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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. One more live show next week, looking forward to that and will share my report after the show as usual 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

 

I like to think people build personal relationships with places. Different cities talk to me – I mean it figuratively of course – and I either really like them or not. Berlin is one of those places I’ve been extremely fond of since the beginning. Good things have happened to me in Berlin. Berlin is where I met Mika for the first time during the acoustic tour and the energetic gig in Berlin 2010 was one of my favorite Imaginarium tour gigs.

Maybe for that reason booking a trip to Berlin to see the Rose d’Or awards ceremony without even knowing if Mika will be there or not felt a good idea. I followed the first Casa Mika season closely doing several trips to Italy and knew that seeing this ceremony would have a special meaning for me as well. I was thrilled Mika was nominated and his hard work for the show that way acknowledged. I want the world to see him like I see him and I want him to get the recognition he deserves. Golden Rose is an established award festival and I remember seeing it on media since I was a kid.

I heard just before my trip that Mika was expected to be present at the event and it cheered me up after feeling sad for missing the Peugeot gig in Paris. Being sad for missing one gig may sound silly after seeing this many concerts during years but I couldn’t help it. It was the only gig this year and I tried hard but didn’t manage to get a ticket. Realizing there was a super special acoustic gig and I wasn’t welcome to see it made me irrationally sad. Silly, of course, and I thought a day in Berlin would make me feel better and it did.

I arrived Berlin on Tuesday morning and had a breakfast with Karin at a cafe near our hotel. I had read about this bike themed cafe and I wanted to visit it and the place served awesome gluten-free breakfast indeed. Ani joined us and we walked to Checkpoint Charlie to meet Kanni who lives just a couple of minutes from the place. How amazing someone can live like that in the middle of Berlin! The weather was beautiful and we walked around the museum Island and had coffee at the Bode Museum cafe just because the building is so glamorous. Then back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.

We arrived to the venue and the security told the nominees would go in first and the rest of the audience after that. However, if I wanted to take photos I was allowed to wait at the red carpet and I naturally did that. I couldn’t recognize any of the guests before Mika and turned out neither did anyone else so the girl working for the event showed a list of the most important people with their pictures and names.

The man in the pic above was the host of the evening. I took quite a few photos while waiting and guessed Mika would arrive last minute like he usually does. Finally he came and smiled and posed for cameras for a moment. He noticed me and started to chat while posing and was really sweet and that took my attention and I laughed later when realized that I don’t have any really good photos of the moment even he specially posed in front of me.

I joined the girls and we went in and had welcome drinks before going in to the auditorium to take seats for the official part. The schedule was nice and compact. First drinks, then announcing category winners and their short thank you speeches and after that food, drinks and chatting. I had a good seat next to the aisle and saw that Mika and his group were guided to the first row. He had Giulio Mazzoleni and some other people from his team and Rai 2 with him and the lady representing Rai 2 went on stage with him when the category winner was announced. Mika introduced her and thanked her for giving the opportunity (if interested what he said I uploaded a small mobile clip of his thank you speech on FB).

Casa Mika is a high quality entertainment production and I had assumed Mika will win his category and seeing him being guided to front very near the stage gave me even more hope. Of course it was possible they only wanted to be polite to their international guest and to give more space for his long legs so I hold my breath a bit when the winner was announced and was relieved to hear his name. Afterwards all the winners gathered together for photos and I thought Mika looked genuinely pleased and almost shined holding the award in his hands. People congratulated the winners and we could have a little chat with him and tell how happy and proud we felt for him. Everyone was probably a bit overwhelmed in the middle of the crowd but it was a lovely and cheerful short moment, see our group pic here.

After that interviews and maybe a private celebration for Mika and his team and food, wines and relaxed chatting for us. See “our team” below. I’m the one on the left and next to me Karin, Ani and Kanni. I added a couple of pics from my mobile in the end as I rarely have my photos taken, the first one was taken by Kanni before the red carpet and the second one by Ani after the event. Thanks ladies for your company! It was a pleasure to visit Berlin, hope to do it soon again! X

 

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It’s been more than two weeks since our New Year’s Eve in Florence and I still almost can’t believe we could experience it all nor imagine any better atmosphere or better way to spend that special day. The opera in Florence offered pre-sale packages for the New Year including the symphony concert and a dinner at the opera afterwards and to confirm our seats many of us bought those packages months in advance.

I didn’t give the dinner much thought beforehand, I just wanted to have my concert ticket as early as possible and intentionally avoided having any expectations regarding to the dinner. In my experience things in Italy can be either absolutely amazing (I could give many, many examples) or go terribly wrong in which case people just say “oh well we’re in Italy” like those words simply explained it all (and I’m starting to understand they do, lol!).

This time everything went very well and the evening was really nicely organized. The dinner was served smoothly, the food was delicious, we got wines, a dj, an open bar and impressive fireworks exactly at midnight and it seemed everyone was in a good mood, eating, chatting, dancing and generally having a wonderful time. The Italian girls had helped the opera to organize our tables (for around 100 fans from all over the world) and named every table according to different Mika songs. Ours was called Dr John (such a cute detail wasn’t it).

