Fans of Post Malone can expect something new from his third album “Hollywood’s Bleeding,” released on Friday. Although his past work leaned heavily into the glamorous, over-the-top rap style (take 2018’s “Rockstar” with 21 Savage, in which both artists flaunt a lifestyle laden with sports cars and endless parties), this new album has a darker, more introspective tone with plenty of heartbreak and woe and the perfect level of angst.
2019 has been a year of monumental success for Post Malone. He performed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the 2019 Grammys after receiving four nominations for his second album, made the infectious hit song “Sunflower” for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and had his first two albums, 2016’s “Stoney” and 2018’s “Beerbongs & Bentleys,” stay at the top of the Billboard charts.
Now he is taking a new direction with his music. Unsurprisingly, Post Malone doesn’t like to use labels for his music. With his eccentric appearance, with Willie Nelson-eque braids, shaggy man-buns and countless face tattoos, plus his ability to cherrypick from so many musical styles, the genre-bending party animal has made it clear he doesn’t care to stick to a definition. In a 2018 interview with GQ, he casually stated, “I don’t want to be a rapper, I just want to be a person that makes music.”
The Texas-raised musician has commonly been lumped in with the SoundCloud rapper era of the last half-decade, which includes rappers such as Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Peep and Young Thug. However, Posty’s versatile music, which incorporates elements of pop, R&B, emo, punk and rap, has quickly proved to have more staying power. After releasing the warbly-folk-rap hits “White Iverson” and “Go Flex,” the songs challenged audiences when it comes to categorizing Post Malone’s music. With dreamy sing-song melodies, acoustic strumming and trap beats, he proved early on that his work could repackage rap trends into something entirely unique, taking advantage of folk and rock influences.
Indeed, “Hollywood’s Bleeding” did not fail to run with this darker and more unique theme, giving fans something truly unexpected. While it would have been jarring to hear crooning heartbreak songs from 2018’s “Beerbongs”-era Malone, the somber and subdued take is entirely at home on this project. Posty is fully committed to being “the bad guy now” as he wails on “Circles,” which has a catchy guitar and drum section that on the surface may seem upbeat and lively. At the same time, he sings, “Seasons change and our love went cold,” a melancholic contrast to the summer-pop jam sound of the song.
The middle tracks capture a feeling of unresolved anger. The song “Enemies” has Post Malone and featured artist DaBaby cockily repeating “Used to have friends / Now I got enemies” over a bouncy trap beat. “Allergic” sounds straight out of a punk GarageBand project, with sharp guitar riffs in between haunting lyrics like “I took your pills and your drugs just to feel something else / Because I can’t feel you no more.” “A Thousand Bad Times” is one of the album’s strongest points, showcasing Post’s vocal talent as he screams “It’s all the same to me, it’s all a game to me” in a loud and triumphantly spiteful breakup jam.
“Die For Me” takes punk angst into a traditional rap format, featuring Post, Future and Halsey. This track details the consuming anger that follows deception from a romantic partner, with lyrics like “Said you’d die for me, die for me, die for me / But you lied to me, lied to me, lied to me.” The song keeps a consistently heavy trap beat, alternating between Post, Future’s signature mumble-rap style and Halsey’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, with the energy staying high between each switch.
“With his eccentric appearance, with Willie Nelson-eque braids, shaggy man-buns and countless face tattoos, plus his ability to cherrypick from so many musical styles, the genre-bending party animal has made it clear he doesn’t care to stick to a definition.”
“Take What You Want,” featuring metal icon Ozzy Osbourne and modern trap pioneer Travis Scott, is an electrifying experience unmatched by anything else on the album. Ozzy’s wailing vocals are excellent while not distracting from Post Malone’s singing, though the true gem of this track is the instrumental production. Black Sabbath-like guitars rip through the 808 heavy beat to produce an incredibly unique sound.
Every moment feels important on “Hollywood’s Bleeding.” Post Malone creates a project showcasing many stylistic influences; there’s something for rap fans, R&B fans and rock fans alike. Many of the songs are loud, exciting and grand, but they remove the brag-heavy and at times shallow materialism featured in much of Post’s older work. Instead, it leans into that common theme of the fleeting life of a lonely rockstar and all the heartbreaks it holds. Post Malone and featured artists deliver grand sounds and heart-wrenching lyrics that remain entirely relatable.
As Post Malone explained to GQ, “It’s like you’re stunting very hard, but at the end of the day this isn’t going to make me happy. And you know, as young people, we go through a fuckin’ ride.” Post espouses a timeless sentiment: it’s tough to be young, even when you’re a bonafide superstar.
In his third album, Post Malone has found his own sound, one that’s free of the constraints of any one genre, a sound that creates hit after hit for the radio without fitting into that safe pop song formula.
Perhaps this fearlessness is best summarized through the joyous song “I’m Gonna Be.” He raps, “I’m gonna be what I want / I’m gonna do what I want, when I want, when I want — yeah.” When Post Malone does what he wants, he’s at his peak.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ben Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org