Mike Posner is hoping the third time is the charm for his second album.
After recording and putting aside two entire sophomore albums, Pages and Sky High, Posner has shifted labels from RCA to Island and is working on yet another project, which he says is "almost done" and sports a different sound, something more singer-songwriter-oriented and melodically flavored than 2010's 31 Minutes To Takeoff, which he began to reveal during his 2014 Unplugged concerts and at performances during this year's South By Southwest.
"I was what they call 'shelved,' which meant if I didn't have a big song on the radio my album wasn't going to be released," Posner -- who's also been a go-to writer for Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, Nick Jonas, good pal Big Sean and more -- tells Billboard. "I don't feel bitter about that at all. I asked RCA to let me off the label and they very graciously did, and after that I sort of stumbled on this new material, this new style. I could probably put out Sky High and Pages, but that music is no longer current to me. It's no longer true to me. It's true to who I was then, but the music I'm writing now is true to who I am now, and I wanted to make a new, third album. And hopefully," he adds with a laugh, "this one comes out."
The songs Posner previewed during SXSW -- including "Buried in Detroit," "Took a Pill in Ibiza" and "Craving Me" -- are definitely more introspective and revealing, which Posner admits took him a minute to get his head around. "In my heart I knew the songs were among the best I'd written, but when they came out I was like, 'What the hell do I do with this?' " he recalls. "To be honest, I equivocated for, like, six months, when I was like, 'Maybe I'll do a side project with this stuff or whatever.' And then I realized I was just being scared, so I was like, 'If you're gonna do it just do it.' You have to adjust to the material, not the other way around."
Posner says he was also influenced by country singer Jake Owen, a friend who took Posner on the road with him for a few days last year and encouraged him to "tell the truth" in his songs. "I rode the bus with him, and at night he and his tour manager would take me to country school," Posner says. "I learned about Willie Nelson like that. I learned about Merle Haggard like that and I learned about Hank Williams, Jr. and Hank Williams, Sr. So, like, the way I was inspired by hip-hop when I first started and would sort of sing hip-hop, this new (music) is kind of my take on country music. It doesn't sound country and no one uses the word country to describe it, but it's me trying to do country and it comes out weird and different.
"It's just about being honest," he adds. "I listen to a lot of stuff that's out there, some of which I wrote, and I'm like, 'Where is that? Where's the honesty?' So that's what I want to get to in my music now."
Posner, who's been taking some vocal classes online via the Berklee College of Music, says he's chosen a title for the album but isn't revealing it yet, and no release date has been set. He wrote most of the songs himself save for a pair with a friend named Adam Friedman.
He's also been working with Swedish producer Martin Terefe. As for those other two albums, Posner says that, "I really want them to come out, to be heard in some way, so I'm trying to figure out the answer to that. Stay tuned."
While he's finishing the new album Posner -- who's been working with Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine -- is represented by "Sugar," a track on Maroon's latest album V, which he originally wrote for his Pages album. "Adam (Levine) wanted the song," Posner says. "He called and asked for it months before and I said no. But when Pages wasn't going to come out and I sort of had the seedlings of this new record, I thought, 'Well, this is just gonna sit on my laptop' so I gave it to them and when they recorded the song Adam added his flavor to it and he wrote on it as well, lyrically and some melodic things, and he really sang it well. I'm a big fan, so I'm glad they did it."
Really loved the new direction he's going in (folk/introspective songwriter route), and "Iris" sounds like it could be an Avett Brothers song. I guess after making his second album for the third time, he realized he didn't want to chase the radio trends ("Looks Like Sex" "The Way It Used to Be" "Top of the World" "Sugar") with his music anymore.
Minutes ago, Mike Posner wrapped up an intimate performance of brand new music on YouTube Livestream. While Mike performed in a low lit room for just a handful of people, the set was streamed for many fans watching at home. Sitting at his piano, Posner premiered new tracks which contrast greatly from his previous mixtapes and debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff. Posner kicked off his new folk-influenced and slower-tempoed sound with ‘Buried in Detroit’, an emotional track about our eventual mortality and his hometown of Detroit, MI.
“Next to my father and my father’s father too, I had a spot in New York City, but baby that ain’t no substitute. Not from my hometown, that place people avoid. I made love in every city, but I’ll be buried in Detroit.”
Next, Posner sang another piano ballad, ‘Iris’, before he picked up his guitar and told a story behind his final song for the evening, ‘Took a Pill in Ibiza’. “Almost a year ago, I was in the studio with a buddy of mine. His name is (Country music’s) Jake Owen.” said Posner. Mike then told fans about their competitive songwriting, where each would try to bring the better new song to the table. After Owen asked Posner about the inspiration behind one track, Mike explained that the song was inspired by one girl he used to mess around, with mixed with another girl he used to mess around with, and with some of the song simply made up. Owen then asked “Why don’t you just tell the truth?” These words inspired ‘Took a Pill in Ibiza’ are ones that Posner will never forget. This advice from Owen is likely a big inspiration behind Posner’s new sound.
