Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.
Mike Posner’s “I Took A Pill In Ibiza (SeeB Remix)”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #4 in May 2016
“There was something clever about [Mike] Posner’s withering takedown of drug-taking EDM bro culture. But the much more popular SeeB remix sapped it of its wit, turning it into the exact thing it was satirizing. What a comedown.” So wrote TIME’s staff in its worst of 2016 list. But “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” sucked in acoustic form too. “Withering” describes the folk singer’s voice — it withers like arugula in the Mojave.
In the original, Posner wrote about a simp dropping a molly in the Mediterranean’s best known pleasure dome. “All I know are sad songs,” he insists, and the melodies he wrings from his guitar suggest that all he knows are moribund ones too. The white man out of his depths is a familiar trope in Western culture. The pose adopted by Paul Simon in Graceland is among the more popular of the last thirty years: meeting girls at a cinematographer’s party, going to Graceland as an observer of poor boys and pilgrims much weirder than the narrator. Deluded and square, the loser in “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” acts like Chevy Chase in the “You Can Call Me Al” video: a “real big baller” with expensive shoes and a sports car. On paper and, hell, in the studio, this might work. Randy Newman, Tom Petty, and Warren Zevon have this type down cold, man. Indeed, Posner sounds like Paul Simon, even mimicking the way Simon descends a key or two to get him past a knotty polysyllabic verse. But so what? The original remains a non-entity, a dandelion cloud of pique. Keep in mind, too, that Posner already scored a top ten in 2010 with “Cooler Than Me,” a passive-aggressive horror as authoritarian as Franco about pushing its dorkiness on the listener.
I suppose I can defend the SeeB remix as a reflexive tactic: the high-pitched squeaks and light trop house motifs, thanks to which my nieces will say in 2028 “lol it’s so dated,” represent the 2016 equivalent of bottom feeder disco like David Naughton’s “Makin’ It” and KISS’ “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”, therefore the arrangement is a reflection of the narrator’s lameness. I’m reminded of the friend who when I question Birdman‘s structural adherence to a certain kind of masculine artistry will say, “But that’s the intention!” Rotten ideas, these people argue, need an airing, like a carpet on which fraternity brothers have vomited several Icehouses. If so, then the joke isn’t worth the pain.
Pity me. In South Florida, the “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” remix dominated top 40 radio in late spring and summer 2016 as surely as Justin Bieber, and it embarrassed me: slap a generic beat du jour and presto, Chris Martin can hang with Calvin Harris. Sodden and humorless, “I Took A Pill In Ibiza (SeeB Remix)” will become a touchstone of this low and dishonest decade.