Overlong, streaming-friendly albums – The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’, Drake’s ‘Views’, Migos’ ‘Culture II’ – have become so commonplace that they almost deserve their own classification. More of a stultifying moodboard than an album with something to say, Post Malone‘s ‘beerbongs & bentleys’ is a faded swirl of lean, flexing, custom whips, misogyny and occasionally – mercifully – heartbreak. Bar a few exceptions, its 18 tracks are homogenous playlist fodder targeted at the streaming machine – and, in its voguish, trap-flavoured blandness, it will undoubtedly scoop up huge numbers of passive listeners this summer.
The one-time Soundcloud artist first came to fame with 2015’s hugely successful ‘White Iverson’, then replicated its success with debut album ‘Stoney’, which racked up hundreds of millions of streams. Now enjoying an even higher level of fame and riches than he was bragging about on his 2016 Quavo team-up ‘Congratulations’, the LA-based artist finds it difficult to stop playing the isolated rockstar victim here, despite guest features from hip-hop big-hitters like Nicki Minaj, 21 Savage, Ty Dolla $ign, and Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. “Sometimes feel like I got no friends”, he sings on opener ‘Paranoid’. Even better, on the near-parodic ‘Rich & Sad’, he declares: “In the spotlight, but I’m on my own… I don’t even wanna go home / In a big house all alone.”
You might expect to hear the world’s tiniest violin here, were it not for the bratty braggadocio that invariably accompanies Post’s self-pitying melancholy. Three separate odes to tricked-out cars close the album. “Now y’all see me on the TV,” runs the smug ‘Zack and Codeine’, “Multimillionaire by the time I’m 23.” The aspirational give-a-shit vibe reaches its peak with the genius simplicity of the record-breaking ‘Rockstar’ – which topped Ed Sheeran’s Spotify record in January. Its hackneyed lyrics run: “Shit was legendary / Threw a TV out the window of the Montage / Cocaine on the table, liquor pourin’, don’t give a damn.” Driving to this album is inadvisable – you’ll need to retrieve your eyeballs from the back of your skull every few minutes.
It’s hard to pick out Post’s most obnoxious moment. Perhaps it’s on ‘Psycho’ – “Had so many bottles, gave ugly girl a sip” – or possibly ‘Spoil My Night’. This one is addressed to the starstruck woman he’s cheating on his girlfriend with: she’s posted tons of videos of him on Instagram, thus revealing his infidelity to his girlfriend at home. “I know what I’m doin’ ain’t right,” he concedes, “But ain’t no need to spoil my night!” It’s the kind of tellingly ostentatious boys-will-be-boys sentiment Trump would probably retweet.
Many of the songs deal in wavy synths and trap beats, but a few tracks show an appetite for experimentation that reflects poorly on the rest of the album. Here, Post’s vocals reach past their shaky foundations to deliver some sorely-needed authenticity. ‘Better Now’ steeps its strummed guitar line in genuine regret: “No matter how my life has changed, I keep on looking back on better days,” he sings. The bassy emo of ‘Over Now’, meanwhile, finds him wounded and deliciously vindictive, reflecting: “I was an idiot / Begging on my knees on to the floor / Now I don’t even want you anymore, anymore.” The fury and shame is palpable.
Then there’s ‘Stay’, a wonderfully vivid acoustic cut that mirrors ‘Stoney’ bonus track ‘Feeling Whitney’ in its approach to Post’s bad habits and their effects. “You know that I’m too drunk to talk right now,” he recounts, “You put your cigarette out on my face.” With its melodramatic lyrics and a melody inspired by George Harrison, Oasis and David Bowie, it proves there’s far more to Malone than his one-note performance of machismo elsewhere. “It’s like we only play to lose,” he yelps, “Chasing pain with an excuse. I love that shit and so do you“. This right here is a fascinating, lived-in concept – what a shame to hear it surrounded by so much overdone, irritating fluff.