Mike Posner — I Took A Pill In Ibiza
There will always be a special place in my heart for Mike Posner. He was part of the first wave of artists to blow up entirely off internet presence. Back in 2008, “Cooler Than Me” surfaced out of Posner’s Duke dorm room, and would eventually peak at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The internet at the time was like the wild west for independent artists, and Posner’s music and marketability was without bounds.
Like most overnight success stories, it eventually had to end. Posner’s debut album 31 Minutes To Takeoff was a commercial flop in 2010, and garnered critical reception that was lukewarm at best. Unlike many artists from that first internet wave, Posner’s cooling off didn’t have anything to do with selling out. 31 Minutes To Takeoff felt like a logical continuation of his career. Unfortunately, delays due to music business politics killed off a lot of the hype. Combine that with the fact that Posner’s niche sound wasn’t very sustainable, and suddenly listeners weren’t buying in to the music in 2010 like they were in 2008.
When his skyrocketing career hit turbulence, Posner was fighting depression and faced with a personal crossroads.
“At 22, I had seven figures in my bank account, a closet full of Air Jordans, and women seemed to really like me,” said Posner in a recent interview with Infinite Legroom. “But at some point I realized that no matter what level of fame I attained or how much money I accrued, I still had all of the same flaws that I had before.”
Despite having announced his sophomore album, Sky High, Posner decided to take a step back from his solo music and instead work on music for other artists. He wrote Big Sean’s “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” in 2011, and wrote and produced Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” in 2012. Eventually Sky High was scrapped, and fans had no idea what to expect from him as a solo artist.
Oddly enough, the first hint towards Posner’s future came in the form of a Tim McGraw cover. In February 2013, he released his remix/cover of Tim McGraw’s single, “Highway Don’t Care”. These kinds of takes on other artist’s songs were familiar for Posner, but the decision to tackle a country song was something new.
Fast forward to 2015, and Posner announces an album while releasing “Took A Pill In Ibiza”. Gone are the hard-hitting, self-produced pop instrumentals. The track opens with an acoustic guitar and a drug confession.
“I took a pill in Ibiza
To show Avicii I was cool
And when I finally got sober, felt 10 years older
But f–k it, it was something to do”
The song is a narrative of his career with a cautionary tone. What starts off with “I’m a real big baller cause I made a million dollars”, eventually leads to “You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone.”
The crucial moment of the track comes in the second verse:
“I’m just a singer who already blew his shot
I get along with old timers
Cause my name’s a reminder of a pop song people forgot”
Blistering honesty and self-awarness aside, the delivery is crucial here. Listen closely and you can actually hear Posner briefly slip into a southern accent. It feels like a Frank Underwood-esque look-directly-into-the-camera-to-show-the-audience-you-know-what’s-up moment.
This is basically a country song, and he’s telling us he knows.
Plenty of musicians in 2015 are writing pop music masquerading as country music, but nobody is doing it the other way around. In the Infinite Legroom interview, Posner admitted he’s influenced by country music. Maybe it has something to do with his stint as an opener on country star Jake Owen’s tour last year.
To be honest, I don’t even care why it happened, but I’m happy it did. Posner is back and seemingly more focused than ever. This style doesn’t seem like a one-off either. Earlier this month he performed live for YouTube, sitting at a piano with a piece of paper taped to the side, “I’M HAVING A TOUGH DAY TODAY” scrawled across it. The two new songs he sang echoed this change in direction.
Only time will tell where this takes Posner. The commercial potential of the “Cooler Than Me” days will probably never return, but he can still capture that critical acclaim.
“It was more difficult to only show the public what I thought were the pretty parts of myself and hide the rest,” said Posner. “You can never really be at ease when you’re living that way. You always have to have a little bit of a guard up. It’s exhausting. It’s much easier this way.”
And it sounds a lot better, too.