On his fourth studio album, Twelve Carat Toothache, Post Malone is self-aware. When he first stepped onto the scene, many thought his viral “White Iverson” hit would make him a one-hit-wonder. Seven years into his career, he has over nine Grammy nominations under his belt and 11 Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 hits to his name. As his track record suggests, Malone is a skilled hitmaker, mastering the art of rock-influenced hip-hop with enough pop elements for mainstream radio. But on Twelve Carat Toothache, Malone seeks to make more than quick hits. The album is his most cohesive body of work to date, and his first worth a listen from beginning to end.
Twelve Carat Toothache opens with “Reputation,” a piano-driven ballad on which he reflects on the mental effects of the debaucherous lifestyle of which he’s become known for singing and rapping. It’s a dark track in nature, in which Malone acknowledges, “I know I f*cked up before, but I won’t do it again / And I got a lot of things that I wish I would’ve said / And I’m the same damn fool, and I’m wearing that hat again / I know I f*cked up, and I can’t make it right.” It’s hard hearing Posty talk about wanting to end his life, but it evokes the same feeling as his Stoney cut, “I Fall Apart,” a song in which the listeners bonded with Malone over heartbreak from whichever past lover of theirs came to mind. Now, Malone sings of heartbreak from his past mistakes.
While Twelve Carat Toothache may open on a melancholy note, he seeks to escape the feelings of despair on the bouncy “Cooped Up,” which features Mustard-protege Roddy Ricch. He shouts what we’ve all felt these past two years — “I’ve been f*cking cooped up.” The song’s accompanying music video, directed by Andre Bato, sees the two of them emerging from a dark place, literally, as the apartment in which they are partying contains black space in place of walls and ceilings. It maintains the spirit of a Post Malone party track, but a little more mature than “Congratulations” from Stoney and “Rockstar” from Beerbongs And Bentleys. It’s as though he’s traded parties and clubs for kickbacks and hang sessions.
On the saccharine “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” Malone finds solace in a woman he knows isn’t good for him. Upon first listen, it sounds like a sunny, poppy love song, but throughout the song, Posty asks himself, “Why do I tell myself that I do the best I can? / I know damn well that you couldn’t give a damn.” With additional lyrics like, “Ten billion cuties that think I’m the man / But if you come around, I’ll be eatin’ out your hand,” it’s one of two sides of the same coin of Beerbongs And Bentleys’ “Better Now,” only, in this case, he realized that the woman is in fact, just fine without him.
But this doesn’t hinder him from exploring new flames. On the Doja Cat-assisted “I Like You (A Happier Song),” he finds someone who makes him happy. The muse for this song is probably his elusive fiance and mother of his baby, as he sings, “Now that I’m famous, I got hoes all around me / But I need a good girl, I need someone to ground me / So please be true, don’t f*ck around with me / I need someone to share this heart with me,” over a punchy, thomping beat. Posty has come a long way from one-night stands with several woman and found one he likes — even if we’ve never seen her!
Perhaps the track that most showcases his growth is the Fleet Foxes collaboration, “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol.” As its title suggests, this song sees Malone acknowledging his biggest vice. He’s aware it’s not good for him, but he doesn’t wish to stop, as it seems to be “the only way to drown my sadness.” As Malone, who was born in ‘95, has grown older, it feels as though he has done so alongside his millennial-and-gen-z cusper fans. When “White Iverson” came out, many of the ‘94 and ‘95 babies has just turned 21, and were looking forward to their first time “saucin’, saucin’, saucin’” at the bar or at a party. When “Congratulations” came out a year later, a lot of those people had just graduated college, and were using the song as a graduation anthem. Now, six years later, “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol” represents many of those people’s relationships with alcohol now, as they are in their late 20s and winding down from the days of wild partying.
As a whole, Twelve Carat Toothache shows that Post Malone knows what kind of artist he wants to be. He’s not the long-haired, grill-wearing, cultural-appropriating party boy he was when he first stepped onto the scene. At this phase of his life, he’s less interested in making quick hits and more interested in taking himself seriously as an artist. Even if he admittedly is hesitant to play his own album back, the music Twelve Carat Toothache is his most honest and self-aware to date.