The radio wants to play his songs and young people are happy to dance to it. However, the cycle of promotion and touring no longer had the same appeal to Mike Posner, the hitmaker behind “Cooler Than Me” and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”. Losing his father at the beginning of 2017 and his friend Avicii in April of 2018, the compounded losses brought about an inner search that resulted in the album A Real Good Kid. Rather than the traditional tour to drum up attention, Posner decided to walk across the country. For this nearly three-thousand-mile trek starting in Asbury, New Jersey, and ending in Venice Beach, California, Posner created the mixtape Keep Going to, well, keep him going.
Like his past few albums, Keep Going begins with an introduction humbly asking his audience to listen to the mixtape front to back with no distractions. Many of the tracks in Keep Going bleed into one another to build a cohesive experience. Interspersed throughout are voice mails from Diddy, Steven Tyler, Uncle Bun, E-40, and his mom that take the listener on the road with Posner as he contemplates the humbling journey in front of him. Few people have driven across the country, with even less completing it on foot. Accompanied by a van and a rotating shift of loyal assistants, Posner typically walked more than a marathon a day to complete his journey in six months. There was a several week delay after a rattlesnake bite in Colorado almost killed him and forced him to attend weeks of physical therapy in order to relearn how to walk, but even with this hurdle, he picked up at the spot he left off at to finish his personal odyssey. After the passing of his father, Posner is at the next stage of his adulthood and his audience is given the chance to listen in on his mind space as he transitions to his new role.
Most of his lyrics reflect on the expectations people have of the “old him,” the young partier on the lookout for the next cute face. It acknowledges his earlier faults and through reflection, grows. Rather than build a pop-party fantasy most people recognize him for, the sentimental pace makes each song more memorable for its verses than the beat backing the lyrics up. As he enters the next phase of his artistic career, he slows the delivery for an audience who has similar questions dogging them but do not know how to put them to words.
While there are a couple of songs that get the blood pumping like “Prince Akeem” featuring Wiz Khalifa, most of the journey is a heartfelt reflection. As his introduction suggests, Keep Going is best listened to in its entirety. Posner packs so many verses into each song that every listen through the mixtape reveals another layer of his personality. With every flaw he acknowledges, it draws the listener in through honesty and relatability.
This surprise early-October release gives a further look inside his mind as he reflects on his place as an artist in a rapidly evolving world. While he is largely popular for beats people can party to, in the song “Amen” he shines a light on his sister’s work as an openly gay environmental activist that is largely ignored by the popular news and almost everyone else. “A Lonely Night in Mexico Thinking About Big Sean and Avicii” is a ridiculously long title for a song, but it is also the best song on the album that the fifteen previous tracks all build towards. In an age of playlists and singles, Posner builds an experience that opens the door to his creative mind, simultaneously encouraging his listeners to push themselves out of sleepwalking through their own lives.