In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: In honor of the Oscars, songs named after celebrities.
Mika, “Grace Kelly” (2007)
As far as I can tell, there’s a long history of artists being told by their record company to be a certain way, which leads to them refusing, writing a song about it, and it charting. Pink accomplished this with the popular 2001 single “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” blatantly calling out record executive L.A. Reid—“L.A. told me, ‘You’ll be a pop star / All you have to change is everything you are.’” Sara Bareilles also comes to mind with her 2007 hit single “Love Song,” a tongue-in-cheek response to her record label demanding “radio friendly” songs. “I’m not gonna write you to stay / If your heart is nowhere in it / I don’t want it for a minute,” Bareilles sings in protest.
In the same vein, Mika’s 2007 hit “Grace Kelly” rallied against the corporate machine and became one of the U.K.-based artist’s most popular songs. After his label executives tried to model his look and sound on Craig David, another popular U.K. artist, Mika felt frustrated at the thought of adopting different identities to please others: “I try to be like Grace Kelly / But all her looks were too sad / So I try a little Freddie / I’ve gone identity mad!” Grace Kelly, the movie star and Princess Of Monaco, is an interesting choice for Mika (who would go on to be compared to Freddie Mercury because of similar vocals) to sing about, and one that isn’t entirely explained. The bit of dialogue used in the song is from the film The Country Girl, which garnered two Oscars, including Best Actress for Kelly. But other than her name serving as a clever wink at pop culture, the song harkens more toward Freddie Mercury, Elton John, and Brian May, with its impressive vocals and stellar piano and guitar work.