The chart-topping musician and songwriter, Mike Posner, famous for the singles “Cooler Then Me” and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”, references Virginia Woolf in a new song, “Be As You Are” from his recently released album, At Night, Alone.
The song lyrics mention Woolf immediately:
Virginia Woolf and poetry
No one seemed to notice me
Being young was getting so old
Cheap beer and cigarettes
Life was like a movie set
And I seemed to be given no role
Posner composed annotations for this song over at Genuis.com, and he writes in detail about how Virginia Woolf’s work influenced his “life as a reader” and as a song writer:
So I read Mrs. Dalloway in high school, and this was probably the best class that I ever took, including all the classes I took at Duke. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Mundy, Susan Mundy, and her class changed my life. She taught me how to read. Like, I knew how to read before but I didn’t know how to read a novel – where if someone was saying that “the sun set and it was dark,” they weren’t just saying “the sun set and it was dark.” They were saying a million other things. And she taught us how to read that way. I am sure if you like Virginia Woolf then you know how to read that way. But that totally changed my life as both a writer and a reader.
Posner also writes about how he identifies with the character Septimus Smith from Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and how he connects with and is inspired by this character’s depression:
So I have a kinship and a sort of affinity to anyone that felt sad and depressed, because I felt that way very much in my teenage years, especially in the winter time. And that is where this lyric about “poetry” comes from. Just the name Virginia Woolf reminds me of all those sort of depressed, nostalgic feelings. Now I will occasionally feel a hint of that depression and it is weird to say it but I actually sort of like it a little bit because there is a familiarity there. And all of my music to this day is either a reaction against that soil of sadness or it is nostalgic, against that soil of sadness.
You can read Mike Posner’s full annotations of his song lyrics for “Be As You Are” here, and you can listen to the song below.