Album Review: "AUSTIN" - Post Malone
Photo credits: Spotify
Releasing vulnerable, scaled-back music seems to be a trend in 2023. We’ve already had Ed Sheeran reveal a transparent look into his life with his primarily acoustic album, Subtract, but now Post Malone has followed in a similar vein with AUSTIN. The album deviates from the artist’s usual hip-hop style, embodying elements of pop-rock and commercial pop that create a softer approach than his previous albums. Matching the vulnerability of the album’s sound, Post Malone intertwines feelings of self-loathing, struggles with substance abuse, and relationship troubles throughout the album. We're on a journey of self-discovery with the artist as he takes us through his darkest thoughts, questioning if there's anything worthwhile about him and then laughing it off in the end.
Too Cool To Die
Sign Me Up
Hold My Breath
Enough Is Enough
Laugh It Off
Ever since his music industry debut, American rapper and singer-songwriter Post Malone has been steadily on the rise. After the release of "White Iverson" from his debut album, Stoney, he has continually reached the top of charts and has enjoyed much success over the years. He has been known for his hybrid style, tastefully combining genres like hip-hop, pop, R&B, and trap. Post Malone has had many notable collaborations on his previous albums, including Fleet Foxes, SZA, The Weeknd, and Ozzy Osbourne. His tradition of having guest artists on his albums is another aspect he strays from on AUSTIN, making it his first project without any guest appearances. From the artist moving in a new direction sonically to him playing guitar on every track, AUSTIN is a unique approach to Post Malone's evolving style and makes for a captivating listening experience.
Starting off moody and broody, the opening tracks, "Don't Understand" and "Something Real," show the album's darker side. "Don't Understand" sets the tone for the album, beginning with a bare instrumentation of acoustic guitar riffs and Post Malone's raw vocals. It's a slow, soft track that expresses the artist's self-loathing with lyrics like "I don't understand how you like me so much/'Cause I don't like myself." It's one of the more sad songs on AUSTIN, giving listeners a glimpse into Post Malone's vulnerable side. Contrasting with something a little more loud and aggressive, "Something Real" features a heavier instrumentation that draws on darker synth-pop and is reminiscent to the artist's previous work on Twelve Carat Toothache. This song has a big sound with a passionate choir backing Post Malone's emotional vocals.
Lightening the album's mood up a bit, Post Malone throws in some peppy commercial pop-rock tracks with "Chemical," "Novacandy," and "Mourning." While some of the lyrics in these songs aren't always the most pleasant, the music is. "Chemical" features energetic pop beats and guitar strums, accompanying the song's memorable melodies. The track was the first single released off the album, getting listeners pumped for the new album with a sound similar to Post Malone's hit, "Circles." Coming up next on the album, "Novacandy" has a similar catchy vibe to it, making it one of the tracks listeners will have on repeat. "Novacandy" mixes elements of synth-pop and commercial pop together, creating infectious beats and irresistible melodies. Slowing things down a bit but not too much, "Mourning" comes in as a mid-tempo ballad. The track was another one released as a single prior to the album's debut. "Mourning" sounds pleasant and like a commercial hit, but the lyrics are bittersweet. Throughout the track, Post Malone mourns the end of a party, not wanting it to be over or sober up.
Slightly more melancholic than the previous three tracks on the album, "Too Cool To Die" comes up next and is another mid-tempo ballad. The song is full on synth-pop, seeming to draw some inspiration from the 80s. "Too Cool To Die" features captivating, heavy-hearted melodies that are accompanied by chugging guitar riffs, shuffling beats, and a synth-laden soundscape. "Sign Me Up" picks the pace up on AUSTIN, featuring driving beats and energetic melodies. The track seems to outline a toxic mindset in a relationship, using lyrics like "I couldn't see it coming/There ain't no point in running/I'll even cut off all my hair and change my clothes/Ain't even call my mother/For love, you gotta suffer." It's a problematic sounding relationship, but the music telling the story is pure bliss.
