In the years following the release of his 2015 smash single "I Took a Pill in Ibiza," Detroit-area pop maestro Mike Posner made a foray into the world of poetry and spoken word while also forming the Mansionz duo with blackbear. In the process, he toned down the party-loving public image and learned some fresh production tricks. He also lost his father, his friend Avicii, and the woman he loved. As a result, his third full-length, A Real Good Kid, is his most mature offering to date, brimming with thrilling production, radio-friendly catchiness, and an overall mournful mood that is often overwhelmingly emotional and cathartic. His late father's spirit imbues Good Kid with substance, linking the effort to the real world with a handful of spoken recordings peppered throughout the album to devastating effect. From opener "January 11th, 2017" -- where a simple "I love you so much" from his father sets the tone -- to "Drip," these audio snippets create a confessional aura between father and son, but also between artist and audience. This is vulnerable blood-letting, especially on that latter track, a heavy journey through Frank Ocean/Bon Iver territory that explodes in an emotional outpouring that is as exciting as it is uncomfortable. Balancing his pain with reassurance and consolation, Posner occasionally lightens the mood with pop gems that prevent Good Kid from becoming too depressing. "Staring at the Fire" is his search for meaning in this world, an attempt at social awareness that falls somewhere between Bright Eyes and Jon Bellion. "Wide Open" ruminates on faith and life, rattling chests with deep electronic bass that resonates as deeply as the lyrics. Other highlights include "Song About You," an irresistible blend of droning beats and melodic guitar strumming that processes Posner's losses with bittersweet angst. On the other end of the spectrum, "Stuck in the Middle" is a pastoral worldbeat ditty that is as lovely and uplifting as contemporaneous offerings from Coldplay or Mumford and Sons. At the close of the album, Posner's father requests "One More Song." The implied finality is heartbreaking, as Posner tells his dad, "Alright man, [one more] and then I'm out," before closing track "How It's Supposed to Be" strums to life. Here, Posner finds his closure with a "c'est la vie" attitude that is bittersweet and hopeful, exploding to life in a manner similar to Twenty One Pilots. Then, listeners are hit with a final word from the late M. Jon Posner, recorded in 1988, months after the birth of his new son, Michael. Showing off his child to some friends, he tells them, "He is a real good kid." If that line lands as it should, listening to A Real Good Kid will result in a real good cry. This album is not only about losing what you love, it's also about learning to let go.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung