Friday, December 9, 2016

Post Malone - Stoney Review

Last summer, when 'White Iverson' dropped, it seemed very clear Post Malone would be a future, and present, one-hit wonder. A corny white dude with cornrows rapping about basketball and being the white equivalent of Allen Iverson? It reeked of cheesy, new age memery. As if Skee-Lo's 'I Wish' was made by Canadian reggae rapper Snow. Yet, throughout all of it, and the ensuing loosies that confirmed his Country roots, Post Malone was deadly serious, intent on becoming a household name like his favorite friend, Justin Beiber. Those two, unsurprisingly, go well together. On Stoney, Post's first official album, the primary topic is himself, an admiration of the self in a wholly egocentric affair. First step to wanting the spotlight is to shine it on yourself, as the natural behaviors of your prototypical stars scream "me, me, me." So, I suppose, in that sense, Post Malone is right on track. Following the lukewarm, but not wholly unforgettable August 26, the rapper/singer spends the vast majority of Stoney reflecting on himself, the rights of passages he's surpassed, the haters constantly talking him down, and the relationships in his life and how they affect him. Me, me, me does not make for a good album.

While there's nothing inherently wrong with respecting oneself, and even accusing antagonizers of jealousy, affording others the chance to witness such a conceited display has typically led to disgruntled disdain. As far as debut albums go, Stoney isn't all that left field in this regard, choosing to focus its efforts on Post Malone's own successes, treating the record like a victory lap for celebratory accomplishments. Problem is, apart from 'White Iverson,' he hasn't actually accomplished anything. It's as if the Texas-bred rapper declared a victory for himself before even crossing the finish line. Plus, he hasn't exactly proven the haters he's referring to on songs like 'Broken Whiskey Glass,' 'Big Lie,' or 'No Option' wrong, as their criticisms of him primarily as a derivate trend-hopper and one-hit wonder are considerably valid. Case in point, ignoring 'White Iverson,' despite a slew of singles (five of which appear on Stoney), only 'Go Flex' and 'Deja Vu' have scraped the Billboard Top 100, the latter assuredly because of the Bieber feature. Long story short, apart from successfully releasing an album, which I'll respect for the dedication and determination alone, Post Malone hasn't exactly proven anything. And with Stoney's lackluster collection of songs, that won't soon change.

However, Stoney's insipid content, which reveals Post's inability to make something even remotely unique, isn't far and away the worst part of the LP. The album's strongly let down by irritatingly rudimentary song structuring, and by way of that debacle, poor production as a result. Apart from 'Cold' and 'White Iverson,' every single track here falls in the three-minute mark, confining potential ideas to restrictions the artist has placed on himself. While complete duds like 'Cold,' 'Too Young,' or 'Up There' won't actually achieve radio success, they, along with the rest of Stoney, feel as if they should. In some sense, I'm thankful, because it's not as if Post's skills truly warrant tracks any longer, as the 47-minute duration is more than enough time to spend with an artist of this kind of single-minded stature. While the lyrics aren't present on Stoney, and in most cases a detriment, other albums have prospered with the same drawbacks thanks to their production. Once again, Stoney attempts this feat, using Post's classic genre-blending approach (Hip-Hop and R&B primarily, but dashes of Country and Soul find their way in), but with each song abiding by the same formula things get old fast.

There are a handful of examples that counteract this though, either by switching layouts or finding a small, but noticeable tonal shift in Post himself. However, as is the case with 'Broken Whiskey Glass' and 'I Fall Apart,' they don't actually improve the song, finding Post, apparently, at an emotional standstill (evident by the sudden raspiness in his voice), but with lyrics like "they ain't never listened now I'm makin' them hits so I'm fuckin' your bitch" and "never caught a feeling this hard, harder than the liquor I pour" his attempt at heartfelt modesty is lost. Although it's hard to pinpoint, likely the most unique song here is 'Go Flex,' which actually succeeds, finding Post smoothly amalgamate his Country and Hip-Hop roots, never going overboard, even in his vocals, which are the best on Stoney. Lastly, 'Up There,' as with all other songs here, is partially ruined by Post's vocals and drab lyrics, but the production at least makes a shift to calmer water, removing the Trap element for a three-minute lapse of wishful thinking. 'Yours Truly, Austin Post,' the album's finale, which supersedes 'Up There,' finds commonality between the two, reflecting on his place in the limelight, leaving Stoney off on its most self-aware moment.

Unfortunately, this doesn't do enough to quell the disapproval growing inside me throughout the duration of Stoney. There can be a succinct argument made that two songs, 'White Iverson' and 'Go Flex,' are the only two worthy of merit here. Problem being, they're also some of the oldest, with Post's notorious single releasing almost a year and a half ago, while 'Go Flex' dropped incongruously this April. The remaining single older than 'Go Flex,' 'Too Young,' released last October and still remains as laughably banal as the day it first dropped. Rather than follow the YOLO crazy, Post recites in the chorus that he "doesn't wanna die too young," as if the cards are still on the table if he so chooses. Stuck between his inner feelings and the trends at hand, Post Malone has always felt insincere, and Stoney doesn't dissuade that belief one bit. While his quaint, sometimes intriguing mixtape August 26 had moments of side-stepping, like 'Hollywood Dreams' and 'Oh God,' Stoney remains wholly middle of the road as far as modern Pop Rap is concerned. Up to tackle a near limitless stat? Count all the times Post says "I," "my," or "me" on Stoney. That number shall prove why this debut is deserving of minimal praise.

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