In ‘Took a Pill in Ibiza’, Mike Posner describes himself as a singer everyone forgot and who blew his chance. But if the studio versions of Mike’s new tracks sound as good as the live performances, Mike just may prove himself wrong in 2015. Just days ago Mike saw his first #1 Billboard hit with Maroon 5’s ‘Sugar’ (written by Posner), and perhaps we may see another one in the future, but performed by Posner himself.
Watch the performances of Mike Posner’s brand new songs below.
May 2, 2015 Why I Stopped Wearing Makeup (With Pictures)
One of the advantages of me writing my emails personally is me occasionally doing things wrong. I sent this email to you earlier without the pictures. Apologies. This should work. Let me know if I screw anything else up. Love ya .
Where I am: my house, Los Angeles, CA What I’m listening to: Jose Gonzalez - Stay Alive (I saw him in concert last night at the Regent Theater in LA and he sounded remarkable)
On February 20, 2015, my record label and management team organized a photo shoot to obtain some new press photos to help promote my upcoming album. In the past I have loathed photo shoots. Their long hours have usually resulted in a 3-4 photographs I liked. I generally felt my time would be better spent in a studio or behind a piano. However, after listening to several Alan Watts lectures and Abraham Hicks rants, I decided to suspend my disdain for shoot days and go into this one with an open mind :-). Go me.
When I arrived at the photo studio, I found the dressing room was split into two halves. The first half consisted of a rack of clothes I had picked out the day before with my stylist. My stylist and his assistant were also in this section. That brings us to the mysterious second half of the dressing room, the part of the dressing room that no male entertainers like to talk about:
The Makeup Chair.
When my music first started to catch on in 2009, I was 21 years old and subsisted on a diet of cheeseburgers and Red Bull. These factors combined with my genetics resulted in a mild, but persistent case of acne on my face. Even before stepping into the spotlight, I was terribly insecure about my skin. If I had a pimple on the right side of my face, I would look slightly to the right of the people I was speaking with, avoiding their eyes in order to hide my pimple. My attention was split between listening to people and wondering whether they were looking at my acne.
Here’s a picture of me with some pimples that I was trying to cover up with my beard:
When I did step into the spotlight, my insecurity skyrocketed because so many more people were looking at me, and thus looking at my skin. So I did what most artists do: I utilized the s**t out of the makeup chair. It's customary for makeup artists to be backstage at TV shows, and record labels typically pay for makeup artists to be present at all major appearances, as well as photo shoots. I doubt most viewers realize that 99.9% of the males that they see on TV in any role (singer, rapper, actor, host, news anchor, etc.) have makeup on their faces. Covering up my acne gave me an artificial sense of confidence. I would ask the makeup artist not only to cover up my blemishes, but also to darken my beard and my hairline to make the barber's lines look sharper. (At this time I was sporting an ridiculous R&B line-cut beard;). I even began carrying my own makeup with me on the road. I can't tell you how many times before going on stage I would go into the bathroom on the tour bus, lock the door, and smudge some cover up over a pimple below my bottom lip. What was I doing? Why was I so ashamed of my face?
Here are some pictures of me with my face caked in makeup:
Clearly I did my own makeup this day, gotta really cool Clown thing going on haha:
Again, why was I so ashamed of my face?
The answer to this question has several layers. On one hand, most people in America, including myself, have a general aversion towards bad skin. The origin of this aversion is up for debate. It's possible we may not like bad skin for evolutionary reasons, as it may be an indicator of poor health. On the other hand, this aversion towards bad skin may be a result of marketing. The images we see on TV create an unrealistic standard of beauty. Certainly, none of my favorite rappers growing up ever had pimples in their music videos and neither did the female stars whom I fantasized about (not saying any names...cough cough Alicia Keys...oops....cough...cough...Natalie Portman….I want to marry your character in Garden State..oops again). It’s probably a combination of the two. In truth, I have no idea why we don’t like pimples and it's not really important that I do. What is important to me is my own happiness and attitude towards my body.
