From Southfield to Ibiza, Mike Posner gets another shot
Six years and two failed follow-ups after his debut, the singer-songwriter readies his second album, ‘At Night, Alone’
Mike Posner “blew his shot,” wrote a song about it, and as a result is getting a second shot.
Things work out that way sometimes. But Posner’s second act comes as the result of some twists and turns no one could see coming.
A year ago, the Southfield-bred singer and songwriter, five years removed from his club-ready hit single “Cooler Than Me,” released an EP of sparse acoustic recordings titled “The Truth.” One of its songs, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” described Posner’s swift rise and eventual shift away from the spotlight: “I get long with old timers ’cuz my name’s a reminder of a pop song people forgot,” he sang on the naked, confessional track.
Neither the song or the EP made much of an impact upon release. A few months later, a Norwegian duo named SeeB remixed “Ibiza,” speeding up Posner’s vocals and putting a danceable beat behind it, indicative of the Ibiza club culture the song jeered. The song slowly started spreading around the globe, hitting No. 1 in seven countries and the Top 10 in more than a dozen others.
Stateside success followed at the top of 2016. Posner made a video for the song, which in two months has racked up more than 150 million views, while the track earned more than 300 million spins on Spotify. Now, on this week’s Billboard Hot 100, “Ibiza” reaches a new peak of No. 5, which tops the No. 6 peak of “Cooler Than Me.”
The lesson here? You can’t hold on to things too tightly, Posner says.
“I saw it happening, but not in this way,” says Posner, on the phone last month from his home in Los Angeles. “I did believe in the songs, I thought that they warranted a large listenership. But it’s very serendipitous, possibly ironic in many ways, very humorous and also beautiful. I wrote this sad thing, and it was me processing some dark and heavy emotion, and now people seem to be having their own joyous memories out of my sadness. That’s a very beautiful thing as an artist.”
As a result of “Ibiza’s” success, Posner is readying his second album, “At Night, Alone.” It will be released Friday, nearly six years and several pop music lifetimes after the August 2010 release of his debut album “31 Minutes to Takeoff.” (By means of comparison, since Posner’s last album was released, Kanye West has released four albums, married Kim Kardashian, had two children and announced a 2020 presidential election bid.)
“At Night, Alone” follows in the acoustic-based, plainspoken style of “The Truth” — Posner describes it as his “White Album” — and opens with a message from Posner saying it is best listened to the way the title describes. As a nod to the success of the “Ibiza” remix — or perhaps a label compromise — it closes with a half-dozen tracks reworked with dance beats behind them.
“At Night, Alone” comes after two would-be follow-up albums — “Sky High” and “Pages” — were scrapped by Posner’s label, RCA Records. Those blows hurt, but Posner kept plugging away, penning hit singles for Justin Bieber (“Boyfriend”) and Maroon 5 (“Sugar”) before signing a new deal with Island Records, which released “The Truth” and gave him a new lease on life as a solo artist.
Posner, who signed his first record deal while he was still a student at Duke University, always believed he’d release a second album. But in order to truly appreciate it, a reality check was in order.
“I think there was a lot of Mike growth that needed to to take place that is allowing me to enjoy this a lot more than had it all just been one continuous flow,” says the 28-year-old, who in the last year has gone from wearing his hair in scraggly curls to sporting a closely cropped Slim Shady-like cut. “The first time, ‘Cooler Than Me’ was my first single and it got really big, and I thought, ‘that’s just what happens.’ As much as I’d like to deny it, there was definitely an element of me taking that for granted. And this long dark spot in between has showed me how precious something like this happening actually is.”
That’s not to say he thinks he got lucky.
“I always believed deep down if I did really good work, people would eventually listen,” he says. “I think that’s still how music works. When you do something really good, someone hears it, and they tell 10 people, because it’s that good. So I decided to focus on doing the work.”
This summer, that work includes an opening spot on the Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato tour. As far as second shots go, his is looking pretty good.
‘At Night, Alone’
In stores Friday