THE GRAMMY NOMINATED POP-CULTURE ICON POST MALONE RELEASES NEW LP TWELVE CARAT TOOTHACHE, A SOUL-BARING FOLLOW UP TO 2019’S HOLLYWOOD’S BLEEDING
BY MADELYN DAWSON
Austin Richard Post is a man of contradictions. With 14 tattoos on his face, a cowboy hat on his head, and his uber-distinctive warble, Post Malone has never been bound by anyone else’s idea of who he should be. On his newly released LP, Twelve Carat Toothache, Malone proves that not only can he do it all from the tight, poppy hooks of “Wrapped Around Your Finger” to bouncy trap beats in “Insane” to confessional, country-influenced ballads like “Lemon Tree” he can also feel it all.
Not only does his fourth full-length studio project see the nine-time Grammy nominee at his most thematically focused, it showcases Malone at his most vulnerable, introspective, and raw. He is battling demons, struggling with physical and intangible vices, but he is never overshadowed by them. Even at his most candid, he does not sacrifice the more off kilter levity that fans have come to appreciate about his approach to songwriting.
Twelve Carat Toothache is an exercise in storytelling. Free of pretension, hyperbole, and even genre, Malone’s 43-minute journey is an expression by (and for) the self. “That’s the most important part,” Malone told Billboard on the topic of finally writing an album truly for himself. “For a long time, I didn’t know how to do that.”
For Malone, this discovery comes in the form of stripping his storytelling to the barest bones of human experience, tackling themes of despair, isolation, and self-destruction. From the first single, the New York native finds power in the paradox of claustrophobic isolation: a pandemic-era mainstay for many.
“Cooped Up’s” echoing, minimal beat and overstated reverb contend with the compression of Malone and Roddy Ricch’s vocal performances. As Malone sings about yearning for escape, his voice sounds as if it is being pressed up against the walls of an empty room. On the more stripped-down “Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol,” an unlikely collab with indie folk band Fleet Foxes, Malone is painfully straightforward, deadpan even, about his relationship with alcohol abuse.
This is not to say that the album is without its glimmers of hope. Malone’s Doja Cat collaboration lives up to its title of “A Happier Song,” and in “Wasting Angels,” he sings, “I won’t let another angel go to waste,” giving listeners a reprieve from the soul-baring devastation and reminding us that hope does exist, even in dark times. Somehow still, Malone is able to make us believe it.