The point is, at age 21 I believed that my body, and more specifically my face, were not good enough. This belief manifested itself in all sorts of feelings of unworthiness as my popularity grew. I thought if people knew what I looked like under my mask, they would realize that I was a huge fraud. That's really how I felt. I frequently hear about the unattainable, photo-shopped image of fashion models that young girls feel they "should look like." I agree! I find the way women are portrayed in popular culture to largely be demeaning (keeping in mind that I have been part of the problem and in my music videos have cast women in objectified, hyper-sexual roles….see Bow Chicka Wow Wow). Simultaneously, I also think that men are presented with an unattainable image in the media. I remember in middle school doing countless numbers of sit ups and push-ups in my room with the hopes of having bigger arms and chest when I went to school. As much as I'd like to think otherwise, most of those 13-year-old insecurities are still alive and well in this 27-year-old's mind. Occasionally when I look in the mirror, I still feel unhappy with what I see. What's especially troubling about this, not to toot my own horn, but SOMETIMES I AM THE MAN ON TV THAT BOYS THINK THEY SHOULD LOOK LIKE AND GIRLS ARE FANTASIZING ABOUT. AND SOMETIMES I AM STILL INSECURE!!!! So where the hell does that leave us?
I walked into the photo studio that day in February and I told the makeup artist respectfully that I would not be needing her services today. One of my managers came into the dressing room and told me, "They (and I'm not sure who they were) are asking if you will wear just a little powder today in the shoot to take the shine off."
I said politely, “No, I don't think I'm going to wear make-up anymore... Like ever."
Manager: "Are you sure? They just want..."
I interrupted him and said, "You heard correctly. My face is my face. If there are any flaws on it, we should highlight them because they make me who I am. We should not cover them up.”
The room was mostly quiet. My manager said, "Okay." and my decision was made. This was a pivotal and scary moment for me. No one in the room told me I was doing the right thing. The only congratulations I got were from my own heart, reassuring me that this was the correct path. Sometimes, that's all you get.
While I hope my decision not to wear makeup will help some youngsters embrace who they really are, mainly it's more selfish than that. I am finding that the fewer things I hide from the public, the better my life becomes. I just feel happier. Hiding is hard work; it’s exhausting. While I’m okay with the filters and saturation levels of my photos being adjusted, I’ve also instructed the photographers not to Photoshop my face. What resulted was my favorite photo shoot of all time and a mountain of pictures I LOVE, as opposed to the usually 2-3 goods ones in a roll of 600. Here is one of my favorites:
Photo credit: Meredith Truax
I just love all the little imperfections in it. If you look closely, you can see some blemishes here and there, but their perfectly imperfect. I feel like I look like a real person. Sorry for the mini-rant on how good I look (haha),….but I’m proud of it.
Before you call me a hero and marvel at my courage, keep in mind that my face is much clearer now, so it was easier for me to take off the mask, though I still get occasional pimples. Nonetheless, I know that probably 100% of the people reading this have at some time felt insecure about their face or body. I just wanted to let you know that sometimes I do too.
Post by White Sexist on May 4, 2015 14:50:22 GMT -5
Honestly, my favorite part of that article was how he has the looks that simultaneously foster insecurity in others and inspire lust. I would say about 95% of my friends look better than him and none of my female friends have a remote interest in sleeping with him but...good for him for trying to help others.
Where I am: Seat 13F on Delta 1876 (LAX to Detroit)…we’re almost there What I’m Listening to: Damien Jurado - Ohio
Since the age of eight, most of my best friends have been black males. Making hip-hop music often landed me in Detroit ghettos because that’s where the other rappers lived. I was usually the only white person rapping in these cyphers. After graduated from high school I interned at a hip-hop radio station in Detroit where I was the only white intern. It was there I met Big Sean and became a part of his crew, Finally Famous, in which I am the only white member. Basically what I’m saying is, I’ve had extremely close friendships with many black males most of my life. From all of these friendships, this is what I’ve learned:
I have no idea what it’s like to be black in America.
One of my best friends is Jay John Henry. He lives in Detroit and he visits Los Angeles roughly once per year. Because he’s my friend for life and I love him, I always offer my guest room to him and let him drive one of my cars (yes, I have two cars…I’m ignorant, it’s your fault for buying my music so much . This way he doesn’t have to spend a fortune on Ubers. I live in a nice neighborhood in LA and I drive a nice car. Last year I remember joking around with him and saying, “Don’t get pulled over in that thing, the cops aren’t going to like a young black man driving that car.” This year when I handed the car key to him I realized that the joke was not funny. I said to him, “You could actually die if you got pulled over in this car, huh?” Last year’s humor had been replaced by this year’s dark realities of Ferguson and Baltimore. Jay John answered me as if he expected me to know better. He looked me directly in the eyes and answered in a dead pan tone,
He’d assumed that all my years of being around black people had taught me what it was like to be a black man in America. He assumed I had more empathy that I did. So if Mike Posner, the kid who tried his best to be black as a teenager, who spent weekends in high school free-styling in Detroit’s ghettos, who had been a star student of Mark Anthony Neal’s at Duke University, has no idea what it was like to be black, then what about the white kids in Iowa who have literally never met a black man? Most of the people at my shows are white. So I assume that most of the people reading this are white. Again, what I’m writing to tell you is what my years of being friends with black males has taught me:
We have no idea what it’s like to be black in America.
