Post Malone Forgets What Made Him Famous on 'Twelve Carat Toothache'
Published Jun 09, 2022Twelve Carat Toothache, the new album from Texas singer-songwriter Post Malone, makes for a confusing listen. Just a few years ago, Malone felt unstoppable. His 2018 album beerbongs & bentleys was a massive success. It's certified seven-times platinum in Canada, spawned three platinum and two diamond singles, and blasted the singer into the A-list stratosphere. Four years after beerbongs, the hype that once surrounded Malone as one of pop's true male superstars is gone, and Twelve Carat Toothache is poised to be the worst-selling project of his career. What happened?
The answer is found in the aforementioned, head-scratching listen that Twelve Carat Toothache presents. Across the record, Malone has not only seemed to forget what makes his music tick, but also who his fanbase is. You don't need data analytics only accessible by labels to figure it out, either; college kids have driven Post Malone's career. You couldn't step into any social event within a few kilometres of a university campus without hearing a song from beerbongs and bentleys from the time it was released until the COVID-19 pandemic hit — even now, "Better Now" or "Rockstar" are still tough to avoid. Malone had found a sweet spot in between Top 40 hip-hop and 2000s pop, which happen to be the two most popular party genres at PWIs across North America. You could slot him in a playlist beside Travis Scott and Drake or follow up a song of his with "Mr. Brightside."
Twelve Carat Toothache contains none of the appeal of Malone's biggest songs. It's an album that looks to present Post Malone as an extremely serious artist when his best quality was his youthful, free-wheeling energy and lack of self-seriousness. Part of this is because the album seems to address substance abuse issues that Malone has had in the past, but other songs feel like ballads just to prove that he can do ballads. The problem is, he's not terribly good at ballads. Most of the slower tracks on Twelve Carat Toothache come off as by-the-books pop songs that forego Malone's unique angles to establish himself as a singular artist in the A-list sphere. "Lemon Tree" is a middling exercise in trying to recreate the alt-rock success of his 2019 single "Circles"; "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is bland Chainsmokers worshipping; "Love / Hate Letter to Alcohol" incorporates the trademark harmonies of featured guests Fleet Foxes in what ends up becoming an artificial sense of catharsis during its climax.
The best parts of Twelve Carat Toothache come when Malone stops trying to be a pop star and reverts back to his old ways of making music. Single "Cooped Up" with Roddy Ricch and "Insane" are pop-rap hybrids that serve as reminders of why Malone was once the brightest young star in music, with stadium-status production and infectious hooks to match. Too much of the record is concerned with trying to guilt the listener into a false sense of melancholy. It's an album that wants to be played on the drive home by an artist that's best at soundtracking the party, and Malone is in dire need of a recalibration back to what he does best. (Mercury / Republic)