2016 No. 1s: Mike Posner's Zen Approach to His Second Chance at the Top

Eric Wong [executive vp/GM, ­Island ­Records], Posner, and David Massey ­[president/CEO, Island Records] photographed on Oct. 13 at The Happiest Hour in New York.
Aaron Richter

Eric Wong [executive vp/GM, ­Island ­Records], Posner, and David Massey ­[president/CEO, Island Records] photographed on Oct. 13 at The Happiest Hour in New York.

”I Took A Pill In Ibiza” -- Mainstream Top 40 (1 week), Dance/Mix Show Airplay (3 weeks)

Mike Posner is well aware that second shots at pop stardom don’t come around often. After emerging with the top 10 smash “Cooler Than Me” and three other million-selling hits in 2010, the Detroit native experienced a humbling fall from grace that saw his next two albums shelved by RCA, his former label. While Posner penned hits for Maroon 5 (“Sugar”) and Justin Bieber (“Boyfriend”), his solo career plummeted -- until his confessional songs caught the ear of Island Records’ David Massey. In 2015, Posner released EP The Truth on Island, whose A&R team tapped Norwegian duo Seeb to remix the lead single, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” The pair’s tropical take on his barefaced ballad became Posner’s biggest hit to date, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and earning a Grammy nomination for song of the year. “It reminds me of my first A&R success with Oasis,” says Massey of the surprise hit. “I never thought ‘Wonderwall’ was going to be an early single. It was a work of genius, but it took on a life of its own.”

MASSEY (president/CEO, Island Records?):
I wanted to sign Mike badly in 2009, but we lost out to RCA. Then, two years ago, we were at a party, and at a certain point Mike spontaneously jumped on the piano and played “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” and “Buried in Detroit.” It was just extraordinary, undeniable, and I remember saying to them, “We have to find a way to work together.”

ERIC WONG (executive vp/GM, ­Island ­Records?):
Spotify spoke to us, and we started 2016 with all that amazing data. Having their key playlisters and influencers made the story.

My career as an artist was largely considered over in the music industry. No one really gave a shit. There’s an old Zen proverb that says: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. So I would say the biggest lesson from this is that temperament creates conditions. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you’re doing, how long it has been since you had sex... any of those things at any given moment can make me happy or sad. My happiness can exist anywhere.

Mike Posner reflects on the "artist purgatory" that preceded writing "I Took a Pill In Ibiza" after making two shelved albums.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17 issue of Billboard.

Billboard Year in Music 2016


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