Another one of my best friends in the world is Ray Caesar. Ray and I went to college together and Duke University; he literally lived next door to me in the dormitory Junior year. When I was recording my first mixtape, he was my biggest supporter. He helped me pass out mixtapes and his facebook page basically became a full time advertisement for my music. He’s one of those friends that if you hadn’t spoken to in 15 years and you called him, he would be there for you. At Duke University, and now at dental school in Texas, Ray had the opposite experience that I did growing up. He was usually the only black person in his classes and at parties. He recently wrote a beautiful email to me and a few of our other friends from Duke. Several of our white friends expressed that they thought the riots in Baltimore were “stupid” and not accomplishing anything. “Burning their own neighborhoods isn’t going to solve anything,” they wrote. This was Ray’s response:
I cannot express to you what it feels like waking up everyday
knowing that because of what you look like, many (and I’d venture to say the majority) have been conditioned by society to distrust your every action. Take a second and truly think how damaging that is to someone’s psyche. Put that to one side, and then imagine that the single authority given the power, training, and weapons to enforce our nation’s laws has these same views on your race - not everyone, but most, considering racial profiling is a legal police tactic. Again, mull that over and put it to one side. Now, realize that there is a decades long laundry list full of mistreatment, excessive force, brutality, and murder by one race of policemen against one race of “suspects” for lack of a better world… preceded only by the government sanctioned systematic physical and psychological imprisonment of your race (slavery). I had a brief conversation with Perez this week where I made a poor attempt at explaining what it’s like to be black in America… and sadly, the world. Below is part of our conversation: “I’ll be honest with you bro, I’m terrified. At least before, people didn’t believe it was true and it was swept under the rug - in 2015 we’ve got evidence, videos, photos, witnesses… and there is still 0 accountability. I look EXACTLY like every single one of these victims. I was blessed to have grown up in a much different neighborhood, but cops don’t know my address, they don’t know where I went to school, or my career path. Every single black male in my fam has had situations with police. I could be any one of these stories. It’s a helpless and nauseating feeling… ”
The message I’d like to convey is “What the f**k else do you want them to do?” Witness corroboration has not put a policeman behind bars, complaining to HR at police headquarters is met with criticism and most cases are literally ignored since “cops take care of cops”. Wait your turn in court they said… peaceful protests only, violience isn’t the solution. Then a case comes out where there is PHOTO and VIDEO EVIDENCE of the murder of another black male by a white policeman, and absolutely nothing f**king happens. My question to you is: considering the lack of education, financial resources, and organization - WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT THEM TO DO?!
I had a very serious conversation with my mother where I told her I was considering dropping out of dental school to try to make a difference with race relations in this country. I don’t see the value of pursuing any career path when in my heart I feel that my talents could be used to advance our society’s dialogue about issues like these. Im being serious, I care that much about this s**t. With every new case, I feel more and more like I’ve made the incorrect decision in completing a degree that only helps myself and my family.
This is obviously an issue that needs to be discussed in person instead of over email, but my central point to you is that we, the black community, have exhausted every single other option to try to rectify this issue. I obviously don’t find any value in tearing your community apart, burning your neighbors cars, or smashing the windows of your favorite corner store, but f**k - violence has recently been the ONLY way to bring attention to these stories… without the riots, I guarantee a minuscule percentage of our population would ever know about Ferguson, or Baltimore, or ___, or ___, etc… Maybe in this twisted world of ours, violence is the only option that forces the world to pay attention. We have literally tried everything else. Don’t blame these kids for standing up for a cause, turn your attention to the system which has pushed them to this juncture.
I read an excerpt from a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on March 14, 1968, in Michigan where he said,
And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
I find it remarkable how well those worlds still apply to our society. The first sentence, “a riot is the language of the unheard” inspired the following song: Mike Posner - Voice of the Unheard.
Three weeks after delivering that speech, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. Thirty-seven years after that, I’m writing these words on Delta flight 1876 from Los Angeles to Detroit. It’s easy for me to pretend like everything’s cool in my home in Hollywood, but the truth is, it’s scary how little has changed. Maybe the first step is for me to stop pretending there is equality when there is not, and admit:
I have no idea what it’s like to be black in America.
Some of the questions I get asked a lot lately are:
Where the hell have you been? What the hell happened to you? When the hell is PAGES coming out? Why the hell are you so good looking? (<—Okay, you caught me, I added this one)
…..these are all sort of the same question. People want to know why it’s been so long since I released new music. This is a totally fair question to have. My last album was released in 2010 and it is now 2015. If my math serves me correctly, that’s 5 years since I’ve released an official project. I remember when I was a kid and Lauryn Hill released The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I loved it so much. I waited 3 years, then 5 years, then 7 years for a follow up which never came. It drove me crazy because I loved her so much! I understand your frustration and at times I’m sure I’ve felt more frustrated than you. So the question remains: Why does this happen!? Well, let me tell you the absolute truth about what my experience has been in the music industry in the last five years of my life.
Success can be the enemy of growth. As much as I like to pretend it's not, the music business is just that: a business. In 2009 I signed a recording agreement with J Records, a subsidiary of Sony music. (J Records was later absorbed by RCA records, another subsidiary of Sony). Because you're on my email list, I assume most of you know that I released my debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff, in August 2010. The sales of this album were largely driven by the success of my first single, Cooler Than Me. After this album, I released a free mix-tape entitled The Layover in November 2011 while I completed my sophomore album,Sky High. Sky High featured a predominately urban sound and included collaborations with J Cole, Big Sean and Pharrell Williams. Unfortunately, without another big radio song, it was unlikely that enough people were going to buy Sky High for RCA to justify spending the necessary money involved in releasing an album. (Records label generally pay for radio promotion, marketing, as well as music videos.) I released the single Looks Like Sex, but it failed to live up to the success of Cooler Than Me and thus the record label (understandably) had no plans to invest further funds into my project. In the music industry, we referred to the situation as being "shelved." It means that my album was completed, but it was not going to be released. Let me make very clear that I love all the people at RCA and they are not the villains of the story. They were simply doing their jobs to the best of their ability and if I were in their position, I would have done the same thing. I'm grateful for the opportunities that they brought to me in our time together.
Undeterred, I continued to write and record music. At first I was just trying to improve Sky High, trying to add better songs to it. Before I knew it, I had recorded an entirely new album: PAGES. Despite my career being at somewhat of a standstill, I was beginning to feel truly happy for the first time in my life. PAGES reflected this period of my life and is undoubtedly an album to be played in the summertime. When I listen to the songs now, I can tell they were written in good weather and they just feel...happy. In an attempt to get my project "off the shelf," I tried again for another radio hit. I wanted my music to be heard, not just to sit on my lap top! I released the song “The Way It Used to Be." Again, the single failed to replicate the success of Cooler Than Me and I found myself even further back up on the record label shelf. In a last ditch effort, I self-funded the release and music video for the song Top of the World, featuring Big Sean. Again, I struggled to generate the necessary traction to garner release of PAGES. I now had two albums on my laptop, and no idea how to get them to you. ........Sad face, indeed.
In 2014 I asked if RCA records they would consider letting me leave the label so I could record music with a different partner and take back some control of my career. They graciously agreed.
Success can be enemy of growth. Failing to replicate my early success gave me the time to improve as a writer, a musician, and a man. Failing made me remember why I make music: to share my gifts with others and to connect. Failing made me realize that fame and money are just side-effects of people liking my music, not a separate goal to pursued. Failing gave me time to play the piano...alone...for long periods of time. Failing allowed me to write what Avicii says are the "best songs Mike has ever written." (<-- name drop...sorry).
That's right, since PAGES, I've written a third album that you haven't heard. I won’t tell you the title yet . I've spent the last year recording it. This album is 95% done. I'm currently mixing the record while adding some last minute production to two songs. I have partnered with a new record label, Island Records, and they have been nothing but a dream to work with. I know you have heard me say the words, "album coming soon," many times, so I will not say them again. What I will do is attach a song from this upcoming album here. This song is not available for anyone else. It's a private link for you guys on this list. It's a gift. It's a thank you. You will find this song is among the most honest I've released. I've been writing about the things I'd been scared to write about for years. This motif is consistent throughout the new album.
This brings us to the present day. I am happy. I am in LA. I just got off the phone with Big Sean who gave me some girl advice (<-- another name drop...sorry). I am late to a Damien Rice concert at the Greek Theatre. I hope this has brought some light to my situation, but also to some of the difficulties that many artists face today. I very much appreciate you supporting my music. All artists need patrons. That’s what you are.
Last Edit: May 26, 2015 8:55:03 GMT -5 by newpower99
Post by White Sexist on May 26, 2015 9:25:48 GMT -5
Alright. After sifting through these tl;drs, I have come to the conclusion that he has a slight (but very detectable) air of narcissism that is making it harder and harder for me to root for him. In the end though, it won't matter. He is going to release more music that the general public won't buy outside of a hot single, if he can manage that.
The impossible irony of my latest hit song has become hard to ignore...at least for me .
How can a song all about struggling with the afterglow of fame, thrust someone into fame? How can a lyric like, “I’m just a singer who already blew his shot,” give a singer another shot? I don’t know …but it’s funny.
And that’s exactly what’s happening with my song, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”. To add to the irony, the talented Norwegian duo Seeb remixed and re-appropriated the song into an Ibiza-worthy club anthem. How can a song with depressing lyrics like “I took a pill in Ibiza to show Avicii I was cool, and when I finally got sober felt ten years older,” be the soundtrack to partygoer’s tequila shots and sparkler-draped champagne bottle delivery?