As soon as "Sign Me Up" picked up the pace, "Socialite" slowed it back down. It's another mid-tempo ballad, featuring a scaled-back instrumentation that relies heavily on guitar, piano, and shuffling percussion. Though it's one of the slower songs on the album, it's definitely not dull by any means. The vocals and melodies on "Socialite" are euphonious, and the lyrics are entertaining to say the least. "Socialite" has one of the most hilarious lines with the lyrics, "I'm callin' her Shrek 'cause she got a donkey." Keeping things slow and mellow, "Overdrive" comes up next on AUSTIN. "Overdrive" is one of the shortest tracks on the album and is a pleasant ballad. It was the third and final song on the album to be released as a single, dripping with a commercial appeal that is sure to make the song a hit. "Speedometer" keeps the commercial pop energy going, featuring a synth-laden soundscape and infectious melodies. The track has a driving beat, keeping things upbeat and animated. It's one of the many enjoyable tracks on the album listeners can revisit time and time again.
Being one of the rawest tracks on AUSTIN, "Hold My Breath" is a ballad steeped in pain and agony. It starts off with Post Malone's exposed vocals and guitar, later adding some layers with instruments like piano and drums. The vocals on the track are vulnerable and hurt as the artist begs someone not to leave. Giving us some relief from the pain in "Hold My Breath," "Enough Is Enough" comes in with the commercial pop energy present through most of the album. The track is full of lively beats and memorable melodies, putting the song up there with "Chemical" and "Novacandy" when it comes to songs listeners will have on repeat. Giving another nod to his usual style, "Texas Tea" sounds reminiscent of Post Malone's previous work. The track is a fun, heavier synth-pop song that focuses on themes of partying, self-indulgence, and the lifestyle that has come with the artist's fame.
Keeping the party going, "Buyer Beware" is a peppy pop-rock/commercial pop track featuring upbeat melodies and bouncy beats. The song has a guitar-laden soundscape with some synth interjections, keeping things light and airy despite the lyrics being on the darker side. "Landmine" has a similar energy to "Buyer Beware," prominently featuring acoustic guitar licks. The song feels like a temporary relief to the demons Post Malone has been struggling with throughout AUSTIN, featuring uplifting harmonies and hopeful melodies. Giving depth to the song's composition, a choir comes in to support Post Malone's vocals throughout the track. Slowing things down again, "Green Thumb" prepares us for the end of the album. The acoustic track is one of the barer entries on the album, having a simple instrumentation featuring light guitar strums and Post Malone's exposed vocals. It's a sadder song on AUSTIN and brings us to the final song on the album, "Laugh It Off." The way the album ends is haunting, leaving us on a bittersweet note with a powerful ballad about laughing off the pain. "Laugh It Off" is a pensive track, intertwining a gloomy soundscape with dejected lyrics. It brings our journey to a close, taking us from Post Malone's struggles with self-loathing in "Don't Understand" to feeling a numbness and indifference to this pain in "Laugh It Off."
Though AUSTIN has received mixed reviews, we shouldn't count the album out. Many of the complaints seem to revolve around the change in style and accuse Post Malone of buying into the commercial pop formula—something critics have found to be boring on this album. While the departure from his usual style might be disappointing for longtime fans, it's important to remember the genre experimentation is intentional and expected as Post Malone hinted at the album's different artistic approach on social media. The lyrical content featured on the album is on par with the artist's previous releases, showing that Post Malone isn't completely abandoning his established songwriting style. Instead, he's just appealing to a broader audience by gearing his sound towards something more pop-influenced. Some critics have complained the commercially oriented music makes the album tiring to listen to more than once, but many of the songs have an appeal that will keep listeners coming back to AUSTIN. There are plenty of catchy hooks and compelling melodies that make certain entries on the album addictive. AUSTIN might not be an album listeners can have on loop, but there is something for everyone to enjoy on it.
Written By Cheyenne Johnson
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