The concert on New Year’s Eve was extremely intense and transferred us to another world and the best thing with the dinner was that it didn’t remove us from our magical atmosphere. We were quietly guided to our tables and given a glass of wine. The music started (mostly Mika and older party hits) and several waiters started to carry first starters and then other courses. It was all smooth and gradually more and more cheerful and somehow quite surreal.

The tables and food looked festive with many different glasses and fancy details. Not sure what the starter was, maybe chestnut, but my pasta after that as a second course was delicious! Weird to be this excited about food but I rarely get really tasty gluten-free pasta… The main course seemed good but was brought to tables at midnight and suddenly everyone run outside to see the fireworks and I left my food just like the others which was okay as I was full after the pasta anyway.

After celebrating the midnight we all came back to our tables and had a wonderful dessert (mine was a small gluten-free chocolate cake) and some sparkling wine and people danced or just sat and had coffee until the staff said it’s time to go and we started – very gently – to prepare our return back to the reality and a bit reluctantly left our fairytale party, feeling ourselves like real life Cinderellas, literally looking for our shoes (mine were under the table, my feet were hurting so much) and trying to find a taxi to take us back to our hotels.

It was a lovely day, first the stunning concert and then this dinner party with so many familiar faces. Definitely something to remember years to come. See our international table below. Front from right: Renate and her husband, Marion and Miri from Germany, Becks from Spain and Rose from the UK. Behind: me and my husband from Finland and Christina and her husband from Romania (her son took the pic).

Thanks everyone for that special evening and night, I felt lucky to spend the New Year with you! Last but not least, a huge thank you to the Italian fans for their preparations and of course to the opera for organizing everything so well! X

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A short update about the second night for the Voice France third round. Thursday night was naturally more boring than Tuesday because Mika had already chosen his team and we saw Florent Pagny and Matt Pokora choosing theirs and their style is different and not as interesting as Mika’s (a bit biased saying that of course, lol!).

Mika was chilled and his part was only to shortly comment every performance and otherwise there was not much to focus on except wondering what he was doing with his little notebook. He kept sending notes to the other coaches, maybe for his own amusement. I paid too much attention to different sounds myself and it made me feel uncomfortable throughout the night. Many of the contestants have the kind of voice that makes me shudder and just like on Tuesday, some songs were poorly chosen which added the effect.

Again, it was quite easy to guess which contestant is staying in the competition and which two are out so it looked a bit silly that the three other coaches many times chose different favorites even the performances were not that good and it gave the impression the production wanted to make the level look better than it actually was (what makes sense from their point of view of course).

However, I have no idea how the system works for real and if the production guides the coaches in these situations or not. Also, if the coaches make their own decisions, whether they plan them beforehand or in that particular moment after seeing every performance. Of course the coaches are professionals and can better see the potential in young people (than an average person in the audience) and I assume they know some background information from behind the scenes the audience can’t know.

Being a good singer is not enough for talent shows unless the talent is something absolutely spectacular. The contestants need to be interesting and have personality and a good story behind them the audience to remember them well. After the recordings on Tuesday and Thursday I can hardly remember everyone from Mika’s team and only one or two from the other teams. I can remember two boys from Matt Pokora’s team on Thursday simply because young male contestants are stereotypical talent show material and have always their own target groups.

This year Mika has a very interesting contestant who can go far and if all goes well win and I would like to see his team winning this season. I wonder if he is doing another season after this. The Voice can’t give him much challenge at this point – how could it – and I’ve always thought this man lives for new challenges. The rumors tell they pay him well though and maybe it’s all becoming a nice routine with familiar people. We will see, I’m only speculating here.

Live shows for this season will be later this spring. I really enjoyed spending a few days in France and would love to do that even more. A huge thank you to the French girls and everyone else I met during the recordings for your company, help, chatting, translating and trying to teach me French (not much progress there I’m afraid). Hope to see you all soon xxx

I’m doing a couple of quick posts to describe my trip to The Voice France third round recordings in Paris. It felt important to travel and see Mika especially now when we possibly have only rare other events to look forward to this year (in case he is planning a small break to focus on his new music). It’s comforting to see him at recordings and with translations I can quite well follow what’s happening. My usual translator Melyssa couldn’t be in Paris for the third round (and I missed her!) but I was luckily sitting next to Ani who kept me updated during the night, a huge thank you to her for that.

The first night (Tuesday) was reserved for Zazie’s and Mika’s teams and the other coaches only gave their opinions after every performance, not pushing their words too much so both Zazie and Mika could focus on making their own decisions which was especially hard for Zazie. She doesn’t want to sent people out, it seems she would like to keep them all and fortunately on Tuesday the others were helping her a bit with this issue saving some of her contestants and that definitely made her happy.

