Not Even Post Malone Can Save Post Malone on Twelve Carat Toothache

It's... not Posty's best

twelve carat toothache review
Post Malone, photo courtesy of the artist

    Twelve Carat Toothache (out today, June 3rd) is Post Malone’s shortest album to date. And according to Posty, this is a deliberate play to resist the overloaded track lists that dominate streaming platforms; “I’ve made a lot of compromises, especially musically, but now I don’t feel like I want to anymore,” he said in a Billboard cover story back in January, “I don’t need a No. 1; that doesn’t matter to me no more, and at a point, it did.”

    This points to a few different potential outcomes for his fourth studio album — now that Post Malone has indeed scored his multiple No. 1s, ascended to true headliner status, and became a “sensitive bad boy” icon, taking some of that pressure off to make hit after hit could absolutely work in his favor. If he has nothing to lose at this point in his somewhat indestructible career, then Twelve Carat Toothache could be anything he wants it to be, and being liberated always sounds pretty fashionable.

    Or, the lack of preciousness and pressure could result in all of these songs, essentially, being filler. Post Malone could put anything out at this point and people will still listen; so, would that make him work harder to create a more personal, experimental portrait? Or would he phone it in with an aimless, mostly hollow collection of songs that lack the capacity to cut through the noise? The answer, unfortunately, is the latter — but not without a few illuminating moments.


    Post Malone wants you to know that he is tortured. He has been going through it. He’s not been taking care of himself, smoking an unholy amount of cigarettes, and sabotaging his relationships. From the very first song, “Reputation,” he warns the listener with a laundry list of vices that he feels is tied to destiny: “I was born to raise hell/ I was born to take pills/ I was born to fuck up.” These dark and cynical truths aren’t necessarily new concepts for Post, since 2019’s Hollywood’s Bleeding actively doubled down on the tortured excesses of fame.

    But there’s a much deeper investigation on Post’s part in Twelve Carat Toothache, and though at times the honesty is refreshing and real, he can’t resist wading in shallow waters for most of the album. “Insane” and “I Cannot Be (A Sadder Song)” are run-of-the-mill Post Malone tracks, and though the latter track finds him lamenting a toxic relationship with some genuine frustration, it’s relatively basic compared to some of the LP’s meatier tracks.

    Remarkably, Post Malone’s comments about not succumbing to the hit-making machine required by his label don’t actually make any sense, because half of the songs on this album feel catered to radio stations and streaming playlists. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is almost like a rehash of “Circles,” right down to its ’70s groove and mixed metaphors (“I was wrapped around your finger/ but then I shot back down to earth” — those are two different things, but ok!). The Weeknd-assisted “One Right Now” has already peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s a rather plain song from both musicians, even if the synth bass line is irresistible.

    But arguably, the album’s most infectious track belongs to “I Like You (A Happier Song),” which features a terrific verse from Doja Cat. All of the melancholy that overpopulates both halves of the album is completely removed on “I Like You,” and the freedom and lightness of the track feels reminiscent of Post’s earlier hits, but with more pop star vigor and character than ever before. Both Post and Doja lean into a sort-of puppy dog romance that doesn’t often show up on their work, and none of it sounds half-assed or too cool (which Post has a habit of achieving a lot).


    Post’s impressive list of collaborators also help to boost the overall mood of the album, but only so far; The Kid Laroi-featuring “Wasting Angels” is the most forgettable and awkward track on the album, complete with a chorus that seems trapped in 2012. Both Gunna and Roddy Ricch are undoubtedly talented rappers, but they sound pretty flat in comparison to Post’s seismic vocals on “I Cannot Be (A Sadder Song)” and “Cooped Up,” respectively.

    And that brings us to the Fleet Foxes-assisted “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol,” which he debuted on Saturday Night Live last month with Robin Pecknold in tow. A few years ago, a video surfaced of Post Malone singing a portion Fleet Foxes’ eight-minute epic “The Shrine/An Argument,” and even though he donned a cowboy hat and his style was far from the meticulous indie folk that Fleet Foxes championed, it was clear that this was music he truly connected to.

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