It’s one of Spotify’s top 10 most streamed songs EVER—and it has a hidden message.
It’s not often musicians get a second chance to succeed in the public eye, but Mike Posner is not like other musicians. After Norwegian trio SeeB crafted a tropical house remix of Posner’s single, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” Posner’s keen lyricism connected with audiences old and new.
How big was the “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” remix?
Since its release in early 2016, the track has acquired more than 1.5 billion global streams and more than 12 million adjusted singles worldwide. Its quirky video has amassed more than 700 million video views (and counting). It reached number one on the Billboard Top 40 and stayed there for two weeks straight.
Other members of the music industry, including Coldplay’s Chris Martin, stamped their seal of approval with covers of the track during concert tours. “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” was not only the number two most streamed song on Spotify in 2016—it’s also one of Spotify’s top 10 most streamed songs ever. So yeah, it was really big.
But Posner had no intention of amassing global breakout success. “Fame, notoriety, money … They’re not the goal in and of itself at all,” Posner says. “The goal is just to make the song sound like it does in my head.”
In a world filled with manufactured and inauthentic lyricism, Posner strived to make music with substance.
After the success of his debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff, and the release of his mixtape, The Layover, Posner took an extended break to write music for other artists and examine his own work. In 2015, Posner released The Truth, a new EP fueled by an artistically-radical dedication to truth in his songwriting. Posner’s sophomore album, At Night, Alone, dropped in spring of 2016. “Trust me. This album … the theme was unapologetic honesty. Unapologetic authenticity,” Posner says.
How did a country music star influence the lyrics?
In a world filled with manufactured and inauthentic lyricism, Posner strived to make music with substance. It is not an easy task. So much popular music is defined by unstable trends. Artists and producers work in tandem, calculating which songs will make a splash in the clubs or climb quickly up the charts. But what does it mean to stay true to one’s musicianship and artistry? Posner worked to answer that question.
“I had spent the last 10 years or so making candy bars in LA and there’s nothing wrong with making candy bars. I just was tired of them,” Posner says. “I was ready to make something a little more filling–to extend the metaphor–so as opposed to making another candy bar, I tried to serve a big piece of meat and say, ‘Bon appetit!’.”
Posner cites country music star Jake Owen as one of the song’s major influences. After Owen covered one of his songs in a set, the two briefly spent time making music together in Los Angeles.
“I had a friend named Jake Owen who really … showed me a lot of these country artists and a lot of these writers that were just telling the truth,” Posner said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “He said, ‘You know there’s some people out there they really just tell the truth and they don’t care. They put it all out and there’s nothing off limits.’”
Posner realized he needed to eliminate all boundaries in his songwriting. He wrote “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” the next day.
What’s the song really about?
Posner possesses a deft, rare skill as a lyricist. In “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” he couples a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of fame with a series of earworm-worthy hooks. The result is unlike anything else released in 2015 or 2016.
Like a wise sage for the live free, live fast millennial generation, Posner warns against succumbing to the allure of making decisions that ultimately leave one lonely and confused.
It’s no surprise audiences gradually connected to Posner’s track. Despite the song’s glamorous setting (the average listener has likely never been to Ibiza and knows Avicii through his music, not personally), Posner found universality in his experiences.
“But you don’t wanna be high like me / Never really knowing why like me / You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster / And be all alone,” Posner sings in the chorus. Like a wise sage for the live free, live fast millennial generation, Posner warns against succumbing to the allure of making decisions that ultimately leave one lonely and confused.
Everyone has struggled with the urge to please other people rather than stay true to ourselves. “That’s the difference between motivation and inspiration,” Posner adds. “Motivation comes from without. Inspiration comes from within.” Here, he suggests dedication to oneself offers more rewards in the end.
And ultimately, Posner doesn’t fear vulnerability. Most musicians are too afraid to reveal the motivations behind their actions. An artist should be skilled and confident, perhaps even boastful. But Posner roots around and examines the darkest, most uncomfortable truths about ourselves, even if he must sacrifice his “cool” in the process.
“Werner Herzog always says the poet must not avert his eyes,” Posner says. “That means that if you’re a real artist–if you’re a real poet–you look at the beautiful, the divine, and you celebrate that. But you’re [also] unafraid to look at the ghastly and the disgusting and celebrate that as well.”