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Review: Post Malone’s ‘Twelve Carat Toothache’ is A Poignant Look Behind the Fame

Kellie Given

A lot has changed since Post Malone was last topping the charts, and to say he simply topped is putting it lightly. From his come-up in 2015 with hit ‘White Iverson’ to the last remnants of 2019’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post Malone has been an absolute force in not only the music world but beyond. He currently holds several Billboard chart records, his tracks from albums from four years ago are still circling the popsphere and his face tattoos and laidback style have made more of an impact on trends than they’re perhaps given credit for. Not to mention, one could blindly point out most songs on the charts from the past two years and easily hear Post’s trap-infused-pop influence.

So, when the entire world builds up your stage only to disappear halfway through the show, how does one navigate that sudden lonely spotlight? Not well, it seems. Aptly named, Twelve Carat Toothache details the extreme lows of fame, coming off the fantastic high from his previous albums that celebrate that very lifestyle. The usual suspects are still there; heartbreak, infidelity, sadness, but what is most revealing is the complete desolation. Post Malone isn’t just depressed, he’s at the deepest part of rock bottom and from that he’s created something hauntingly beautiful.

Like everyone, the last two years caused Post to sit with his own thoughts and address his demons. The biggest one for him being his sobriety or rather lack of. Maybe it’s not shocking that the guy who made beer his entire aesthetic turned out to be an alcoholic, but it’s clearly something Post has been struggling with for a long time and we hear that within the first few seconds of the album, “ take my own life just to save yours, drink it all down just to throw it up.” And what a welcome mat he rolls out. ‘Reputation’ starts us up with a sombre Kurt Cobain moment, letting us know exactly what we’re in for. This isn’t Beerbongs and Bentleys, we’re not partying to this one. This is the record Post Malone’s inner soul needed to make.

Birthed partly from a week-long shroom trip (including two days of no sleep at all), Twelve Carat Toothache is undeniably Post’s best body of work. Taking all the best parts of his previous personas, the smooth emotion of Stoney, the pulse of Beerbongs, and the psychodrama of Hollywood’s Bleeding, the star blends the watercolours of his past and creates an absolute masterpiece. He’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been, opening up and portraying a self-loathing hatred that at times is harrowing. On the Fleet Foxes feature ‘Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol’, one of the rawest tracks Post has ever made, he paints a pretty good picture of getting drunk and subsequently “ getting his ass kicked,” and it falls far from the glamour of hits like ‘rockstar’ and ‘Wow.’ The harsh reality of the track might ironically become one of the greatest “don’t drink” adverts ever.

Just over halfway through, Post hits us with arguably the best song of his career. ‘Euthanasia’ comes in hard, like a pulsating, bass-heavy dream, and its weight is so heavy it’s left lingering as the album closes with the demo version of its intro. Not only does it showcase Post as an outstanding producer, writer, and vocalist, but it pulls back so many curtains that we have no choice but to stare directly into the light, a sentiment that isn’t so far off as Post wistfully thinks of death. There’s irony there even he can see, “ behold, a sober moment too short and far between. I should crack one open to celebrate bein’ clean,” but there’s also an incredible sense of pain, “ when I go out, it ain’t gonna hurt at all. Familiar stranger, euthanasia.

It’s all enough to start getting the audience (rightfully so) a little worried, but there’s some hope in the darkness. The folksy ‘Lemon Tree’ sees Post acknowledging his faults and bitterness and wanting to make a change, ‘I Like You(A Happier Song)’ finds Doja Cat joining in for a playful back and forth about stealing one’s girl and her being okay with it (it’s also kind of iconic to see two legends team up and it’s catchy as hell), and the anthemic ‘Wasting Angels’ with The Kid LAROI (an aforementioned Post Malone influencee) is a hopeful tune that is made to bring people together through stadium chants.

And of course, there’s trademark Posty. ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ feels like it could be the cousin of ‘Circles’, ‘Insane’ reminds the new recruits just who the boss is, lead single ‘Cooped Up’ feels like catching up with an old mate, and ‘I’m Gonna Be(A Sadder Song)’ ft Gunna could easily fit into any of his previous albums. But despite most of the lighter tracks sounding great at a party, the lyrics tell a different story. Post is still being pensive; he’s just smiling through the pain and giving us something to at least dance to.

Not even a decade in and Post Malone has already gone through what most artists see in a lifetime. Over the space of a couple of years, the New York native went from being voted “Most Likely to Become Famous” at high school to quite literally becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time. The actual reality of that is hard to grasp and it’s the same old story every time: fame breeds greed, greed breeds emptiness, but despite all our opinions, it’s a story we’ll never be able to understand unless we’ve lived it. Post Malone, by all accounts, has certainly lived it. And here he is standing on his own two feet to tell the tale.

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Originally published at https://umusic.co.nz on June 7, 2022.

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UMUSIC NZ

UMUSIC NZ

umusic.co.nz: Updates, stories, quizzes, videos and articles about all your favourite artists.