I was first introduced to Mike Posner when I was in middle school. I would whip out my iPod Touch on the ride to school and throw on his hit song, “Please Don’t Go,” on repeat.
He fell off my radar for quite awhile, until 2016 when every pop radio station seemed to be playing “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” The music was so stylistically different from what I remembered; I was shocked it was the same artist. Since then, I have followed his career and listened as his actual style as an artist has emerged and challenged the very pop music industry that his career stemmed from.
It wasn’t just the music I was following, either. When I first saw him, he was a clean cut guy reminiscent of early 2000s pop-stars: blazers and sunglasses, a short and concise haircut. Nothing that strayed too far outside of the norm. The next time he caught my eye he had pulled off a complete 180. He was adorned with a shaved green head, black nail polish, fishnet tights and expensive jewelry that broke what conventions were expected of him as a heteronormative pop artist. This was during a time when he formed a group called “Mansionz” with popular hip-hop artist Blackbear. Together, they released one album, whose album cover shows the two of them shirtless, with neon green hair while Blackbear’s arms draped around Mike, along with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Posner is looking head-on at the camera, as if waiting for the questions this photo would garner.
Throughout this brutally honest yet playful album, Posner openly questioned his belief in religion, his sexuality, his personal relationships, the integrity of his own character and all else around him. For the first time, we were seeing a very different, more vulnerable side of Posner that starkly contrasted his previous clean- cut pop artist image.
Flash forward to January of 2019, Posner posted a video announcing he will be taking the next year to walk across the United States. When many would expect an artist who had just released an album to be gearing up for a tour, Posner once again proved that he is different from your average pop artist; instead, he is gearing up for a transcontinental walk. His plan is to start on the East Coast in New Jersey, and end his walk on the West Coast of California. Posner has also reached out to his fan base to invite people to join him on his walk, under the condition that there will be no drug or alcohol consumption. Along the way, he claimed he would be updating the public so they can continuously follow his walk. Posner defends his decision which surely has some scratching their heads and raising eyebrows with a straightforward answer: simply because he wants to.
Along with his walk ahead of him, Posner also released a video via Instagram, where he explained that his music is no longer going to be referring to women as ‘hoes,’ ‘bitches,’ ‘sluts,’ or other derogatory terms. I found this especially interesting given his project “Mansionz” with rapper, Blackbear, who is no stranger to using words like these in his music. As an artist whose career ventured into the world of rap and R&B, genres whose common vernacular uses words like the ones Posner has sworn to stop using, in my mind he’s once again pioneering his own path through the music industry.
In January of 2019, Posner released one of his most unique projects yet: “A Real Good Kid.” The album starts with an intro track of him speaking, and asks listeners an unusual request: “Hello. You are about to listen to ‘A Real Good Kid.’ / The album is forty minutes long, and is meant to be listened to in one sitting... straight through. / It is meant to be listened to without texting, without emailing, without outside distraction of any sort. / At this time if you are unable to devote forty minutes of undivided attention, I politely ask that you turn this off, and return at a later time.”
I have to admit, as I was listening to him ask this of me, I was scrolling through Instagram, and hadn’t intended on sitting down and listening to his album start to finish. But at the same time, I was intrigued by his vision for a project to be consumed so differently from what we are used to and how we normally listen to music. In a world where distractions are at our fingertips, it’s definitely a challenge to be completely cognizant of thing for a full 40 minutes. But upon listening, “A Real Good Kid” was filled with absolutely stunning songs that morph from one into the next. When given full attention, you can hear how the techno background overlays a strong acoustic and vocal base. The album is littered with influences of his past multi-genre endeavors.
From the outside looking in, the drastic changes in Mike Posner’s music and look would reflect an artist who hasn’t found himself yet and seeks reinvention as a method of conforming with outside pressures. But in his own way, I think the changes he’s made reflect his confidence as an artist. He doesn’t sacrifice the authenticity of his craft for an older fanbase who might be alienated by his new look and sound; instead welcoming fans to accept him and join him on his journey, or return at a later time.