Post Malone wants you to know that there’s pain in the upper echelon of American society. It’s right there in the title of his new album, the name of the opening track, and the first lyrics uttered on his new album: “Hollywood’s Bleeding.” Just in case that wasn’t clear enough, he follows it up by insisting that the vampires are feeding, the darkness is about to give way to dust, and, most importantly, everyone is alone.
Across 17 songs and 51 minutes, Malone pivots away from the 2016 kid singing about his mom seeing him on TV for the first time, and subsequently throwing said TV out the window on 2017’s “rockstar.” Instead, post-fame Post is ready to languish in an apocalyptic melodrama and sing about the inevitable comedown after his meteoric rise. His famous and wealthy collaborators are happy to follow suit. The world of Hollywood’s Bleeding is one where celebrity jealousy is the root of all evil, and money is the only salve. It’s an album by the 1% about the healing properties of being in the 1%.
The first significant lesson at the center of Hollywood’s Bleeding is that RIAA certifications are the only true path to healing and enlightenment. At least three times on the album, an artist boasts about their sales figures immediately after shading an ex or former friend:
“I just went double platinum with no features / Just to show a nigga, I don’t really need him” — DaBaby, “Enemies”
“I sold 15 million copies of a break-up note” — Halsey, “Die For Me”
“I got so many hits, can’t remember them all / While I’m takin’ a shit, look at the plaques on the wall” — Post Malone, “On The Road”
Admittedly, it’s amusing to imagine musicians viewing their streaming totals and bundling packages as the ultimate form of recovery from betrayal or loneliness. In fairness, boasting about sales figures is a common and near-clichéd practice within modern music, but in the confines of an album obsessed with proving that celebrities are relatable figures, it undermines the central premise we’re bludgeoned with.
On a darker note, the idea of blind fealty shapes the main narrative behind Hollywood’s Bleeding. Nearly every appearance is obsessed with triumphing over haters and non-believers and the spoils that result in winning that war. Meek Mill fantasizes about monetizing all of the doubters in his life until he’s as rich as Jeff Bezos. If you throw stones at Travis Scott, he’ll make diamond chains out of them. Lil Baby is the rare feature who elevates the theme during his turn on “On The Road.” The Atlanta rapper travels through a decade of emotions in his single verse, flirting between exhaustion at a deteriorating relationship before admitting that he’d rather have money than love. “I ain’t runnin’ out of these bands for nothin’ or no one,” he passionately sings. “She say I’m a dog, but it takes one to know one / Been goin’ hard, been by myself, I don’t need no love.”
Unfortunately, Post isn’t Lil Baby. He needs love, but can only fixate on his imagined, impending death. He is the same man who sing “who’d be at my funeral?” on his intro and complain two songs later that all his friends are now enemies. During ‘Die For Me,” Post harps on the fact that a past lover will no longer take a bullet for him, even as the artists that surround him make a very good case that any amount of wealth can triumph over loneliness. Throughout Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post can’t seem to decide whether his money and fame is insulation from the pain, or its root cause. Despite his collaborators’ best efforts, the album’s protagonist can only keep up that particular charade for so long.