after the last session made a small thank you speech in French.

The recordings were fun but I miss seeing Mika doing something that makes him genuinely excited. The Voice isn’t the kind of project where he can use his creativity or do anything new or really interesting and it’s the same for all four coaches, they all seem to have a very business like attitude. This season Mika’s team is not as strong as Pascal’s or especially Zazie’s. During the December recordings the contestants did the second audition in groups of three and the coaches had to pick the best one for the next round. A couple of times Pascal and Zazie had such good trios it was almost difficult to say which talent deserves to stay, with Mika’s trios I was once or twice relieved he could choose only one meaning he could let the other two go.

He needs to work with the team he has and he’s really good at it and no one knows for sure who will make the biggest progress. I like his style, he’s always kind but still extremely honest and I generally like that and that must be useful for his talents as well. All teams included I can now remember maybe four contestants quite well and think they will all go far but I don’t want to give any spoilers before live shows (at that point everyone already knows the teams).

This is my last blog post for this year so wishing Merry Christmas to everyone. Have a peaceful holiday time with your families and friends xxx

Back home after a long “The Voice” weekend in Paris. I saw four auditions on Friday, Saturday (x2) and Monday and it felt good to be back in France. Not as magical as watching Casa Mika but I enjoy seeing these recordings live and I generally enjoy being in France. I’m grateful to my French friends for making me feel accepted every time I visit the country. It’s not something I can take for granted, the local fans make a strong, tight group and I don’t even speak their language. Yet they make me feel welcome and are always kind and help in every way. I feel I can be there weirdly quiet and it’s just fine. It’s nice to enjoy these events without feeling any pressure or stress.

I can’t understand French or know French music so it’s a huge help to have someone who translates and gives background information during the recordings and Melyssa deserves all the chocolate in the world for doing the job again and again and for doing it so well. Her English is excellent (much much better than mine) and she can translate easily but what’s even more important is the information she can give me outside the translations. She has a good knowledge so she can very quickly decide what’s important for me to know to understand the situation. She tells things like the theme of the song and if it’s iconic or not, how the original version was and who performed and maybe even wrote it. She tells how people are connected and what happened in the past and all kind of facts and general references only locals can know that help me to follow the show and make it possible to put everything in context.

Recordings started with the usual warming up and then we could see Nikos who always chats with the audience for a while. After that it was time for the coaches to do a song together. They performed it in the beginning of three different recordings (actually twice every time making it total six times) and I really enjoyed watching it and liked this French song very much. The song was written for Florent Pagny by Pascal Obispo who is the latest addition in the coach team and I thought it fitted the coaches very well and it was of course lovely to hear Mika singing a little bit both on Friday and Saturday (always makes me feel the trip is worth while).

The new coach is very different compared to Matt Pokora I must say. Not sure how to put it in English but in Finland we would say he’s someone who wasn’t born yesterday and knows a trick or two. I can’t much describe his coaching yet (the local girls tell he hasn’t said anything really original) but he seems a very strong character and likes to entertain the audience. A half of the time his entertaining is funny and a half of the time it’s a bit gross. He takes a handkerchief and blows his nose in it and then very theatrically uses the same piece of fabric to clean his eyeglasses or puts candy in his nose and things like that. Things some men find irresistibly humorous, things gentlemen shouldn’t be doing if you ask me (I’m a mother of three boys and there’s no tolerance for things like that in my house). I’m mostly worried about him showing an example to Mika who will start to imitate him but so far that hasn’t happened. Very proud of Mika for being mature enough not to join the game.

Pascal and Mika are next to each other so they had quite a lot interaction and a half of the time Pascal was joking and a half of the time kind of showing who’s the man in the house. Maybe just a role the production has given to him, I can’t know, and I noticed he kept lower profile on Monday so maybe they noticed the idea wasn’t that good after all. Or, maybe the coaches are just learning to know each other and testing what’s the best approach in communicating with each other. I really don’t know how much the coaches are instructed and how much they have freedom with finding their roles and the position in the group.

This time Mika is the one who doesn’t belong to the group the same way the other three coaches do. He’s not the same age group compared to the others and the other three know each other really well and have a long history together. Mika already knows Florent and Zazie from previous years and seems to even be quite close with Florent but that can’t be compared to decades of common history. Just watching the coaches sitting in their chairs makes me think Mika is different. Three of the coaches are wearing shirts open down to their waist, two times with leather pants and one time with a short black skirt. Then there’s Mika wearing a stylish and simple, darker green suit combined to a sweater with a pink glittery detail and white shirt under that. Oh I love green. And I love it when men wear proper shirts under their sweaters, looks so cozy and safe. Zazie can of course wear anything she likes, she looks always gorgeous.

