Pop Culture Weekly with Kyle McMahon REVIEW: Mike Posner's Operation: Wake Up is inventive, smart and easily one of the best albums of the year.
I've written about and covered Mike Posner numerous times before. In fact, I got to spend a day off with him on his Walk Across America for some spiritual R&R, which only cemented my admiration for such an inspiring creative navigating his way through not just fame but through life itself. Through my coverage, I've made it clear that I believe he is one of the most underrated artists out today and I think it's criminal. Going (relatively) under the radar - as much as a multi-platinum artist with numerous hits can be under the radar - has allowed him to take risks that other artists may not have taken. It has allowed him to go to places other artists are too afraid to go. It is also precisely for this reason that we get ingeniously creative output like his latest album, Operation: Wake Up.
Operation: Wake Up is a concept album that, like much of Posner's other work, is hard to pin down to a certain genre. I've always lovingly joked that if Madonna, Eminem, Neil Young and Justin Timberlake had a baby (look it's 2021, I'm sure it's possible people), it would be Mike Posner. And while the club bangers are absent from Operation: Wake Up, the creative artistry is not.
The album opens with an audio disclaimer that it was written, recorded and produced in two weeks in his parent's basement and that it was created to be listened to all of the way through at one time. Crucially, Posner makes it clear that this album is fictional and that those struggling with mental health should not listen to Operation: Wake Up at this time. This is a vitally important disclaimer.
The concept of Operation: Wake Up is that Posner hesitantly returns to Los Angeles to write a song for Jessie J after a romantic breakup. From there, he meets up with frequent collaborator, best friend and equally underrated artist, Blackbear (Mansionz is LIFE, btw). Posner begrudgingly goes along with Bears idea to throw a party at Posner's rented mansion where he proceeds to see his ex and drop acid. I don't want to go into too much more detail on the story, as it really does deserve to be heard in its entirety as one whole artistic piece. You must take the journey of Operation: Wake Up yourself.
I will say that Operation: Wake Up is not just the most daring work yet from an artist who isn't afraid to take risks but it's one of the most daring works from a multi-platinum artist ever. It is a cohesive work that has a clear beginning, middle and end and deserves to be listened to the way it was intended to be listened to.
Regarding the sonic aspect of Operation: Wake Up that I referenced earlier, it is hard to put this album - or much of Posner's work - into a nice, simple cookie cutter box that can be shipped to one clear radio format. There are elements of Hip-Hop, R&B, EDM, Folk, Pop, Soul and everything in between. At the heart of Operation: Wake Up - also much like most of Posner's work - is the storytelling. Whether he is bearing his soul through fictional versions of himself and his life on a concept album or journaling his inner most thoughts through an infectiously catchy pop song, Posner always tells a story. Don't believe me? Even his biggest hit yet, I Took A Pill In Ibiza, ingeniously gives a subtle motivational message in a banger of a dance track through the story he tells.
The production on the album is both beautiful and haunting; consuming and expending; lush and sparse. Posner's production is always on point and often takes on a character of its own in his work. Operation: Wake Up is no different. And while the centerpiece of the album is clearly Weaponry which is performed with Jessie J, it would be a disservice to the cohesive piece for me to single out the track as a standout. The entire album consists of only standouts. Weaponry is definitely the most radio friendly track, but you should listen to it in the context of the entire album first.
Operation: Wake Up is Mike Posner's bravest work yet in a career full of brave output. What other artist do you know who follows up the biggest hit of their career with a poetry book and a spoken word album? What other artist can you name who follows up an album with a walking trek across America in place of a tour? Posner is a young artist who takes risks and every single time those risks reward those of us who consume them. Posner is not just a singer or a songwriter or a rapper or a producer. He is the literal definition of an artist - and Operation: Wake Up continues to prove that as true.
NOTE: I've named Mike Posner's Operation: Wake Up one of 2020's best albums. Check out Pop Culture Weekly's Best Music Albums of 2020!