Just a few years ago, Michigan’s Mike Posner was riding high in charts all over the world, topping, amongst others, the UK top 40 with the incendiary ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza‘. It was a great moment, a million miles away from the many putrid, bland records polluting the airwaves on a painfully consistent basis. It seemed as though we had a huge star in the making. But then it all went eerily quiet.
A Real Good Kid is Posner’s third full length album, and focuses upon the sad death of his father in January 2017 (on the 11th, to be precise, so the opening track informs us). This, perhaps, tells the story of the 30 year old’s comparative absence from the public eye in recent times, as the album title would suggest he’s been spending that time looking after his dad. And by God does he bare his soul for all to see here – anyone who’s ever lost a parent will find this record powerful and cathartic to the extreme. All of the confusion, anger and sheer numbness felt in such a situation are compounded intrinsically, and for me, having suffered the deaths of both my dad as a child, and my stepfather in 2005, it’s all too real, BUT, crucially, I can totally relate to how necessary this outpouring of emotion is.
Not that it is in any way a depressing listen. Far from it, in fact, as the bright and breezy pop singalong of ‘Move On‘, or ‘Stuck In The Middle‘ will testify, the latter lying, as it does, somewhere between Bombay Bicycle Club‘s ‘Ivy & Gold‘ and Avicii‘s ‘Wake Me Up‘. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to interpret such a song as a kind of tribute to the late Swedish superstar, who tragically took his own life in April last year. But elsewhere, there are moments I fear for Mike, and hope that the reflections are rhetorical rather than resigned. Take ‘How It’s Supposed To Be‘ for example, winsome sounding in its ‘Hey There Delilah‘ style melody, but in which Posner muses “I think I’ll die young, with all my broken dreams / I’ve got it figured out, this is the golden key / the day my daddy died, I was down the street / I lost my only friend. People don’t grow on trees.”
Elsewhere, Posner’s vocals often recall Villagers, circa Awayland, or even Beck on the verses to ‘Song About You‘, but the centrepiece of A Real Good Kid is undoubtedly ‘Drip‘. Here we encounter a spoken segment of the highest intensity, that pent up frustration being well and truly unleashed with lyrics like “The truth is, by the time you hear this song, I don’t fucking know if he’s gonna be alive or not“, “I mean, am I the only one here who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on?” and “I worked the last ten years, I’m a multi-millionaire, I’m thirty years old, it’s supposed to all be good. It is NOT FUCKING ALL GOOD!” – this last line is delivered with the same end-of-my-tether extremity as Eminem‘s Stan, shortly before driving his car off the bridge. It’s a sobering, but stirring, moment, yet there’s still room, just a few tracks later, for ‘Perfect‘, a gospel tinged number that begins with some beautiful classical piano similar to that of Ludovico Einaudi but becomes an early morning exorcism of unwanted demons, along the way sounding a bit like Supertramp. In case you hadn’t already figured it out, Mike Posner will NOT be pigeonholed!
I only hope that, in making this excellent record, he has found his mind purified in the knowledge that he has honoured his father, who features on it, in recorded soundbites here and there, in a way that I’m sure his old man would have been glowing with gratitude.
A Real Good Kid is released on 18th January through Island Records.