Twelve Carat Toothache, by Post Malone
Fame is not kind to artists. For an artist to remain popular there are a lot of things that need to go right, not all of which are in the control of the artist. An artist can be on top of the world one year and then the next year can flop and no longer command a great deal of the attention that they received before. Such appears to be the fate of this album, one week after it has been released. Previously, Post Malone had a ubiquitous hit with the song “Circles” off of his previous album Hollywood’s Bleeding, and took a bit of time off before revealing that he was having problems with his record label over a new contract, as he has apparently finished his previous album. In an atmosphere of insecurity and concerns about his future, this album was release to lower numbers than his last project had, all of which plays into how one views an album like this one.
The album begins with “Reputation,” which begins as a slow and somber piano ballad where Post Malone bemoans his bad reputation and struggles against self-destruction. “Cooped Up” continues with a feeling of being trapped alongside another artist who has had some negative experiences with recent releases in Roddy Ricch. “Lemon Tree” languidly wrestles with insomnia and relationship problems, with some distressing audio-effects on Post’s voice. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is another song about dissatisfaction with a relationship where the singer feels trapped and manipulated, which can relate to either romance or business, obviously. “I Like You (A Happier Song)” shows Post Malone seeking a good girl, and his lack of skill in this important task can be demonstrated by the fact that he finds Doja Cat seeking to fill that role, which is wildly inappropriate. “I Cannot Be (A Sadder Song)” featuring Gunna is indeed a sadder song, but it’s still more upbeat than most of this rather melancholy album so far. “Insane” tells a predictable story about a crazy woman and struggling to make sense of the negative changes in people as we still struggle with our longings. “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol,” featuring Fleet Foxes is an ambivalent ode to Post Malone’s problem drinking and coming to terms with his own behavior, even while trying to blame alcohol itself. “Wasting Angels” is another song about dealing with frustration in a relationship, and has a feature by Kid Laroi which I normally hate but handles it well by burying him until later in the song to deal with the relationship melodrama. “Euthanasia” wallows in misery and despair and self-destruction and seeking to numb the pain of life. “When I’m Alone” has a lovely and driving instrumental as it wrestles with problems of loneliness and the desire of finding an escaping it, a feeling that seems to drive Post into bad relationships. “Waiting For A Miracle” expresses Post Malone hoping against hope for some way out of his misery and unhappiness. “One Right Now,” featuring The Weeknd, is one of the catchier songs on the album and features Post Malone trying to pretend to be happy to overcome heartbreak. “New Recording 12, Jan 3, 2020,” sounds like an unfinished fragment of an old-school Coldplay song in the best way.
If this album seems to lack a bit of energy, and a lot of catchy songs, it seems to be the sort of album that is ripe for a reassessment later on. Judged as a coherent picture a man determined to act as if he is happier than he is, and present an honest picture of where he is in 2022, this album reminds me a lot of Dawn FM by the aforementioned The Weeknd, another album that wasn’t nearly as popular as Abel’s previous album but one that has a great deal of worth in its honest reflection on the truth of life, even if that truth is somewhat bitter. This is an album that wallows in sorrow and misery, as Post Malone struggles with his character flaws, his self-medication with alcohol, and his cycles of bad relationship drama with both women as well as his record label. Beyond the moderate hit “One Right Now,” there are few songs on this album that are obvious hits. “Cooped Up” has shown itself to be minor hit, and “I Like You (A Happier Song)” is likely to be a minor hit as well, but most everything else here is made up of moody album tracks that work better to tell a picture of a soul in despair. This album, far from being a flop, is a cry for help. Let us hope that someone listens.