A Billboard Top 10 song back in 2010, “Cooler Than Me” launched Mike Posner into the big time.
But after the excitement of having a monster international hit on his hands died down, Mike Posner’s follow-ups didn’t get anything like the same traction. He retreated from performing. Albums were started, but not completed. Tours were rumoured, but never happened. He wasn’t in a good place.
Lesser men would have retreated to a cave somewhere and never come out again. Who could blame them.
But Mike Posner, as all good songwriters do, drew deeply on his own experiences to come back with one of the biggest worldwide smash hits of the last couple of years.
A song so personal and heartfelt. Yet one which most people listen to for the nice tune and chilled vibe, never really hearing the lyrics that tell a tale of disappointment and emptiness so eloquently.
That record is “Ibiza”, which has rightly topped the charts around the world (and which I’ve written about previously here.)
But in the six-year gap between his two international best-sellers, the pop world changed.
Mike Posner’s fans back in 2010 grew up and moved on. “Cooler Than Me” was largely forgotten, which is a shame as it’s such a great song in its own right.
Mike Posner wrote “Cooler Than Me” whilst still at university. It was about a beautiful girl in his class that he took a fancy to.
Of course, she blanked him…which by the way isn’t necessarily a bad idea if you’re being pursued by an aspiring musician. It’s not what you’d call a steady job…if you make it, the rewards are huge, but the odds against making it are so stacked against you even a Las Vegas casino owner would think they were a little bit unfair on the punters.
Suitably rebuffed, Mike Posner turned his experience into a song — “Cooler Than Me”.
As a songwriter, of course, you get rejected all the time. Bands don’t like what you’ve written, record companies won’t work with you, the singer you’d written the song specially for turns it down. Every time that happens you have to pick yourself up and keep going somehow.
I can imagine that’s even worse when you’ve written something that hit the top of the charts around the world. You think you’re riding high, that you’ve cracked the code. But after a few attempts to repeat that success, nothing happens for you. Perhaps you didn’t crack the code after all…what have you missed…how can you make it happen all over again…?
Those thoughts go round and round in your mind, torturing you at every turn.
If you see yourself as a songwriter, not being able to repeat your success is a much bigger blow than just having someone turn you down when you ask for a date. The rejection of your creative work goes to the core of who you are as a writer. It hits hard.
Either way, there isn’t a songwriter in the world who can’t identify with the opening lines of “Cooler Than Me” …
If I could write you a song
And make you fall in love
I would already have you up under my arm
I used up all of my tricks
I hope that you like this
But you probably won’t
You think you’re cooler than me
So, let’s have a think about this…
First, I write you a song to make you fall in love with me…check!
I’ve used up all of my tricks…which, by the way, start and end with putting well-crafted words on paper in the hope that you’ll love me…check!
I hope you like what I’ve written, but you probably won’t…check!
In just a few words, Mike Posner captures just about every songwriter’s experience when they put everything on the line to write a song expressing how they feel about someone special.
When you’re still rejected after putting everything on the line, it’s not like a casual pick-up in a bar that you’ll forget about 20 minutes later.
This is something you put your heart and soul into. When you’ve done that, and still nobody wants to know…that’s tough for even the most steadfast ego to deal with.
Mike Posner does a great job capturing an experience that people can relate to in just a few words — which is the hardest part of the songwriter’s art. I’ve got a feeling his experience of being rejected wasn’t one he enjoyed, though…
You got designer shades
Just to hide your face
And you wear them around like you’re cooler than me
And you never say “hey”
Or remember my name
And it’s probably ’cause you think you’re cooler than me
I don’t know if the lady’s view of him changed after Mike Posner became a chart-topping megastar, although I’m prepared to bet that at least his record company started seeing him in a much more positive light when the realised they had a worldwide hit record on their hands.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Mike Posner. He has said in interviews that this song was about a particular individual but steadfastly refuses to say who it was.
Whatever was going through Mike Posner’s mind when he wrote “Cooler Than Me”, he came up with a great song.
Great groove, lyrics that don’t take themselves too seriously, but encapsulate very nicely how he must have felt at a particular point in his life…an experience lots of songwriters can relate to.
The video below is for the hit version of “Cooler Than Me”, but it does have a minute or so up front where the video director is trying to be artistic and set up the story. I’m not sure this is strictly necessary. And even if it helps tell the story, I’m pretty sure it could have been done in half the time without losing anything in the telling.
But hey…even video directors have feelings and for all I know he did that so someone he was interested in would see what a great director he was and fall in love with him. So, I don’t want to be too critical.
If I can’t criticise a lyric writer for writing a song in the hope someone falls in love with them, I shouldn’t be judging video directors too harshly for trying the same thing through the medium of a pop video, should I?
However, if you find the first minute of the hit video a little tiresome, there’s a great acoustic version (here) with just Mike Posner on vocals and a pretty cool guitarist to accompany him…proving once again that one of the definitions of a truly great song is that it lends itself to a range of different styles and presentations.
I really like the super-cool acoustic version, but the original hit version, even allowing for the slightly tiresome video intro, has a great groove that I guarantee will get you moving.
With the incredibly catchy song that launched his international career, here’s Mike Posner with “Cooler Than Me”…
The video is below or, if you prefer, you can enjoy the song on Spotify here…https://open.spotify.com/track/495O1Affo7AurEPQcvcr18
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.