Post Malone’s latest is an anemic, pointless exercise that leverages Top 40-approved styles to lazy, uninspired ends.
Few may have guessed that Austin Richard Post (or, Post Malone, as translated by an Internet rap name generator) would be the enduring cultural figure that he is today when “White Iverson” dropped back in 2015. What would prove to be a career-making single and something of an aesthetic trendsetter (or at least, trend-codifier) was also widely mocked at the time, with Malone’s scuzzy white boy take on sing-song-y trap music inevitably bugging those wary of the rapid mainstreaming/gentrifying of the genre. Yet despite the initial jokes and skepticism, Malone didn’t have much issue integrating into wider rap culture in the wake of “White Iverson”’s success, securing beats/co-signs from the likes of Pharell and Metro Boomin for debut album Stoney a year later, while also landing a now iconic feature on The Life of Pablo’s original closer “Fade.” Nor did he face much resistance from the wider pop music industry, Stoney ushering the singer/rapper into the upper echelons of the Billboard charts and a fruitful, collaborative friendship with Justin Bieber, who appeared on fourth single “Deja Vu.” Boasting equal credibility in both of these worlds, Malone moved on from Stoney to the Grammy-nominated Beerbongs and Bentleys, an appropriately laconic project, goofy and emo in proportionate measure. Though Stoney implied a more commercial, singles-centric future for this MC, Beerbongs and Bentleys, while not a severe course correction, breezed past critical skepticisms and measured expectations to deliver a decidedly cohesive project. A quick-paced 65 minutes, the album keeps up for the duration, hardly flagging even when moving away from the radio songs. Something of an achievement in the streaming era, Beerbongs and Bentley found a nice middle ground between the not-so-disparate poles of Malone’s trap pretensions and desire for broad pop appeal, high energy and formulaic but not without character.
Perhaps not such a huge accomplishment in the grand scheme, but Post Malone’s second studio album nevertheless deserves its mild praise, the small feat managed there a significant peak of his increasingly unremarkable discography. Following up 2019’s dreary, diffuse Hollywood’s Bleeding (propped up by Into the Spider-Verse cut “Sunflower”), Malone halfheartedly returns with Twelve Carat Toothache, a slight, rambly switch-up that favors the artist’s singer-songwriter side. Largely ignoring more straightforward hip hop production in favor of a sampling of various Top 40-approved styles (Neon Trees and Imagine Dragons come to mind on “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” Lorde plus any number of neo-folk artists on the belabored “Lemon Tree”), album mastermind and elite pop producer Louis Bell runs Malone through a bunch of different uncomfortable poses, stretching the capabilities of his warbly crooning delivery, but never to very interesting effect (alas, not even when paired up against unlikely guest vocalist Robin Peckold on “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol”). Twelve Carat Toothache is a pointless exercise, one that attempts to lazily retool this artist’s already solid star persona, while also cleaning up his already almost too-clean sound. Obviously the end product of a loss of inspiration, one must hope that next time around, Post Malone can conceive of something bolder than handing the project off to a mega-producer.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2022 | Part 2.