Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Post Malone Grapples With Fame

By Skyler Romero

Fame is a tough thing to cope with. At least, this is the overwhelming impression one gets when listening to “beerbongs & bentleys,” the newest album from R&B artist Post Malone. The album’s very first track, “Paranoid,” establishes this theme right off the bat, as Malone sings about how he’s worried about getting pulled over, how he’s “struggling just to find [his]  peace,” and how he, “can’t trust a soul, like [he’s] Snowden.”

The downside of fame is one of a small handful of themes that pop up at different points throughout “beerbongs & bentleys.” The other overriding concerns tend to be bad relationships, substance abuse and kickass cars. Anyone looking for songs about anything else are  advised to look elsewhere.

Not that the lyrics are necessarily the main attraction here. Post Malone has spent his relatively short career developing a very specific sound, and fans of his signature style will not be disappointed. Malone’s vocal control and smooth delivery remain as impressive as ever, his voice effortlessly moving through the rapid melodic rise and fall he has been known for ever since his big debut single, “White Iverson.” The musical style established by that hit song, along with his previous album, “Stoney,” also figures strongly into the production of “beerbongs & bentleys,” an album with impressive sonic consistency given the number of different producers involved.

Still, that same consistency does veer dangerously close to monotony at times, particularly due to the sequencing of the tracks. Only a few of the songs truly deviate from the established Post Malone formula, and they are largely situated in the album’s back half, creating a listening experience that might drag in the middle for anyone who isn’t completely enamored with the Post Malone sound. The relative lack of variety in the lyrical content doesn’t exactly help in that regard; even though the tracks dealing with deep inner turmoil provide the bulk of the album’s emotional resonance, it’s tough to listen to too many songs in a row about how being rich and famous is actually kind of sad without losing some empathy for that particular struggle. Adding to the issue is arguably Post’s over-reliance on hip hop cliches in his lyrics, dropping references to bands of cash, forties of malt liquor and yes, Bentleys like he’s trying to win at hip-hop bingo.

Even with these nitpicks, “beerbongs & bentleys” manages to be a solidly enjoyable listen throughout simply by virtue of Malone’s talent as a singer and performer. The extent of his singing skills are perhaps most apparent on, “Stay,” one of the tracks that deviates from Post’s signature style. By stripping down the production to just an acoustic guitar and Malone singing a heartfelt love song, the track showcases an inherent smoothness and impressive pitch to his voice that might come as a surprise to some.

Other songs that experiment with his  sound include “Otherside,” which sounds a bit like Radiohead mashed up with Linkin Park, providing a fitting companion to Malone’s vocal stylings. Another is “92 Explorer,” which utilizes low impact percussion like woodblocks and marimbas to create a sound reminiscent of classic Timbaland.

For the most part, the tracks that adhere a little more closely to Post’s established sound are solid as well, and fans looking for a soundtrack to a night of clubbing or just a midnight drive through the city will find a lot to enjoy here. For example, the single “rockstar” featuring 21 Savage, is tailor-made for a night on the town, with both Post and 21 bringing laid-back swagger to their vocal delivery. Tracks like, “Ball For Me” and the excellently titled “Zack And Codeine” serve a similar function, both evoking misspent nights partying it up in the city.

“beerbongs & bentleys” may not constitute a radical leap forward stylistically for Post Malone, nor is it the most thematically substantial hip hop or R&B around right now, but nevertheless fans will likely enjoy Malone’s faithfulness to his signature style and themes, especially judging by the fact that the album went platinum on its first day or release. If you’ve liked what Post Malone has had to offer so far, there’s a very strong chance that “beerbongs & bentleys” is right for you.