Album Review: Mike Posner's At Night, Alone.
I think it's safe to say that just about everybody and their brother has heard Posner's "I Took a Pill in Ibiza" on the radio at some point in the last few months. Everybody and their brother may not be aware, however, that that little tune is a remix — the SeeB remix, to be exact — and that the original version of the song is a much slower, much sadder rendition. I found this version of the song some time ago, and I fully appreciated its melancholy tone. It wasn't until just last week that I stumbled upon Posner's album At Night, Alone. (released May 6, 2016) in its entirety — and I must say it's a thing of beauty.
The sense I'm getting, though I could be wrong, is that Posner is only recognizable as the guy who put out that quirky song "Cooler Than Me" in 2009. Posner seems to think this himself, as is evidenced by the line "I get along with old-timers 'cuz my name's a reminder of a pop song people forgot," from "I Took a Pill in Ibiza". But damn son, you had "Please Don't Go" (from 2010's 31 Minutes to Takeoff), those two sweet singles "Looks Like Sex" (2011) and "The Way It Used To Be" (2013), and now you have this acoustic pop zenith of an album that I'm about to go through track by track, from absolutely-my-jam to hmm-that-wasn't-amazing-but-I-kind-of-like-it. And, as everyone knows, once I've reviewed your album, you know you've made it.
Obviously kidding, but before we begin, a side note: At Night, Alone. (friggin' love that title) has 18 tracks, six of which are remixes and two of which are ten seconds or less in length. Remixes will be paired with their originals, with the version I like better listed first; the two short tracks will be omitted, though I do appreciate them ("At Night, Alone." simply tells you that "this album is best listened to at night and alone" and "Thank You" literally only says "Thanks for listening" (to which I say, thanks for making music I can't get enough of, Mike)).
Without further ado:
1. Be As You Are and Be As You Are (JordanXL Remix) - Track 4 (3:53) & Track 15 (3:23)
A song that begins with a reference to a famous writer (Virginia Woolf) is already going to be in my good graces from the get-go, but then "Be As You Are" takes it a step further by simultaneously being a lyrical revelation and an ode to mothers everywhere. Reminds me of Mac Miller's "I'll Be There" due to the content, but this one kills it with the message to a greater degree. Also, the video for the remix is like a short film and you ought to check it out.
"Entropy wouldn't leave you to me."
2. In the Arms of a Stranger and In the Arms of a Stranger (Brian Kierulf Remix) - Track 5 (3:47) & Track 16 (3:27)
A rhythmic "bum, bum, bum, bum" starts this one off, eventually igniting Posner's softer, higher singing voice into a catchy chorus that begs to be sung along with (though we all know you won't sound as good as he does). "In the Arms of a Stranger" again dazzles with great lyrics, being semi-upbeat while delivering a semi-sad storyline.
3. Iris - Track 7 (3:31)
Besides sharing its name with a great Goo Goo Dolls hit, "Iris" is At Night, Alone.'s king of melancholy. It incites feelings of longing, loneliness, self-pity, and a love lost. Posner sings about wishing he measured up to a girl's standards, evident from the opening lines: "If I could be just one thing, I would be what you're craving." Love, love, love the poetic chorus — and this song, more than any of the others, is truly best listened to at night and alone.
4. Buried in Detroit (Lucas Löwe Remix) (ft. Big Sean) and Buried in Detroit - Track 18 (3:23) & Track 11 (4:08)
Even though I've never lived in Detroit — nor spent much time there outside of sporting events and concerts — as a Michigander, I still feel a strong connection to the Motor City. For that reason, "Buried in Detroit" tugs at the heart strings. In this case, I heard the remix first and became attached to that version; the original, while synonymous with all things sentimental, feels too slow to me.
"I still hear these echoes of when you loved me."
5. Not That Simple and Not That Simple (Kyle Tree Remix) - Track 3 (3:54) & Track 14 (3:27)
Another track about lost love and a man's inability to let go. You gotta love it. I almost feel like "Not That Simple" is a song for all those people who got broken up with and were told they "just had to move on," as if it's that easy. Favorite part of this one is when he lets you believe the song has ended (right at the three-minute mark) and then he drops the amped-up chorus for one more go.
6. I Took a Pill in Ibiza and I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix) - Track 2 (4:40) & Track 13 (3:17)
Yep, everybody knows the remix, but the original version is the one I prefer, the sad song that claims "you don't want to be stuck up on that stage singing...all I know are sad songs, sad songs," in the tone of voice that truly expresses sorrow. Plus, the original includes a verse that was nixed in the remix — probably because it doesn't fit with the theme of the latter song, which is less sad and more "holy crap, I'm on drugs" (see: the music video).
7. One Hell of a Song - Track 10 (3:16)
Well, if "One Hell of a Song" isn't a humble-brag, I don't know what is. In a charming, endearing, and still somewhat self-pitying way, Posner tells you how great he is at songwriting. In the song, he references three artists he's written songs for: Snoop Dogg ("French Inhale" (which Posner is featured on)), Justin Bieber ("Boyfriend"), and Big Sean ("Don't Tell Me You Love Me"), also citing that Jay Z once offered him a deal. It's a witty little number with shades of his earlier stuff that any fan can appreciate.
"I don't know where to put my sorrys."
8. Silence (Sluggo x Roote Remix) (ft. Labrinth) and Silence (ft. Labrinth) - Track 17 (3:09) & Track 6 (4:18)
These two versions of "Silence" are virtually tied in my head; I think the winner would alternate with the mood I'm in. Both are a little Daft Punk-ish, which is definitely okay in my book (100% agree with the selection of 2013's Random Access Memories as album of the year, by the way; it was so much more than "Get Lucky"). This song is good, don't get me wrong, it just doesn't stick out as much as the tracks listed above.
9. Jade - Track 9 (3:41)
"Jade" is a little different, to say the least. It's apparently the tale of a tough-as-nails broad named Jade who takes no prisoners — or something like that. Maybe it's a metaphor and I'm being short-sighted...check out those lyrics and see for yourself. I totally dig the short chorus though, which begins with "YEAH! I screamed out in fury!"
10. Only God Knows - Track 8 (2:45)
Mike goes a cappella on our asses with this one, folks. The verses are Posner singing solo, while the chorus is church choir-y, which is appropriate I suppose. This probably isn't a song I would listen to again and again, though it, along with "Jade", I'd say, adds a bit of diversity to the album.