Post Malone isn’t into labels. “I don’t want to be a rapper,” said the 22-year old in a recent interview. “I just want to be a person that makes music.” That’s a pretty convenient line of logic for a white guy who’s made millions, since his 2015 breakthrough hit “White Iverson,” off a warbly hybrid of singing and rapping that owes a significant debt to traditionally black musical styles. With sing-song melodies and dreamy trap-lite beats, Post’s songs re-package existent rap trends for people who might not particularly like rap at all – including, it would seem, the artist himself. “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop,” he proclaimed in an interview last year, taking a time out from genre agnosticism to big up Bob Dylan.
With his second record, Beerbongs & Bentleys, Post hopes to “push the genre” of hip-hop – a claim that probably isn’t hard to back up when you are working within a field you actively disdain. Multi-platinum lead single “Rockstar” is the marquee hit of the past year’s rap-rock revivalist movement, with shouts out to Bon Scott and lines about throwing TVs out of hotel windows; it is one of many currently popular songs with minor-key synths, trap 808s and downcast melodies that presents unlimited money and drugs as a tedious bummer. Post Malone is sad, guys – rich and sad, a condition he outlines with singular nuance on “Rich & Sad,” in a purposefully under-enunciated delivery I can only describe as “mushy-sounding.” Unfortunately, Post laments, he was unable to literally buy the love of his girlfriend he rampantly cheated on: “Plenty sluts, grabbing on my nuts/Might have fucked, it was only lust/I was living life, how could I have known?” Who wouldn’t empathize with that?
You almost feel bad for the guy as the 18 tracks of Beerbongs become an ouroboros of new-money narcissism: Post’s obsession with flexing, partying, and banging groupies feeds a growing paranoia that the people around him only like him for exactly those attributes. And it is no small irony that the album’s most convincing moments occur when he drops the cool rapper pretense and gets all lonesome cowboy. The vocal melodies on alt-rock crossover “Otherside” are the album’s most compelling, breaking from the holding pattern of noncommittal lullaby sing-song and borderline maddening devotion to end rhyme; on “Stay,” he busts out the acoustic for some melancholy George Harrison worship, singing “You put your cigarette out on my face.” They are some of the rare moments where Post does not seem as though he has something to prove, and an interesting songwriter emerges, before disappearing back inside his endless hotel party.