Post Malone - Beerbongs & Bentleys (Review)

Martin_Canine
POST MALONE
Beerbongs & Bentleys
★★★★★

In 2017, Post Malone suddenly appeared in a big way in German language Europe. Unexpectedly and without any preparation. Rockstar topped the Austrian charts and peaked at number 2 in Germany and Switzerland. Nobody knew who this guy was, just that the song is massive and that he would probably become the next big thing. From then on, his career took off. Psycho also managed to enter the Austrian and German top ten, and the album I’m reviewing right now peaked at number 4 in Germany (as I write this, no chart position in Austria or Switzerland is known). The first reviews are very positive. German hip hop artists and YouTubers, like Dat Adam’s Ardy or producer/reviewer 2 Bough, have repeatedly stated their admiration for his music, and it seems that Malone got our territory like little other American urban music artist in the last couple of years. And if this man is the future of popular music, I am honestly not complaining.

Beerbongs & Bentleys is not just a collection of decent pop songs, it is rather the most accurate era defining pop album possible, combining almost everything that was good and interesting about the last few years. It mixes the bleakness of the trap influenced slow paced ballads of Lana Del Rey or Sia, the art pop of Rihanna and Kanye West, and at times the angsty electronic rock that Mike Shinoda and Thirty Seconds To Mars wanted to create, just that Malone’s music feels not only more secure, but outstandingly big and well crafted. Somehow, the universal consensus appears to be that Post Malone is a rapper, and who knows, maybe artists like Drake and Young Thug blended the terms rapping and singing to an extent where your attitude and the beats you perform vocals on are more important than your technique when it comes to judge what’s your profession. But that wouldn’t do him justice in the slightest. He himself is unsure what he is. There are instances when he speaks of him as a white rapper (and I thought the skin color debate wouldn’t matter in hip hop anymore at least since Macklemore appeared, and because it’s pretty stupid associating a genre with racial features, as Ray Charles already proved with his contribution to country), then he suddenly describes him more accurately as “a person that makes music”, specifically not as a rapper. And while the hip hop influence can be felt in the production, lyrics and attitude, Malone also draws from rock and pop music in his vocals, making him more of an RnB singer, but even this definition doesn’t fit him, his style clearly departing heavily from Usher or Chris Brown - he’s far more diverse and exciting to listen to. Maybe the truth is the craze to classify musical style doesn’t apply to these days anymore.

I wasn’t immediately captured by Rockstar. In fact, I kind of ignored it until I heard it in the context of this album. However, over the course of these 18 songs, one of which is this very hit single, Post Malone manages to create a certain persona with a distinctive style in performance, melodies, lyrics and production, in which the song not only fits but becomes a crucial part of. The character Malone portrays on the song is an interestingly contradicting one, and has more to say than meets the surface. Money can’t buy me love applies to what we get to hear on here. In a hip hop manner, he often tells us how he indeed lives the American dream (sometimes with the help of committing illegal acts), but it’s happiness that this dream can’t grant him, although he has everything the materialistic world had to offer for him. It’s sometimes done subtly, sometimes in your face, maybe it’s even unintentionally, but that’s what it’s ultimately coming down to. He spends great time enjoying a lush and luxurious lifestyle - in one of the songs he literally admits to having lots of sex with women, which of course is too much for the woman he is with. He comes off as a jackass at parts, but the thing is, it’s what wealth and opportunity do to you. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people who admire you because of your money and fame, and to whom you could do anything you want, because they actually love your lifestyle, while you piss off those you actually love you. Whether this was what Post Malone actually had in mind or he was just being himself (or if he just delivered what he thought sounded good - which is by the way does), the outcome feels like an interesting character study nevertheless.

Listening to the journey that is Beerbongs & Bentleys, it’s astounding how homogenic it sounds while containing so many different stylistic influences. Rockstar is probably the closest to the RnB and trap blending style of Drake, but then songs like Over Now unleash an intense storm of anger and angst we haven’t heard since the early 2000s, and never before as melodic and contained without losing its impact. The bleeping trippy synths of Takin’ Shots and Ball For Me add a cool electronica vibe, while the guitars on Stay hint at his country roots, with a touch of indie. And don’t get me started on the much too short Jonestone - the psychedelic yet sinister atmosphere is thick enough to cut it into pieces, grind it and snort it. What makes all of these wide differences go together so well is a common pace and mood. The large amount of producers, and Post Malone as the main artist form one big unit who have crafted a perfect tracklist that’s thoroughly adventurous but also follows a common tempo that keeps it all tightly tied together. The package contains ingredients with different tastes and different textures, but they're always part of the same delicious dish. The 2010s brought German speakers a nice term: “einen Film fahren”. It literally means “to drive a movie”, or “to drive one movie”, and is used, mainly referring to hip hop, to positively describe when an album or even an artist’s overall discography commits to one sound or motif, the individual songs feeling like scenes from the same movie. That’s exactly what Beerbongs & Bentleys does on the highest possible level.

Comments

Update: the album charted at number 2 in Austria and number 3 in Switzerland. In other words: he fully arrived over here. - Martin_Canine

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