I don’t know …but it’s funny.
As the remix’s popularity increases, I read more messages online of people saying things like:
A typical listener (myself included), does not hear the lyrics of a song on the first listen. It’s only if they like the overall feeling of the song enough to warrant a second or third listen that they might start to pick up on lyrics. It was Dr. Luke who first explained this to me.
When I produced the original version of ‘Ibiza’, I was familiar with the human brain’s tendency to recognize rhythm and texture before lyric. Thus, I used as few of instruments possible without the music getting boring. I wanted the lyrics to directly be in your face. That’s why in the verses of the original there is only a guitar and my vocal…that’s it. I kept up my crusade for comprehensive lyrics in the mixing process. When Tony Maserati mixed my album I had him turn all of the lead vocals 2–3 decibels louder than he normally would. I wanted the lyrics on TOP of the music. I wanted to see if I could make people hear the lyrics on the first listen instead of the second or third. Did I do a good job?
Take a listen to the original and you be the judge:
In an effort to make the lyrics even more obvious, I did some remixing of my own. Jon Jon Augustavo and I flew to London to shoot this re-interpretation of Dylan’s Subterannean Homesick Blues Video, from the documentary, Dont Look Back. Why have I waited so long to release this video for the original when I’ve already shot a video for the remix? I’m not really sure. But I want you to see it now:
Let’s be honest, I’m not the first artist to be misunderstood. Bruce Springsteen’s social commentary on culture in the US, “Born in the USA,” was famously misappropriated as a patriotic anthem by Ronald Reagan, whose policies the song denounced.
And let’s also be clear that I am not complaining. I approved the release of the remix myself, and many people DO make it to the illusive second listen and hear the true meaning of the lyrics, or follow it back to the original.
I know that writing this blog is not going to affect the phenomenon of people misunderstanding “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”. But guess what? That’s okay. People are busy and have their own jobs, they are not obligated to dissect the lyrics of my music. They have other things to do. If they want to party and do all the things I say brought me sadness in my song, with my song as the soundtrack…so be it. Then maybe they can get some ironies going in their life as I have in mine. When did God or whatever divinity orchestrating my life and career become such a prankster?
Mike Posner came out swinging with “Cooler Than Me” in 2010. The infectious anthem climbed all the way to number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and his debut LP, 31 Minutes To Takeoff, produced two further top 30 hits. The Detroit native looked set for stardom, but experienced diminishing returns with subsequent singles and his sophomore albums (he recorded two) were never released. What sets this all-too-familiar tale of woe apart is the happy ending.
After parting ways with RCA, the 28-year-old found a new home with Island Records and promptly released introspective EP The Truth in 2015. It was spearheaded by a dark ditty called “I Took A Pill In Ibiza,” which seemed like an extremely unlikely candidate for a dance remix. Norwegian duo Seeb were up to the challenge, however, and their interpretation exploded in Scandinavia. It then took off organically in the US, becoming Mike’s second top 10 hit this week.
I recently caught up with the singer/songwriter to talk about his career rebirth. Mike opened up about his search for authenticity in music, the influence of country greats like Merle Haggard and Hank Williams on his songwriting and the direction of his long-awaited sophomore LP. He also spoke about co-writing Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” and Maroon 5’s “Sugar.” Find out more in our Q&A below.
How does your current success compare to 2010? The difference is, in 2010 it was my first try and it went really well and so I thought, that’s just automatically what happens. I think I was naive to the rarity of such rides. It’s really amazing that I got to do that in 2010 and it’s even more amazing that I get to do it again now. I think the knowledge and the experience of 2010 was required for me to say that prior sentence. It was required for me to be grateful and enjoy it more.
Did you ever think you might not bounce back? Yeah, everyday. For sure, it weighed on me like a ton of bricks. I had this fantasy. I felt like the game quit me. I wanted to quit the game, I wanted to be successful and leave on my own terms. Yeah, for sure. Like I said in a lot of my concerts, I go through ups and downs like anyone else. When your ups are really up, your downs can feel more down.
Were you feeling that way when you wrote “Ibiza”? Not particularly, it was the day after my birthday. I turned 26, hanging out with my friend Jake Owen and we had fun before that. We wrote a song called, “It’s My Birthday”. Just a total ridiculous parody of a tune.
When you’re writing well, you’re not skating on the ice rink of small talk. You’re in the ice water swimming around in the things that maybe you haven’t processed. That doesn’t mean an emotion you express in the song is indicative of your homeostasis mood. If I write a sad song it doesn’t mean I am a sad person. It means I have sad feelings and I was expressing those that day, that part of that day.
