Chiming In

  • Deborah Straszheim

A remix that made a sad song a dance track

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all tell the unedited truth, without having to step on it, squash it and mold it into a little ball to make it more palatable?

Perhaps no song in the Top 40 speaks more directly to this than Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” Posner wrote the song during a rough patch in his career, when he was depressed, out of the spotlight and fearful he wouldn’t have another hit.

He’d visited Ibiza, Spain, with Avicii, a Swedish record producer, and Posner got drunk and took a pill someone gave him. He felt terrible the next day. Later, he wrote the song - a slow, acoustic melody with three verses and sad lyrics about how he felt.

He released the song in 2015 as part of an EP, but it didn’t go far. Then sometime later, the Norwegian duo SeeB heard it and liked it. They sped it up, set it to an echoing beat and cut the third verse. And up the charts it went.

This is the version most people hear.

If it plays on the radio or in a club, you don’t really hear the lyrics right away. You’re listening to the beat. But the music video for the remix demonstrates what the song is about. It shows Posner taking a pill in a nightclub bathroom, seeing his reflection as this gigantic, smiling, frozen mask of himself and standing in the club while people dance around, oblivious.

At one point, he has sex with a woman in the bathroom, even though he’s clearly not in the building for it.

Posner said the dance version doesn’t bother him; he’s glad someone reimagined the song and people like it. It also brings listeners back to the original; a relative unknown just a few weeks ago. Now the original video has 10 million views, compared to the remix with 346 million.

I don’t recommend the original video if you want to listen to the difference between the two. It shows Posner holding up papers with parts of his lyrics, which distract from the music. Just close your eyes, hit play and listen.

The words are strong; and they sting. And in that respect, I find the remix version of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” disappointing. Not the song itself - I like both versions - but what the remix says about delivering a difficult message to an audience.

Why should the message have to be cut, sped up and set to a party track to gain a following, when it is clearly a relatable one?

Are we not strong enough to take the whiskey straight up? If so, that’s disheartening. Because the inability of people to listen to a song as honest as the one Posner first wrote is what causes isolation in the first place.

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