This article originally appeared on DJBooth.
“White Iverson” is the single that started it all. The hypnotic smoothness of the instrumental mixed with Post Malone's tender vocals, catchy lyrics and infectious melody made it a song that was bound to be background noise across the world. More than a hit, it laid down the Post formula - minimal trap production that allowed his studio vocals to sink into the listener's ear canal. Far from an artist you listen to for a world view or a perspective that expands beyond self-indulging rockstar living. Tears are wiped away with dollar bills, he sings about not dying young without somberness - more of a declaration of survival.
Looking for depth in Post Malone’s music is like looking for a wrinkle on Pharrell’s face. Post isn’t here to move our souls but to bring the easy-listening anthems you play when your mind needs a break from the complexities of life. I understand and accept this. He delivered this kind of carefree trap music all throughout 2015 without dropping a dud.
After a year of simply releasing singles on SoundCloud, Post Malone did something I didn’t expect - he released a mixtape. Chance The Rapper was the sun that overshadowed Post Malone’s moon when the two both released their projects on May 12. It was an eclipse, one big album intercepting and obscuring the illumination of another. An effect you expect when releasing against Beyoncé or Kanye or Drake, but it was Chance who proved to be a bigger giant despite being on a smaller platform. Post may have toured the world with Justin Bieber, released a huge summer single that soared to #14 on Billboard’s mountaintop, but none of that mattered - the talk about August 26 couldn’t be heard over the boisterous chatter that came with Coloring Book. Being overshadowed didn't completely steal his thunder though. August 26, the first full-length release from Post Malone ever, is potentially a big deal.
When I first got around to hearing the mixtape, my gut-reaction was disappointment. The songs weren’t jumping out at me like the records he released throughout last year. The potential anthems like “Money Make Me Do It” and “Monta” didn’t feel big as “What’s Up” and “White Iverson.” You can hear the obvious Rae Sremmurd influence with “Git Wit U” and Jeremih completely steals the show on “Fuck.” Everything that may make Post Malone appetizing in small doses is harder to swallow when expanded beyond one song. Instead of delivering a project of bangers, it’s mostly a mixtape of potential.
There’s very few new tricks the now old dog pulls out. The Fleetwood Mac-sampling “Hollywood Dreams/Comedown” is unlike every other song on the mixtape, a sunny record that shows his range, an interesting juxtaposition of trap and soft rock. Even the lyrics pulls you in, the songwriting has much more illustration guiding the narrative. The following transition to “Comedown” is much darker, the two songs are day and night. “Hollywood” is driving down Hollywood Blvd. with your sweetheart and a flask of vodka, while “Comedown” is doing drugs in your Hollywood hotel dealing with the paranoia and pressures that this life gifts you. I wouldn’t mind more music of this caliber. “Oh God” is another song that strays away from the rap roots. The strumming guitar and the country-esque singing seems much more Raury than Post Malone, the song isn’t a homerun but the diversity showcases how Post could expand into other genres if he masters crossing over.
When Post was just releasing singles it was hard to measure him on the metric scale as a traditional one-hit-wonder. The current streaming era offered him a new way to make a living as an artist, but now that he’s released August 26, it makes you wonder about his future. For Post to maintain his position he has to keep churning out singles, because August 26 shows he doesn't have a compelling album in him, not yet.
FKi's 1st, Post Malone’s producer and secret weapon, told VIBE in a new interview that the upcoming Post Malone album will win a GRAMMY. By now, we all know that a GRAMMY isn’t a trophy that represents the best music. Not at all. But it speaks to the high standard he’s holding the album to. There’s a big difference between being good and being great, the album will say a lot for what’s in store for Malone’s future.
I look at his music like a pink Starburst - most people will say it’s their favorite flavor. Yellow doesn’t begin to compare and red can’t hold a candle in contrast. But despite the flavor, no amount of pink Starbursts will calm a starving stomach. You can barely chew it, let alone digest it. You don’t eat it because you’re hungry, it’s strictly for your sweet tooth - a place where it might get stuck in.
Among the new pack of singers erasing the lines between trap music and pop, Post knows his lane and stays in it. He makes pink Starburst music, able to be savored and enjoyed, but while he can certainly create a career consistently delivering a sugar high, you have to keep people from coming down. There's a lot of moments in August 26 that will give you a sugar rush and others that will leave you plummeting back to the ground.
Post will have to step up to making Reese's Peanut Butter Cup music if he hopes to keep listeners like me afloat.