“Ibiza” is a shade of me. It’s not an inauthentic shade. I wrote it and I meant it and I still do. What I always say is, “I’m a rainbow,” and that song is a color… I just have to remind myself and other people I am a rainbow. The blue is not all of who I am.
Your sad song is now being played in clubs and at parties. It’s hilariously ironic. I know that I am not the first artist to deal with that. You look at Bruce Springsteen and “Born in the USA”. A pretty serious tune, a social commentary on America and the wars that we were wrapped up in and how they affected the young people in the country and probably, you know 90 percent of the people that hear it think it’s just a patriotic anthem. To the point where Ronald Reagan, whose politics, The Boss did not agree with, was using it as his campaign song. Bruce Springsteen said, “No. This song is about the opposite of that.”
It’s the same thing, but mostly I just think it’s cool. A lot of people are listening to it. If you want to listen to “Born in the USA” and not listen to the words and just rock out, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s no one’s responsibility to dissect my lyrics. Sometimes you just want to listen to music and not read it like a book and that’s totally fine.
What was your initial reaction to the remix? It’s cool. At the time, I was listening, almost exclusively, to Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard and Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. I think it’s really well done by the Seeb guys, really creative. It changes the tempo, and I’ve never heard a song on the radio where like the vocals are just like… unnatural. I think they have to had a lot of balls to do that. I never thought it would be like this big song, but it’s really cool that it is.
Were you amazed that the song took off so organically? Yeah, I learned a lot from that. You can’t plan everything. There’s that old saying — if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. It really wasn’t until I let go of the project a little bit, before I had this notion of myself becoming the 2016 Bob Dylan. I would only perform with my guitar, I never performed with any other instruments because I wanted everyone to hear every word.
I wouldn’t do interviews like this. I would only do it if they sent me the questions so I could write them in print. I was just holding on to the thing really tightly. I sort of just like let go, and I started making new music for another project that’s still a secret. When I started working on other things, everything else just started happening with this one. I think there’s power in letting go.
Did you really spend a million dollars on girls and shoes? The line is not exactly super clear. I said, “I’ve made a million dollars and I spend it on girls and shoes.” Present tense. I’ve got into it with people like, “Man you’ve spent all your money on girls” and I’m like, “No, I am present tense, still spending it.” I spent an embarrassing amount of money on girls and shoes. Not a million dollars but I made over a million dollars and spent an embarrassing amount of that on girls and shoes.
I read that you were inspired by country music. Can you elaborate? They just tell the truth in their songs. Do you know a song called “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard? He really was in jail and there’s a line in the song, “I turned 21 in prison.” It’s like lines like that, they hit you right in the f**king heart. I spent a lot of time writing songs in LA. As a songwriter, I wish I could tell you how many times one of the great writers in the room would say, “We can’t use that line because no one can relate to that.”
I just think that whole logic is wrong. It’s not what I liked about the music that I listened to growing up, which was hip-hop. In hip-hop music I can’t relate to any of it but I could tell, I could sense intuitively, that the artists that I liked, whether it be Outkast or Talib Kweli and Mos Def, I could sense intuitively that they were telling the truth about their lives and I connected to it on an emotional level.
Not, “Hey yeah, I spent time on that street corner too.” Who gives a f**k? You know what I mean? If a guy is expressing himself in a real way and you know that emotion that he felt. You relate to that emotion, you don’t relate to the event. No one listening to my song took a pill in Ibiza to show Avicii they were cool, only I did that. Maybe there is one other guy that did that, I don’t know.
You also penned hits for Justin Bieber and Maroon 5. Did you record “Sugar” first? Yeah, a version of it. My friend Ammo, he really brought the bulk of that song. When I went to his house he had the track started and the melodies and I thought it was amazing. [Jacob Kasher] and I, we wrote the lyrics to it. I really struggled with the lyrics on that song for a while because I was trying to write it in the tongue-and-cheeky way that I wrote “Cooler Than Me,” that I wrote “I Took A Pill in Ibiza,” where there are lines that are simultaneously funny and sad.
It didn’t seem to work on that track. Finally I said, “What would Marvin Gaye say?” I just wrote the song like that, the lyrics like that. Then [Adam Levine] worked on it and he puts his own spin on it and [Justin Bieber] too. They get in there and they changed the words and make it more Maroon 5 and more Justin. That’s really important, those guys wrote that song too. They both respected me. On both those tunes, they were writers as well.
Why wasn’t your version of “Sugar” released? It’s an obvious hit. I guess it was so obvious to them. After a song is a hit, it’s easy to say it was an obvious hit. I think I was coming off like a couple of singles that were not hits. We thought that were obvious hits before, like the songs “The Way It Used To Be,” “Looks Like Sex” and “Top Of The World.” None of them reacted like “Cooler Than Me.” I am proud of all those songs, but they weren’t big hits.
