Pushing For “Popular”: Can MIKA Finally Hit It Big In The States?

A Wicked collaboration.

A Wicked collaboration.

Download “Popular Song” by MIKA and Ariana Grande on iTunes. / Watch the music video for “Popular Song”.

Singer MIKA hasn’t been on my musical radar for about three years now, last peaking at #11 on my personal chart with “Blame It On The Girls” in late 2009. After a few years of hits around the globe, his numbers were dwindling, and I found that his material became a little too inconsistent. So, imagine my surprise when the video for his newest single premieres and I instantly fall back in love with his music. Funny how one song can do that. Well, I can officially proclaim (at least for my own sake) that he’s back and in attack and hopefully coming to attack the charts here in the States with his fabulous new song, “Popular Song”, featuring Ariana Grande. It’s a hit in the making, but will the U.S. respond to it when they’ve largely ignored the singer in the past? Let’s take a look.

All three albums from the performer have charted in the U.S. and have done modestly well, with two cracking the top 40 on the Billboard 200, but a top-40 hit still eludes him over here. He’s best known for his debut single, “Grace Kelly”, from Life In Cartoon Motion. It was huge across Europe and Australia, but his label, Casablanca, only managed to secure some airplay in the U.S. at the Hot Adult Contemporary format and with only modest sales, the song mustered up a peak of #57 on the Hot 100 in 2007. A followup single, “Love Today”, which also managed a top ten peak in many countries, topped out at #92. Nothing from his sophomore album, 2009’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much, charted here nationally, though “We Are Golden” got a radio release to the Hot AC format. It also peaked at #5 on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart, his second biggest single there behind “Today”, which went to #2. The Origin Of Love came out last year without much buzz and era’s been struggling along since then. That is, until this week.

“Popular Song” originates from the Origin album, but in its original form, the female vocal is done by Priscilla Renea. You may remember her minor 2009 single “Dollhouse”, but she also co-wrote hit singles for Chris Brown and Selena Gomez & The Scene. For whatever reason, Renea’s been replaced by Ariana Grande, who has a hit of her own these days with “The Way”, which recently debuted at #10 on the Hot 100. This new mix of “Popular” has a few lyrical edits to clean things up from the album version. It’s available at digital retailers, which you can see (and purchase) above.

So, why is this the song that should make MIKA a household name here? Let’s start with the composition itself. In addition to his credits as a co-writer and co-producer of the song, original duet partner Renea, Mathieu Jomphe and Stephen Schwartz are listed as writers on the song, as well as Greg Wells on the production side. The Schwartz crediting is interesting because the song itself interpolates part of the melody of “Popular” from the 2003 musical Wicked. It’s a really clever inclusion and fits right in. Plus, I don’t think musical theater buffs would take offense to it. All in all, this is probably the most mainstream-sounding thing that the singer has released as a single. It’s a pure pop song: no experimental instruments and sounds, no outrageous vocals, just a really fun, uptempo song with a great message: “All that you have to do is be true to you/That’s all you ever need to know.” It deals with cliques, peer pressure and popularity, all relevant to the CHR format’s core audience of young listeners. With those recent campaigns to stop bullying, you would think this could also help. Regardless of whether the kids are on summer vacation or not, it’ll resonate with them, and only become more relevant when they go back.

It’s also clear that Ariana Grande is hot at the moment. “The Way” is obviously well on its way to becoming a Gold single and the airplay is still building for it. She’s all over Nickelodeon between her role on Victorious and her spinoff series, Sam & Cat, so she already has a huge advantage when it comes to familiarity. Why not try to bring her fan base behind it even more so than they are now? “Popular Song” already charted on the Hot 100 at #79 when the rereleased version hit iTunes back in December, so now that it’s getting repromoted via a music video and placement on iTunes in their New Singles of the Week section, it would be the perfect time to go to radio as Grande’s star rises quickly and MIKA‘s can shine brighter than before. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the music video looks like it came straight out of Tim Burton’s repertoire. It’s adorable and artistic at the same time.

We’ll see if Casablanca Records can handle this song properly with a full radio release. Though the label recently reemerged last year catering exclusively to a dance lineup, MIKA still remains there. They’ve had a hugely successful past, but it was decades ago under Neil Bogart’s watch. Can they regain their former glory with these two enthusiastic entertainers? I’m sure there will be many people cheering if all the parties involved can become “popular” in a big way.

What do you think of “Popular Song”? Let me know! Comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.


Filed under Charts/Trade Papers, Single Reviews

5 responses to “Pushing For “Popular”: Can MIKA Finally Hit It Big In The States?

  1. I much prefer the original version with Priscilla, it’s much grittier and I feel it makes the message hit home harder than this new version. And I must say I think there are much stronger songs on the new album that could be bigger hits, if given the chance. Stardust for one, and Love You When I’m Drunk for another. Though my personal favourite is Make Yopu Happy.

  2. blogabout3things

    Sad that Mika dropped off your radar after his second album because imo The Origin of Love is his best yet. There’re many potential dance hits on it like stardust, Overrated, Love you when I’m drunk and other amazing slower ones like the title track and Underwater. All of which have gotten zero to little airplay. So you’re right to question whether the label will be able to handle Popular song, especially since they’ve done such a great job with the album -_-. Hope you check out the new album and find some other songs to fall for!

  3. Marilyn M

    It’s just sad that Mika’s record company have failed him so badly, especially in the UK. He was HUGE in 2007-2008, but after the 2nd album came out, and only We Are Golden really got airplay in UK, he disappeared from the radar. I did think at the time that, apart from We Are Golden, the wrong songs were released fro the UK market. But even so, with promotion he could have still been okay. But the 3rd album wasn’t even advertised on UKTV, so what chance did he have?
    I pray that Popular Song will herald his comeback. If it does well in USA, then UK will have to take notice again.

  4. Diane

    I love Popular Song but there are defs better songs on Mika’s new album

  5. Pingback: Adam’s Top 100 of 2013: 60-41 | POP! Goes The Charts

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