Monday, 2 April 2012

Mika 'Grace Kelly'

Chart Peak: 1 (5 weeks)

Beirut-born songwriter, performer, producer and orchestrator Mika stormed to the top of the charts in January 2007 with the wonderfully flamboyant 'Grace Kelly' and remained there for 5 weeks... It is only the 2nd track in chart history to hit the top spot on download sales alone.
I might come to regret pitching myself into the 21st century again, but I thought Now 66 was an interesting one to do as it comes from an interesting time in chart history. At least that was my excuse for spending the £1:49. And if ever there was a time to do it, now would seem to be it, as today is the fifth anniversary of the original release and I've just done two albums in a row that end in 6.

As the sleevenote says, 'Grace Kelly' is an example of one big development in the charts of that time. Download sales data was first incorporated into the UK singles chart in April 2005, but initially only when linked to a physically released single. After further tinkering during 2006 which we'll come to in due course, the stabilisers were finally removed at the start of 2007, hence the barrage of re-entries in the chart dated 13-Jan-2007. Thus Mika's single, released the day after that chart was announced, became one of the first big releases able to take advantage of the freedom: of course digital sales were lower then than they are now so even its first week as the nation's biggest download only got it to third place overall, but by Week Two it was safely at the top of the chart, even a fortnight before the CD and vinyl versions hit the shelves. It's easy to forget just how massive this song (and indeed the singer) was at the time.

Though not strictly speaking his debut single, 'Grace Kelly' was undoubtedly the first most British listeners had heard of the man, and a canny choice: few breakthrough singles can have set out the performer's stall as comprehensively as this. Supposedly inspired by his difficulties with other record companies, the conceit of the song is a golden opportunity for him to show off various aspects of his vocal and piano skills, and to express his obvious desire to be liked. Liked he was, arriving at a time when the British public seemed to be tiring of Robbie Williams (of which more later). But as much as I might be able to praise this song in the abstract, I must admit I found it desperately annoying at the time. Whilst I recognise intellectually that pop stars can't reasonably be expected not to be attention-seekers, it's still not a quality I find especially appealing and combined with whinging about the record industry (again, not something that goes down well when it's bankrolled by a huge investment from Universal), triumphalism, screechy falsetto singing and gimmicky production it fair set my teeth on edge during its months of ubiquity. Now you don't hear it so much it's easier to tolerate and at least to understand what the half a million people who bought this single liked about it, but I've never exactly warmed to it. Though I will give him credit where it's due for posting Rory Bremner's parody on his official YouTube Channel.

Also appearing on: Now 67, 68, 69, 74
Available on: Now That's What I Call The 00's


  1. As embarrassing as it is to admit, this is my favourite song of all time. Ever.

    Two thirds of it are the song itself, a wonderfully cheesy romp which hits me in all the right places. But the other third is simply the emotional connection to where I was in my life at the time - I'd just turned 18, it was the new year, and whenever I hear the song it just takes me back to this glorious new era, shaking off teenage angst and insecurity and entering an exciting new world and phase of my life.

    I guess it's just an age thing, but whenever I hear this song it never fails to put a smile on my face!

  2. Fair comment I think; whilst it was never entirely likely to be my sort of thing, I imagine I could have warmed to it more had it not been accompanied by so much hype telling me he was such an exciting and unique genius, or indeed followed by two years of him releasing weaker versions of the same record.

    And needles to say you're right about the influence of the age thing. As I'm also blogging elsewhere about music the year I turned 19, I find it seems to intensify a lot of my feelings: the songs I loved around that time mean even more to me than some from other eras, and the songs I hated I hated even more.
    Thanks for reading.