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'Beginnings Always Hide Themselves In The End': Mike Posner On Grieving And Growth

"These songs, they just kind of pop up in my head and I feel like I have to write them down," Mike Posner says.
Meredith Truax
Courtesy of the artist
"These songs, they just kind of pop up in my head and I feel like I have to write them down," Mike Posner says.

Updated at 8:57 p.m. ET

To say that Mike Posner's career is unpredictable is an understatement. In 2010, his debut song, "Cooler Than Me," hit the charts worldwide, and to date has sold more than two million copies in the United States. But not long after the success of that hit, Posner's career stalled, so he decided to take that time to co-write with other artists like Justin Bieber, the producer Avicii and Maroon 5.

Then, in 2016, Posner once again saw success in his own solo career — a remix of his song " I Took A Pill In Ibiza" became an international hit and was nominated for a Grammy. Now, Posner is back with his third studio album called A Real Good Kid.

The album was written while Posner was dealing with the grief of a break-up. It also came together while the artist was dealing with the death of his father, who died from brain cancer, and the death of his friend, Avicii, who died by suicide.

"I had to go to the studio everyday and I was trying to just show up and record all the songs and do a good job and I was sad," Posner says. The song "Move On" helps encapsulate all these emotions.

"Maybe one of the best lines I've written — I don't know, but not a stinker line — is on this song. I said: 'Beginnings always hide themselves in ends.' Beginnings always hide themselves in the end, and I knew that, at the time, in the future I would look back on this moment, this break-up, this pain and be grateful for it and know that it helped me get to whatever was coming."

But even though he's learned to appreciate his father and friends more after their deaths, Posner says writing these songs wasn't necessarily something he felt he had to do to get over their passing.

"These songs, they just kind of pop up in my head and I feel like I have to write them down," Posner says. "I'm sort of nervous if I don't don't write them down or don't record them that whoever is putting them in my head will stop whispering those melodies to me. Maybe that's superstitious and silly."

Besides working through major life changes, Posner has taken time to reflect on his past work. In 2017, Posner and the hip-hop artist Blackbear, the other half of his electronic R&B duo, Mansionz, put out a self-titled debut album with lyrics that could easily be called misogynistic in terms of how women are described and portrayed.

In hindsight, that's also how Posner sees it.

"A lot of my solo stuff, too, is I think overtly misogynistic and regrettable," he says. "And a lot of my behavior [with women] when I look back, I could use the same adjectives to describe."

The artist says the #MeToo movement may have been what spurred his reflection, but, he says, it shouldn't have taken a public outcry for him to reach that awakening. "I should have known that my whole life," he says. "I didn't. I wish I did. And it doesn't make it any better. You know, I'm not asking for sympathy or anything."

On Saturday, Posner tweeted a video to announce that his music "from this point forward" will no longer include language that he now views as misogynistic. "You will not hear me refer to women as b******, h***, sluts — anything like that in my music," he says.

In the video, he also encouraged other artists to follow suit. "I hope that we as artists — male and female — let's retire these words in our songs," he says. "They're derogatory, and they're not cool and they don't forward the culture."

A Real Good Kid comes out Jan. 18 via Universal Island Records. Posner spoke with NPR's Sarah McCammon about the themes of the album and what he learned about himself while making it. Hear their conversation at the audio link above.

NPR's Emma Bowman contributed to this digital story.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.