If you’re asking me what RCA was thinking I’m sure it was, “Hey man, we spent a ton of money on this guy, we can either keep spending money on him and maybe make some back, but probably not.” It would be a safer bet to just do nothing and we can spend money on bigger artists that are more of a sure thing, or people that have more momentum going which they had many. That was probably the right decision.
Honestly, I would have done it too if I was running that business. So I asked if I could leave the label and they graciously allowed me to go eventually and now I have a really awesome label. Not to say RCA isn’t awesome, but I am just in a different situation.
Will we ever hear the songs from your shelved albums? I am working on that now. I think we’re close to getting the rights to it. The tricky thing for me now, honestly is, I mentioned the secret project I’m working on, so I have that coming and then I have my new album coming. Really, I just don’t know when to put it out. My fans are probably like, “Dude, you suck. Just give it to us now.” I just have a lot of new stuff coming out that’s more current to me, so I’d like to really focus on that. Then maybe, present this old music in a cool way. I’m not sure exactly how I want to do it.
Are songs on your first album that haven’t aged so well? I’m pretty proud of most of the stuff I’ve put out. I’ve made three mixtapes and one album that has come out. The stuff that made it on the album, I pretty much like it. There’s a few tracks on some of the earlier mixtapes. There’s probably 60 to 80 songs total. There’s probably two or three that are clunkers. I could have written them better.
“Cooler Than Me,” I wouldn’t write that now, because I am different now as a human, but I think the writing is good and it’s clever and I like the internal rhyme schemes. I think I’m better now, but I always will think that. At any point, in the present I would have been song writing for the longest period of time of my life, whereas before I would have had a little bit less knowledge.
Does the new album sound more like the original version of “Ibiza”? The album sounds like the original. There are ten songs like that and a couple bonuses. At the end, as treats, there are several remixes from people all over the world. So SeeB did one, this guy called Jordan XL did one. I never met any of these guys.
You still haven’t met SeeB? Oh that is a lie, I have met SeeB. The other guys, I haven’t met any of them. I’ve talked to some of them on the phone. Really I didn’t give them much direction, they just took my songs and made new things up, which I think is really cool. You hear the song one way, then you hear the song a different way. The original album is my dark singer/songwriter, organic album. It was fun for me to make an album with all live instruments, we had an orchestra on one song. I had a blast.
When is the album due? I think we are talking about May for the album. I do not have a hard date. I’ve heard people on my team mention the month of May.
Is it finished? Yes. We just got a feature. That is a secret. I had to see if we could put it on the album. I turned it in Monday.
Congratulations! Thanks, man.
What advice do you have for other artists on the comeback trail? I would say to any artist, your job is to make the art that you personally want to exist. That’s it. That is very, very simple. It’s not to make art that your friend would like or your manager would like, or the radio would like. It’s just for you. If you’re doing art that you think someone else will like, you’re doing their job. That’s what they’re supposed to make. I think when you boil it down to that simple level, a lot of the B products that we worry about like prestige and notoriety and money. They all seem to just take care of themselves.
I’ve learned that first hand. I have tried to make music that everyone is going to like and it sucks. It is my worst music that I just hide on my laptop. And then when I’m just writing things that I think are cool like, “Ibiza.” That was cool. [Justin Bieber’s] “Boyfriend” was like that. When we wrote “Boyfriend”, it’s like everything on the radio was four on the floor. I am not trying to say we’re like visionaries or anything like, but we’re doing what we thought was cool. We never thought it would be on the radio, never thought in a million years. That tenet has really worked through me.
And let’s also be clear that I am not complaining. I approved the release of the remix myself, and many people DO make it to the illusive second listen and hear the true meaning of the lyrics, or follow it back to the original.
But if he has to preface it like that, he is pointing out that he has some sort of an issue with people not really understanding the song for its lyrics and actual meaning. There are plenty of uptempo songs and even remixed songs which have sad and dark lyrics where that comes across. Look at Everything But The Girl's "Missing". It was a hit in its remixed version by Todd Terry and it's about how a person can't find their lover and they have to accept this new reality. And then there was "Give Me Tonight" and "Let The Music Play" which both dealt with sad topics. Club remixes of many ballads which had lyrics that were sad or sentimental were also quite popular. "Someone Like You" and "You Lost Me" did well in remixed form as did "Things Just Ain't The Same" and "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven" (the club remix of that one actually played up the emotional aspect of it by arranging the song with a minor production).
ITAPII's lyrics do have sadness in them and that is still there with the SeeB remix. The remix video really hits that point home showing the dark side of partying too much.
10.735 inches long. 5.75 inches wide. Uncut. Curves slightly to the left. Tip is F37B3D3 pink, shaft is a mocha brown. 3 distinct veins with the longest ranging from the base to the tip on the middle right side. Excretion is creamy, tastes like espresso with Kahlua and he's fully waxed and smooth.
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