Mika looks even more elegant and handsome sitting in his chair than previous years and we all look at him with very approving eyes. Not sure he can see that. What he can definitely see is people eating during breaks. He must think his fans have two alternative pleasures in their life and that’s either listening to his music or eating. That’s not far from the truth to be honest but there’s also another logical explanation why people like to have food with them in the studio. The recordings are done very late hours and sitting in that warm closed space for hours makes us not only hungry but also sleepy and having something to raise our blood sugar level makes it easier to stay awake. Mika might actually understand that and on Monday he kindly – as a special gesture to the French fans – handed the girls a bag of snacks (he even came in the middle of the audience just to deliver it himself, how sweet is that). I found some gluten-free food in the bag and I ate it and for once I wasn’t hungry after the session.

About the talents this year. I didn’t see anyone who would have immediately felt truly special but we saw several somehow interesting contestants and I believe that’s enough to make the season interesting enough. The coaches have all their own, particular style and year by year it’s easier to guess who’s going to push the button. It’s becoming easier to guess which coach the talents are choosing as well because the contestants are not used to be on television and can’t control their body language so just by paying attention to their reactions it’s possible to guess their choices as well (whether I agree with them or not, I don’t always think they choose the best for them).

Talents who make unique animal like sounds make me always worried because Mika seems to find them fascinating and often pushes the button for them. I can see how his eyes start to sparkle when the talent makes weird sounds and his hand gets ready to touch the red button. I assume his enthusiasm is based on the fact that some in my ears unpleasant sounds are extremely difficult to make and that way show a lot of talent and controlling the voice. I never expect much from those contestants though. If someone is not willing use their talent to do pleasant sounds in the beginning why would they be willing to do that later? This kind of contestants give some color to the competition of course. This year we didn’t see many really original contestants and especially on Monday similar looking guys with guitars walked on stage again and again (and again). It was very hard to see any difference but for final episodes they will of course cut and mix everything and it will look much more variable on television.

The organization around the recordings at the Voice is always nice to the audience and fans in it and I experienced it this time as well. I wasn’t feeling well on Saturday (I had a headache and no amount of painkillers seemed to help) and somehow one of the security guys in the studio noticed it and took me to get some fresh air and brought me water and coffee and insisted me meeting a doctor (I couldn’t keep my balance so I understand why he wanted to make sure I was okay even I said it’s just a headache) and the doctor gave me some more medicine which eventually helped and I could enjoy the evening. I could still feel the pain but it wasn’t overwhelming and I could focus on what happened on stage. They could have asked me to leave but instead they did all that and I could stay for the second part of the day and didn’t miss it. Super nice thing to do, very much appreciated it.

The recordings will continue in December. Thank you everyone for this weekend! In the pic below I’m with my translator Melyssa xxx

Mika Fan Club is celebrating the 10th anniversary and organizing fan meetings in different countries and on Sunday the Italian crew hosted another great Italian Mika party in Milan and we gathered together before heading to the studio to follow Casa Mika recordings. What a fun party we had! A huge, huge thank you to everyone who was involved in the preparations and special thanks to Marina who – as always – was once again endlessly patient and helpful with everyone and answered all my questions and kindly made sure I had suitable food to eat at brunch. Below a group pic of the organizing team and a photo we took together with Marina (thanks to Roberto for taking the pic).

The venue/restaurant was reserved only to Mika fans and the place was absolutely wonderful, it really couldn’t have been more suitable in any way. I took a few pics so everyone can see what I mean, the place was exactly like a house! Kitchen, dining room, living room area, hobby space… So colorful and cozy and the best thing was the amazing, friendly staff taking care of us. I’m trying to visit some cafes and restaurants during my each Milan visit to learn to know the city and this was honestly my favorite place so far, I couldn’t feel a hint of the cold attitude I’ve felt in some of those otherwise so cool, trendy places I’ve visited during my trips lately. The atmosphere on Sunday was lovely and it seemed to me everyone at the party felt the same.

Ani had an idea of a big card/poster we could all make together during the meeting to give to Mika later in the evening so we all draw a little house and the result was a big poster full of different colorful houses to celebrate Mika’s new single It’s My House and of course also the beginning of the second season of Casa Mika. The idea worked very well, I think! Most of our houses looked like pre-school drawings (I know my butterfly house certainly did) but I think the result was still quite cute and we definitely had a lot of fun doing the project between eating, dancing and chatting. Maybe not art exactly but I hope it means something to Mika his fans come from many different countries to gather together and to do something as a community.

The highlight of the party was a giant cake with the MFC colors and anniversary logo and the cake looked absolutely fabulous (again, thanks to the organizing team for this amazing surprise!) and we took some group pics around it.

