Malone’s fourth album strips away the glamour along with the colour, fading into the background unlike the material that’s defined his career.
Few superstars dominated the last eight years quite like Post Malone. The New York-born, Texas-raised artist arguably signalled the new era of pop music, one that combined trap with R&B and country. It’s been an upward slope since debut single “White Iverson”, proving he’s a melody machine with albums like Stoney and Beerbongs & Bentleys. His relationship with hip hop has been tainted for years, and he’s only gone to embrace the popstar package since then. That’s where he thrives best, but it comes at a cost of being non-mainstream listeners’ worst nightmare.
Twelve Carat Toothache feels the burden of that popstar burnout, an album evidently stemmed from a creative lull.
Delayed over the last two years, Malone’s latest effort sounds fed up of the spotlight, adding substance to his music with lyrics concerning death, mental health, and personal turmoil. He’s focusing more on being a singer-songwriter, throwing in metaphors absent from his previous material (“Euthanasia”, “Lemon Tree”, “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol”). It’s a commendable touch that matches the sombre tone that’s consistently met for the majority of the tracklist.
However, that comes with a cost. With Twelve Carat Toothache, the colour’s been drained from Malone’s music. It features Malone’s least memorable songs of his career, offering half the quality of melodies he’s known for, or rehashing ones from earlier hits; “Wrapped Around Your Finger” couldn’t sound more like to “Circles” if it tried. There’s not many songs that are aiming to be a hit, but when there are they’re lodged into the tracklist like they’re fulfilling label requirements (“I Like You (A Happier Song)”, “One Right Now”). While these are the catchier moments, they are harshly contesting Malone’s intentions with the album.
Malone’s noted he felt ‘uninspired’ to record music due to COVID-19 interrupting the touring lifestyle. As his shortest album to date, Twelve Carat Toothache blatantly suffers from that lack of inspiration, putting together the few tracks Malone had ready. When it feels like he’s actually trying, like on “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol”, it’s met with an equally opposing effort in “Insane”, opening up his second verse with the lyrics “Second verse, second verse, yay / Second verse, second verse, again”). The contrast nearly feels like a joke to the listener, except it’s a joke they’re not in on.
Somehow, Twelve Carat Toothache doesn’t feel like a real record. It carries the spirit of a posthumous album, cobbled together by Republic Records to make up for pandemic disruptions. And although Post Malone is still alive, he doesn’t seem to be loving the moment of its release like with previous albums. There’s a disconnect present in Twelve Carat Toothache, a synthetic project for both the audience and Post Malone.
5 / 10
Best tracks: “Reputation”, “Cooped Up”, “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol”