It’s almost as if they do it on purpose, these popstars with multi-million dollar advertising machines investing in their constant, vicious expansion into the hearts, minds and wallets of the youngsters that they catch in their social media webs.
Austin Post (still only 23!) released the woefully-titled beerbongs & bentleys earlier this year to minimal fanfare, but an unbelievably strong performance on the charts. It hit the summit of just about every chart possible. Like The Beatles. Or Staind (Google it).
On the way to the top, it received cursorily negative reviews, but they were reviews that were certainly pre-written, with pre-conceived notions already nailed to the sticking post. Nothing Post could do would change those reviews – even the presence of the lava-hot mega-banger “Better Now” couldn’t save it from critical lethargy. Nothing could save it - even the fact that it’s actually not that bad.
Part of this lukewarm reaction is, surely, a result of the fact that it’s all one big lie. He’s a fake. He’s the heavyweight champion of false advertising. There’s the reek of corporate about him. He’s clearly a product.
But if you look under all of the superficial grotesquery of barbed-wire hairlines and Crocs, there’s actually a lot more to Post than meets the ear.
No amount of facial tattoos can convince people with even half a brain that Austin Post’s musical interests or artistic inclinations are truly manifested in an album like b&b. We know he’s in it for the money, sure, but we also know that he’s at risk of blowing it big time if he fills another album with dire features (pretty much everyone on this thing, apart from Nicki Minaj and 21 Savage, who get passes) and hideous song titles (“Zack and Codeine”, anyone?). There’s very little (only “Over Now” and the glorious “Stay”) on b&b that leaves him any exit door, any way out of the corner he’s painted himself into.
The biggest problem with this whole façade, apart from the ugly picture it paints of the protagonist, is that he’s far too good for it. He has a stronger voice than Justin Bieber, a better ear for melody than any of your Kodak Blacks or Lil Pumps, and a much more expressive attitude than any popstar targeting the same demographic as him. Listen to the haunting country folk of “Stay” if you need convincing of any of those above claims.
The surest indicators of Post’s strengths lie in album highlight “Over Now”, which brings a refreshingly heavy musical backdrop into the record. The swagger and bravado he exudes on this thing feel authentic – truly him, as though he was born to make moody rap-rock. He’s got Tommy Lee, an unannounced Tommy Lee, on drums. There are guitars! He’s angry!
But then the rest of the record has absolutely none of that same feel – not a single thing. The only taste of anything remotely gritting is the chugging guitar in “Better Now” – which is coincidentally one of the best songs of the year.
As it is, beerbongs & bentleys is unequivocally, completely and utterly superior to a lot of the material released by popstars he finds himself compared to or forced to play in the same ball-pit as. What the world needs, instead of the Post Malone we have, is a Post Malone that fully flexes his creative muscles, and fully unleashes his artistic capabilities, rather than someone that buries their instincts in a cloud of benzo-rap and anonymous hip-pop.
Because that guy is in there somewhere, desperate to come out.