I tried to walk around and take photos of every table and people having fun but as people were moving and doing things in different parts of the ”house” I probably couldn’t catch everyone but still collected as many different pics I had and made a big photo gallery below. I know several fans were periscoping during the party and hope all you who couldn’t be there enjoyed watching those periscopes and felt you were with us in spirit. So good to see everyone, until next time. xxx

Recordings for the second Casa Mika season started on Sunday and I travelled to Milan on Saturday to have a possibility to spend a few hours both days learning to know Milan before going to the studio on Sunday night. I’ve visited the city many times for gigs and different events and recordings and even spent there time with my family but never really learnt to like the place. I’m sure there are many hidden treasures for those who know Milan well but for an average traveller it’s a distant place. I’ve always thought it’s expensive and a bit too fancy for my taste and I didn’t feel any different this time either. I’ve travelled in Italy a lot and seen many places much more suitable for me than Milan is.

I visited a couple of cafes I had seen mentioned in articles and a bookstore I had hoped to see for a long time but mostly just enjoyed walking around. The weather was beautiful both days, almost like in summer even it’s October, and loved being in the sun and watching dogs, saw many of them. An elderly very elegant gentleman dressed in a carefully chosen suit walked his likewise elegant elderly dog and I couldn’t stop admiring this amazingly stylish couple. I randomly discovered a small bakery near my hotel and it looked like a small family business with mother and daughter and grandmother and I visited the place twice and bought coffee and gluten-free little biscuits and almost felt I have a nice new routine and I like having small routines like that when I travel abroad.

I couldn’t wait to see the first recording but also knew that this time it would be quite short and that Mika would even leave the studio to go to another one in a different building to perform his new song and I had prepared myself to a possibility we wouldn’t hear him singing at all not to be too disappointed if that really happens. As soon as he came on stage he confirmed to the audience he needs to do another recording in the middle of our session but also explained he would sing both before and after that and that while he’s gone the girls would film their part and we could watch that.

Knowing we could finally hear his singing made me incredibly happy and was so unexpected that I actually started to cry the moment he started to sing. That was weirdly emotional even from me and quite embarrassing and Ani gave me a surprised ”woman are you serious” look but I really couldn’t help it, I felt overwhelmingly happy. My eyes became horribly red of course. You know all pretty young girls who get teary eyes and become even more beautiful than they already are like real life princesses? I cry and I become one of those new species scientists have been discovering from the bottom of the oceans. No one even knew those creatures exist and now there’s a possibility I was filmed for Italian television looking like one and I don’t even care. I was so happy Mika is singing again and thought I now have everything I can possibly hope for.

He did a couple of songs and the version of one his most impressive live songs was absolutely beautiful and the audience went wild and people were standing and clapping and screaming and making noise with their shoes – obviously I wasn’t the only one who had missed his singing – and he looked a bit touched of this spontaneous reaction and after seeing that I cried even more of course.

Then there was a break while Mika did his performance in the studio next door and to be honest it wasn’t as disappointing as I had thought in advance at all because his family took over the stage and we could watch the girls and I love watching them. Those dogs are adorable! I can’t tell how long it took and suddenly Mika was back and promised to sing us a couple of more songs and we watched some clips and filmed some introductions for Rai 2 to be broadcasted in the near future.

Everyone was super excited to hear the new song and the performance was really good and energetic and I was once again surprised how different a song becomes when it’s performed live. I had heard a clip and thought My House is extremely catchy and perfect to use as a tune for his show but maybe not as suitable to play at gigs as his other songs but he did it in front of us and it was just like any other energetic song he performs regularly and will surely work well also outside the television show (and it has been playing in my head non-stop since we heard it). Then one more Italian song as a surprise and it fitted his voice perfectly and I very much enjoyed listening to it.

Mika’s singing was beautiful even he hasn’t been performing much lately. There was a warm tone in his voice slightly hinting he had a flu but it didn’t make his singing any less lovely and I only hoped singing wouldn’t hurt him and that way disturb the upcoming recordings. We didn’t see any guests during the first recording (a dream recording for fans) but as I can’t give any spoilers I couldn’t mention them any way and just wanted to write a small post to describe how the atmosphere felt in the beginning of the filming and will probably blog more detailed after the first episodes are out. We got little sneak peeks to the fiction parts Mika has mentioned in interviews and after seeing them I expect people to love them and feel very curious about them myself as well. There will be a lot of new details in the concept!

Now back home for one and a half day (to hug my kids and my dog and of course my husband who has a birthday today) and back to Milan on Wednesday. Keeping my fingers crossed for tickets and hoping everything goes well. It was lovely to be back in Italy and to see everyone again xxx