When we first met Mike Posner, he was a young kid, smoking weed and hooking up with girls to pass the time. The “Cooler Than Me” singer started out by making beats in his dorm at Duke— while keeping a high grade point average. Now he’s entering his thirties and focused on creating music that poses more questions than answers, with his previous solo album At Night, Alone incorporating songs that highlight his personal journey for more in life.
In his new album, A Real Good Kid, Mike Posner chronicles his experience with loss and his journey to finding a new outlook on life. In under two years, Posner experienced losses that often leave humans reevaluating their place in the world. While dealing with the end of a romantic relationship, he lost his father to brain cancer and his friend, Avicii, to suicide. It makes sense when your personal life carries into your work life and Posner did his best to process the experience. The first track on the album “Introduction” is a voice memo where Posner explains the circumstances for which he wishes people to listen to the record. 40 minutes. No shuffling. No distractions. If you can’t complete it under those circumstances, turn it off and come back later.
This is the second record that Posner has included a verbal explanation of how he wishes people to experience his work but it works better this time. The use of recorded speech is used throughout the record as snippets of actual conversations he had with his father are interwoven as interludes. This works if you’re following the listening rules that Posner has given at the beginning of the record as it gives context for what his thought process was for each song.
In these 40 minutes, Posner confronts the questions the death of what his life used to look like has left behind. The song “January 11th, 2017” gives the listener the story of the death of Posner’s father if they weren’t informed before hitting play.
Although everyone experiences loss, it’s not typical to lose multiple significant people in such quick succession. The debut single “Song About You” narrates the conscious effort to think about anything but the person you’re thinking about. The song captures the mundane quality of life even as traumatic things happen to us.
The album succeeds in not focusing on the heavier themes for too long, however, the latest single “Move On” is one of the few radio friendly tracks on the record. Lyrically, it’s about accepting that in order to move on from what is causing you pain, you have to actually feel the pain. The song highlights what Posner does best as a songwriter; capturing the simple actions that people do that reveal what they’re really thinking.
In the stream of consciousness style “Drip,” Posner captures the feeling of being lost during the transition from the young and new adulthood of our mid-twenties into the entrance of the supposedly solidified adulthood of our thirties. He breaks down the imaginary expectation that by the time we reach a certain age we’re supposed to feel a certain way about ourselves and the world around us. The song concludes with Mike telling his father “I feel like I’m always running away.”
Sonically, the album experiments with a blend of hip-hop melodies with an acoustic guitar tied in. Not original, but the genre blending exemplifies Posner’s growth as an artist. By no means genius, A Real Good Kid is a very human exploration of a human experience.
The primary strength of A Real Good Kid is Posner’s ability to transform his experience with loss from a superficial mention in a song to a deeper examination on the role it plays on a person’s mental health. He opens up the dialogue regarding crossing the bridge into adulthood in a way that’s accessible to people who haven’t even gotten to that stage of their life yet. Death isn’t always a topic that people are comfortable discussing but Posner reminds us of the growth that occurs when we accept our own mortality.