The Lefsetz Letter: Mike Posner At The Grammy Museum


I came to hear "I Took A Pill In Ibiza," but I got so much more! It was the most meaningful gig in memory, I couldn't play the radio on the way home, I was numb, I was basking in the experience.

I didn't expect this, when we spoke in the green room…he wasn't completely forthcoming, he was answering my questions but hesitantly, with a smile on his face, I thought this was somewhat contemptuous, but it turns out that's his speaking style, and when he was interviewed I was positively enraptured!

It was like those old Q&A's in "Rolling Stone," back when the musicians had something to say, Mike Posner has something to say, which is so strange, because so many of today's stars are just front people for middle-aged men, but Posner not only wrote his own hits, he's got a brain, he thought about it all, sitting there you'd be inspired to be a musician, techies build edifices for money, artists explore the mind.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

Mike's manager said Mike liked to work. He's opening for Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas and he had a free night and…

Mike said that he takes his band to gigs so they can learn. Springsteen taught him you don't need the trappings, the music can be enough, and Guns N' Roses taught him about energy, he used to walk on stage slowly and build from there, now he runs on stage adrenalized, on a tear. As for maintaining the energy, he's only got forty minutes!

So, he's been doing it since he was eight, he's twenty eight now. Had some hits and then the label wouldn't put out his second record and he sold the songs to others and suddenly he was a has-been. To be on the wrong end of stardom at such a young age, it hurts, because Posner does it for the approval, he's not proud of it, but it's true, and one negative review eclipses twenty good ones. Yes, he checks the socials. He does a poem in his show, he loves reading how it changes attendees' lives, but there's always one writer who says it ruined a good evening. Huh?

Podcasts give him inspiration. Especially two Tim Ferriss episodes. One featuring a woman whose name I don't remember, she said you can only be the best you, which means you have to pursue your own artistic vision, not someone else's, because only you can give this gift to the world. Made sense to me, inspired me.

And when he was down and out he went to Burning Man. He debated whether to bring his guitar, ultimately decided to, but didn't want to brag in a society based on pure identity. But one day he went off to play songs for people, it's his gift, what he's got to give. And people were stunned, they told him to keep at it, he had a chance, and this was already after multiple hits!

Mike laughed.

Then again, he's not recognizable.

How did he get so smart?

Turns out he graduated from Duke, stayed in school and finished his degree after getting a record deal, a great antidote to the tech wankers who say education is irrelevant. It might be, but finishing things is not, life is about character.

And the presentation started off with Mike at the piano playing "Buried In Detroit," from his 2016 album, "At Night, Alone." And he said the album format was irrelevant, a construct for a dead world. You can only surpass the limits if you throw off aged constrictions.

And then came the interview segment. And, once you got used to his rhythm, the way he hesitates before he speaks, you hang on every word. He talks about his parents, his teachers, stuff he's not proud of and stuff he is.

And then he strung on his guitar once again and with a keyboard player gave a full concert, kept adding numbers, because he was having such a good time. Two highlights were a song about Miley Cyrus and "Be As You Are."

The Miley Cyrus song is not on the new album. It's a war story, about going overseas and getting your legs blown off and…everyone's either humming "Party In The U.S.A." or singing it or it's playing in the background and by time the protagonist gets back to Atlanta he no longer wants to hear it and no longer wants to see anybody. It was like 1962 all over again, the hootenanny era. Mike encapsulated the horror of the war in a song, more people need to hear it.

"Be As You Are" is a winner. The key is the words of wisdom from his mother:

"There are moments when you fall to the ground But you are stronger than you feel you are now You don't always have to speak so loud, no Just be as you are Life is not always a comfortable ride Everybody's got scars that they hide And everybody plays the fool sometimes, yeah Just be as you are"

Mike grew up a hip-hop kid, but it's the sing-songy melody that puts this over the top.

And the assembled multitude was singing along. The younger generation, the two hundred or so who were there in attendance, they need this music to make sense of a world that's so confusing.

And I love listening to records, but seeing Mike Posner live is a transcendent experience, it's authentic, it's one human being connecting with another, that's the magic of live performance, something that cannot be replicated, can't be sold via VR, no, you have to be there.

And I was there, last night, at the edge of my seat.

And then Mike had us all stand, singing our parts and…

It started to dawn on me, he wasn't gonna play it. Time was sliding by, far beyond the allotted window, he was gonna be a jerk, leaving us hungry for what we came for, I finally understood the audience perspective, a hard core fan is interested in the album cuts, but the others paying the fee, they need to hear the hit.

And just when it seemed it was over, he did, play the hit, that is.

"I took a pill in Ibiza
To show Avicii I was cool"

Most haven't been to the Balearics, few know Avicii, almost no one has taken a pill in his presence, but Mike felt…the experience was universal, we can relate.


"But you don't wanna be high like me
Never really knowing why like me
You don't wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone"

Beware of achieving your dream, you think it'll make your life work, but it's a good chance it'll ruin it.

"I'm just a singer who already blew his shot I get along with old timers 'Cause my name's a reminder of a pop song people forgot"

A has-been. You don't think it'll happen to you, then your notable work is in the rearview mirror.

"I Took A Pill In Ibiza" resonates because of its truth, nothing conveys the human experience more than music, when it's done right, and Mike Posner was doing it right last night.

Brought tears to my eyes. What could be better than singing along to a song you know by heart, one that resonates, one that means so much to you.

It's what I live for, it makes life complete.

P.S. If you're out of the loop, and today so many are, after riding the top of the Spotify chart for so long, "I Took A Pill In Ibiza" is still number 48 on the Spotify chart, it was played 340,515 times yesterday, 583,372,214 times in its lifespan, never mind 515,179,767 views on YouTube. That's the Seeb remix, the EDM edition. The acoustic iteration has 17,006,905 streams on Spotify, "I Took A Pill In Ibiza" just might be the song of the year, shows how far honesty and serendipity will get you.

"I Took A Pill In Ibiza" – Seeb Remix: https://goo.gl/PKWHJ0

"I Took A Pill In Ibiza" – acoustic: https://goo.gl/rH3Ja3

"Be As You Are": https://goo.gl/xfHvgS