The idea of the third round is to group the contestants in groups of three and hear them all performing one song chosen by themselves. The coach for the team decides which contestant continues to the live recordings and which two are out of the competition. Every coach can “steal” one contestant from other teams to their own teams (so the stolen contestant is not out but just changing his/her team). Many of the songs chosen were not best possible at all and some contestants could have done better if the songs had been more suitable. The level was not really high and it was easy to guess who will continue and who is sent out even the groups were well and logically done grouping similar types together.

I’ve had two favorites in Mika’s team and I hoped in advance that they both can make it to the live shows. My first favorite is a contestant who seems both very strong and very vulnerable and sensitive (as a person) at the same time. I liked him since the beginning and was happy he chose Mika because I know Mika can be sensitive and caring and give the contestant good and careful guidance. However, the performance for the third round was nervous and not as good as the auditioning and I was worried Mika might choose not to keep this contestant in his team. He did keep him though and I loved him for that and felt a bit ashamed I didn’t trust him in this decision. It was all emotional and a bit teary and will cause a lot of emotions in the television audience as well, I’m sure people will like the contestant.

My other favorite in Mika’s team has been a colorful group I like a lot because all three in the group seem very different as personalities but after performing together for a long time have grown together and give a good impression as a group. The group seems ready and experienced and something that could be successful if they just got visibility and some help to sharpen their style. They did well during the third round and continue to live shows and after seeing all these contestants again these two (the individual contestant and the group) in Mika’s team were the ones I can remember best even Zazie has some strong contestants as well.

The first of these two nights was entertaining to watch. I felt a bit tired after taking an early flight in the morning and of course I do wish I could understand Mika’s commenting. I regret and have lately much regretted not learning French. Thanks to my friends I can follow recordings quite well despite of the language and the issue hasn’t bothered me too much. Still, the truth is if I can’t understand him when he shares his thoughts I can learn to know him only through his music and it’s the most important but not the same as understanding everything.

I didn’t have a possibility to wish Mika happy new year in Florence and hoped to do that in Paris but naturally he had such a crowd around him that it wasn’t possible. However, he saw my face from distance behind the crowd and said a quick hello and happy new year which was nice and kind of made my wish to came true. Thursday night can be more boring for Mika fans because his team is already done but I will write a short update after that one too. X

My husband and I spent a long weekend in Florence for these two symphony concerts and had two and a half days to walk around in this beautiful city. We arrived from Helsinki on Thursday and had no plans for the evening and decided to walk to the hill to see the city view and have a quiet, cozy meal after that.

We wanted to visit both the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries during the weekend but didn’t bought tickets in advance and were not sure if we are willing to queue long enough to see them both. Eventually we went to Uffizi early Friday morning just before the opening time, got in after a half an hour of waiting and had a peaceful experience in the museum, luckily only a decent number of people were let in at a time.

I love museums for their atmosphere… I love beauty and aesthetics in general but I guess I’m more interested in the artist life and those brilliant personalities behind the master pieces and the historical spirit living in old buildings than any form of art itself.

Botticelli’s Primavera must be the most famous piece in Uffizi and as it’s surprisingly positive compared to everything else it was my favorite as well and I especially loved it how Flora and her dress immediately brought my mind Ida and her lovely flower dress in Montreal! Uffizi art was full of mothers with their giant, fat, even muscled children and I couldn’t stop staring at them in all their fascinating weirdness. The colors of the round painting below made me think of this autumn colored sweater I had seen on a fashion catalogue. Everything modern designers do comes from history, doesn’t it.

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On Saturday we headed to the Accademia Gallery a little bit later than planned and the weather was chilly and the queue long already so we took a guided tour starting in a few minutes which turned out to be a good solution as we didn’t have to queue and got a nice history lecture before having time to walk around in the museum on our own.

Michelangelo’s David was absolutely breath-taking! This was my first visit in Florence so I had no idea how stunning, impressive and huge it is in reality. The amount of love and admiration for the male body put in this sculpture is simply astonishing. The body and muscles in all their perfection combined to the giant hands and clumsy ankles and even lovely natural light coming from above, loved it all.

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After visiting the gallery we had a plenty of time to walk around before it was time to get ready for the New Year’s Eve concert and we had a small rest in a cozy, colorful book cafe we bumped into on our way to the river. It was perfect for us, we both love books and as it wasn’t mainly for tourists it wasn’t crowded at all and we could have a calm and relaxed moment before walking to the Boboli gardens.

The gardens – actually a large park – must be my favorite of all the places I saw in Florence. It was big enough not to feel too busy and crowded (people were mainly gathered in certain spots to take photos) and we could have walked there for hours, I would love to go back there in spring time.

I took a lot of pictures of the beautiful small green observatory because it was exactly the kind of a building where I would love to live but I guess a historical observatory with an access to a huge, private park in the heart of the most important renaissance city in the world can be too much to ask. What a lovely and pleasant long weekend in Florence and as always, the anticipation of these two symphony concerts made my mood even better than it already was. The experience would have been different without them, it wouldn’t have felt complete like this.

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