When this column started, I quite freely admitted to my enjoyment of chart music. I went so far as to write a feature in defence of pop. And yet, as the weeks have gone on, the charts have begun to disappoint me. It started with Bieber overstaying his welcome; then there was was Shawn Mendes’ dismally boring Stitches, along with Jonas Blue’s appalling cover of Fast Car, and finally the long reign of the dull and unoriginal 7 Years. Alas, it seems that the general population knows as little about good music as my 16-year-old hipster-self suspected.
This week is another pretty disappointing effort from self-confessed has-been, Mike Posner. Remember 2010’s Cooler Than Me, that mediocre song written by a guy with an apparent inferiority complex? Now he is back, six years older, and is still complaining about his life. This time he explains how miserable his wealth and fame as made him, especially since no one remembers him. Let’s all feel sorry for Mike who gets lots of girls and money because of his Top 10 hit.
The song begins “I took a pill in Ibiza to show Avicii that I was cool.” Passing over the fact that he pronounces Ibiza incorrectly, this is a dumb thing to do. You might ask then, is this an anti-peer pressure song? Is it a song advising us not to idolise celebrities and party culture? If yes, then it’s not very successful.
While whinging about how difficult it is to be a successful musician, Posner continuously reminds us of the benefits of his lifestyle: he drives sports cars, sleeps with lots of women, and meets adoring fans in the streets. He is trying to be ironic about these things but the effect is not as poignant as Mike might wish; it’s actually just annoying. It’s the same reason that Nickleback’s 2005 hit Rockstar rang so false. You can’t write a song about how bad the system is when you are complicit with that system. And it’s a system Posner has benefitted from abundantly.
Although he hasn’t personally had a hit for six years, Posner has been writing and producing consistently. Did you sing along with Maroon 5’s Sugar last summer? He wrote that. Did you secretly enjoy Justin Bieber’s cringey 2012 tune Boyfriend? (I did). You have Mike to thank for that. Were you overjoyed by Nick Jonas’ 2014 comeback? Posner had a finger in that pie too.
It’s clear that Posner is no has-been. It is therefore suspiciously ironic is that this is the song that has brought Posner’s solo work back to the forefront of mainstream music. In fact, it is this that makes me think this song is actually a big joke: Posner writes a sad song from the perspective of a has-been, knowing full well he isn’t one. He’s probably even friends with Avicii, having (I discovered) co-written songs for the Swedish DJ’s last record. The pair probably laughed over how much money Mike would make by releasing a song about hating the music business. And of course the song is catchy and hook-laden and has already spawned a successful and even more ironic techno remix.
Seeing the song in this light, I actually think it’s quite funny. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make I Took A Pill In Ibiza a good song – but at least Mike seems to have a sense of humour.