Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison on the inhuman cheer of Mika’s “Love Today”
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In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: As frontman and primary songwriter for Scottish mope-rock group Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison has made a career out of being kind of a grump. It should come as no surprise, then, that he isn’t that into poppy British electro jams about how everyone in the world just wants to love and be loved. As his band’s new record, Pedestrian Verse, hits stores, The A.V. Club talked to Hutchison about why he hates Mika’s “Love Today” and why he can’t just smile a little more.
The hated: Mika’s “Love Today”
Scott Hutchinson: There are a lot of things I really dislike about this song. The first is, I really don’t like the overwhelming, unabashed optimism within it. It seems to be not tinged at all with anything remotely humble or even slightly human. It doesn’t seem human to me to be that way. The whole song is kind of plastic in a lot of ways. The positivity doesn’t sit well with me. I like optimistic songs, but there’s got to be some kind of level there. The quite frankly childish way Mika presents his thoughts is off.
The A.V. Club: It’s pretty much the polar opposite of a Frightened Rabbit song.
SH: [Laughs.] Yeah, it doesn’t really do it for me. It’s not that I dislike positive songs. I just don’t like the way it’s being presented in this form. It’s almost like what I would imagine a Japanese advert for candy would sound like, and I can’t understand why someone would want to take that concept and turn it into something that lasts two and a half minutes too long.
AVC: The record this single comes from, Life In Cartoon Motion, sold close to 6 million copies.
SH: That makes it even more annoying, doesn’t it? That unfortunately there’s a reasonable section of society that thinks that’s okay. I mean, that’s even more disappointing. There are just some really horrible melodies in this song, too. It’s one of those songs I can’t even bring myself to sing the bits I don’t like. There’s the horrible melody it starts off with, the dum-da-da-di-da thing, and it completely creases up my insides in a horrible way. And yeah, his voice in general is kind of obnoxious.
AVC: Do you think it’s the falsetto, or the attitude?
SH: I don’t mind falsetto. Prince does pop falsetto in a way that is just hugely classy and wonderful. And you hear some of the same elements here, but there’s something about Mika’s falsetto that, again, is really childish and really horrible. I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me this song had been sung by a 10-year-old. And conceived by a 10-year-old as well. The whole idea of it is sort of “Aaahh!” He does make my skin crawl a little bit, yeah.
AVC: The whole concept behind the song—that all anyone wants is to love and be loved—is kind of a childish notion as well. Maybe it’s true, but it’s certainly not a deep, adult topic to sing about.
SH: It completely ignores the fact that not everybody is going to love or be loved, as well. It seems to wash over the potential for disaster every day. I would like that to be acknowledged at least once in the song, if he was ever going to have a balance on it. But he seems to completely ignore that. But yeah, just the production going through that—again, it’s the production that would be on a Japanese advert. And that’s fine for Japanese adverts, but not for something that’s going to get fed to someone on the radio in that way.
AVC: Some people think Mika draws a lot from Freddie Mercury. Do you like Queen?
SH: I like Queen. I can’t give Queen shit in an interview, because then my mom would piss over me. She’s a huge Queen fan. She’d listen to Freddie Mercury on Christmas Day. If anyone does mention that in relation to Mika, that’s yet another reason to hate that guy. I’ve never met him personally, I’m sure he’s nice. I actually have met a couple of people who’ve worked with Mika a bit and say he’s very pleasant. So there’s nothing personal against him.
AVC: There are probably people who don’t like your music who would like you as a person.
SH: There’s lots of them. There’s actually thousands of people that don’t like my music. In fact, it would be great to flip it on its head and play some of my stuff for Mika and see what he had to say about that. But the Queen thing, I do not get at all.
AVC: One review of the song says, “Frankly, it’s refreshing to hear an unproven artist take risks with material that, historically, is subject to derision.” Do you think this song is risky?
SH: Well, perhaps one interpretation of that is he’s being quite ridiculous. I think he’s quite knowingly ridiculous, as well, with that being the risk. And ridiculous, unfortunately, not in a funny or tongue-in-cheek way. It almost feels like music for attention deficit disorder. Made by somebody who has that. As if he’s just clawing at the walls of a room and recording a song within it. I don’t really understand where the risk is, but he’s definitely slightly ridiculous and maybe somebody misinterpreted that as being daring. But to me, it’s slightly silly.
AVC: Sometimes risk is assigned when there’s really no risk there. Like “Oh, Lady Gaga is being so risky with her message that people should love each other.” That’s not a risky message. That’s exceptionally simple, and not at all controversial.
SH: Yeah, it’s not really weird, and it’s not any kind of anything I can grab onto. No sentiment that maybe even applies to my life, and I guess a song needs to do that for me. There’s nothing I hear in there that has anything to do with the way I am as a person.
AVC: But people think you’re just a grumpy guy who sings about breakups, so why would you like this song?
SH: I’ve absolutely been pigeonholed in a lot of ways over the course of the past five years as a miserable guy. I’m just realistic, I think. And the one thing that gets me about that song is its lack of realism. It’s escapist, and maybe that’s fine for some people. Maybe it was 6 million children that bought that record. In that case, fine, because you’re still forming your opinions. And actually, most days when you’re a kid are fucking fun. But I think as an adult, that’s not a sentiment I can get behind.