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'Grace Kelly's' Mika confesses awkward youth

  • Story Highlights
  • Mika's new album is "The Boy Who Knew Too Much"
  • Singer of "Grace Kelly" says album is about awkward times as youth
  • He's had great success now, almost recorded new album in plush mansion
  • Mother said he shouldn't, that comfort would make the album worse
By Shanon Cook
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mika knows how to dress for the occasion.

Mika's new album, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much," acknowledges some of his teen issues.

Mika's new album, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much," acknowledges some of his teen issues.

The singer showed up to's interview in bright blue felt suspenders, or "braces" as they're called in his UK homeland; "suspenders" are the naughty things ladies wear to keep their stockings up.

"On CNN you've got a thing about suspenders, don't you?" he says, referring to Larry King's penchant for wearing them. (CNN International anchor Richard Quest is fond of suspenders as well.) "So I thought, why not join the ranks?"

Not that Mika, born Michael Holbrook Penniman, likes to do what everyone else is doing. His 2007 breakout album, "Life in Cartoon Motion," introduced him as an eccentric, wild-haired singer with a falsetto voice that might've seemed out of place on the modern pop scene. But he certainly commanded attention. Video Watch Mika hold the scene »

Fueled by peppy hits such as "Love Today" and "Grace Kelly," Mika's bejeweled star shot high, with more than 6 million albums sold worldwide and top fashion designers wanting to dress him (Christian Louboutin designs shoes for the 6-foot-4 singer).

Mika, 26, now has a follow-up album, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much," which addresses some of the awkwardness he experienced as a teen.

"I was terrified of talking to people," he says. "I was a bit of a loner. I'm angry with myself about that. I wish I had more guts when I was younger because then I would've said things to people's faces instead of just running away all the time."

No matter. Now he just turns his gripes into songs.

"If you put a message and a catchy melody together, suddenly they want to listen to what you're saying. That's the thing about pop music: it hoodwinks you into listening to it before you even know what it's talking about. I guess that's why I fell in love with it. It's funny because I think when you look at most of the people in the world who write pop music, they were never popular when they were younger."

Tracking Mika

Mika kicks off a 10-city North American tour in Toronto, Canada, on October 12. Check his Web site for dates, or just listen out for the "doom da da di da di doom da da di da di."

Like pop, like comics

Mika and his sister do all the illustrations for his album artwork and posters. Says Mika: "I'm a big illustration and comic book fan. In my eyes, comic books and illustration are the same kind of art forms. They're immediate. It has to hit you really fast. Pop music works from the same principles. In comic books, you always have black outlines. It's almost like the melody of a pop song is the black outlines you find in a comic book."

Mum kills the fun

Mika had booked a luxury home in Beverly Hills, California, as a base to record his new album. But two days before he was to move in, his mother put the kibosh on the plans and insisted her son work from the same dingy apartment he recorded his debut. "Mum said the more money you spend on your comfort, the worse your album will be. You make the choice." He relented. Was it worth it? "No! I still wish I stayed in the big fancy house. It would've been a lot more fun!"


How high can he go?

Mika: "Some people say I've got a five-octave range, which is ridiculous. That would mean I'd sing like Mariah Carey or that alien in 'The Fifth Element.' And I'm nothing like that blue alien. I've got a range of about 3 1/2 octaves."

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