Friday, December 28, 2018
COLUMN: Post Malone
This is going to be a difficult column to write.
Wait, that sounded ominous. That's the kind of intro you use when you're quitting or if there's some horrible secret from your past about to be revealed. This is NOT the case (I hope.) No, this will be a difficult column because I'm about to come to the defense of someone I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to hate.
Ever since my parents presented me with a second-hand record player at probably too young an age, I've been a music junkie. I have no talent to make music, but it turns out I'm fairly gifted at listening to it. Over the years, my collection has grown from big to really-big to I-clearly-have-a-problem to hmm-time-for-a-bigger-house.
Some people get on the internet to argue about politics. I'm usually there to argue about music. My favorite t-shirt says "Your Favorite Band Sucks." My second favorite says "I listen to bands that don't even exist yet." I proudly grew up on a diet of artists like The Smiths who once pleaded for us to "hang the blessed DJs, because the music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life."
For years, I've revelled in critical attacks of bands that dumb down the musical landscape, from the despicable bro-rock of Limp Bizkit to the faux earnestness of Creed and the steaming pile of mediocrity that is Nickelback. But many critics have now set their sights on a new target -- and for once, I'm not jumping on the hate train.
In fact, I may just be a fan of Post Malone.
If you don't know 23-year-old Austin Post, then your kids probably do. Both his albums sit towards the top of the Billboard charts, and the rapper/singer's been selling out shows around the globe. His fanbase is as huge as the disdain of his critics. Last week, the Washington Post ran a claws-out piece that called him a "rhinestone cowboy who looks like he crawled out of a primordial swamp of nacho cheese," and that's about as nice as it gets.
The arguments against Post Malone go something like this:
(1) Post Malone has nothing to say. This is absolutely true. The guy had a #1 hit this year with a song about a new watch and how shiny it is (seriously.) Most of his songs are about cars and jewelry and girls -- in other words, he's just like all the other artists on the Top 40. Not every musician needs to be Radiohead or U2 and make some grand statement about the human condition with every release. There are times I want to hear challenging music that questions our world, but there are other times when the only question I want answered from my car stereo is who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp.
(2) Post Malone songs are nothing but one hook repeated over and over. This is also true -- and kind of amazing. The average Post Malone song reduces the verses to a quick whisper that just gets you to the hook without delay. But here's the thing: by and large, they're GREAT hooks that get stuck in your head for DAYS whether you want them there or not.
(3) Post Malone isn't very talented. I don't even think Post would argue this. Part of his appeal is that he's an average dork who made it big. He doesn't look like a pop superstar. He looks like any of the dudes I used to play Dungeons & Dragons with. He's an everyman with an okay voice who makes decent songs and spends his success on stupid stuff like cars and ill-advised face tattoos. There are worse crimes.
(4) Post Malone is a culture vulture. The thinking here is that a dorky white guy from the Texas suburbs has no business making hip-hop. That's just kind of unfair. I've always thought of music as a cultural uniter, not a divider. He's not pretending to reinvent rap music, and I've never seen him dishonor the origins of hip-hop. Pop music has a time-honored tradition of thieving from various cultures (do you really think the Beach Boys hung out on the beach?) Maybe he'll expand to other genres in the future. Maybe he won't even have a successful future and THIS right now is his fifteen minutes of fame. Who knows?
Music aside, it's hard to hate on Post Malone because he seems like a genuinely nice guy. Critics rip him and he laughs it off. Instead, he goes on talk shows and takes Jimmy Fallon to lunch at Olive Garden. He's a funny dude, and it's nice to have a chart-topping artist who really seems to be enjoying his moment without any pretense.
So yeah, I'm going to neglect my duties as an elitist music snob and give Post Malone a pass -- which is fine because it gives me more time to hate on Nickelback. Maybe you disagree and can't stand Post Malone. If that's the case, look on the bright side: One of the fastest ways to become uncool is to have random middle-aged newspaper columnists gush over how cool you are.