The Highs & Lows After Post Malone’s ‘Stoney’

Post Malone’s breakout track, ‘White Iverson’, is still different things to different people; to some – a bit of a joke, and to others – the best song of 2015. You could probably find solid arguments in both camps, but regardless of your view on Post Malone, he’s done his fair share of internet/heart/rule-breaking since his emergence into public consciousness. He continues this streak with his debut album, ‘Stoney’, which pops when it works – and flops when it doesn’t.

To kick things off, Post uses a bit of imagery to hammer home the album’s USP: country/rap fusion. ‘I done drank codeine from a broken whiskey glass’, he croons on the opener, ‘Broken Whiskey Glass’, attempting to bridge the southern gap between Texas and Atlanta. Post’s folk/rap offerings are still as polarising as ever on ‘Stoney’, however, when matched with the right production – they are undeniable.

‘Stoney’s production credits look like a who’s who of 2016’s top beatsmiths; Frank Dukes, Vinylz, DJ Mustard, Pharrell, Metro Boomin, FKI and Illangelo all get behind the boards for Post’s album, each offering their unique spin on the country/rap soundscape. Frank Dukes, who’s percussive loops will be instantly recognisable from ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘Fake Love’, sets off the Bieber-assisted ‘Deja Vu’ perfectly. The track, for the most part, is dominated by a simple organ pattern leaving lots of room for the songsters to trade melodies, each never too far from the forefront with their howling adlibs. Similarly, on ‘Cold’, Dukes lays down a house-like bassline under Post’s quivering bravado, generating one of the best songs of the bunch. Although this may sound like a rather simple formula, it works: Post’s sound trades on how he says things – not what he says. With that in mind, marrying his vocals with the right instrumentation is of fundamental importance.

One problem that Post faces, however, is that he often relies too heavily on his big harmonised hooks to carry the verses through. As Post usually elects to sing-rap his verses, there is little to distinguish between the hook and what precedes it, save for a maximisation of effort. That is to say, it can feel as though Post’s verses plod along rather slowly, waiting patiently to erupt at the chorus. Take the Mustard-produced ‘Big Lie’, for example. It features a big hook, wherein all the musical elements play a role, but seems rather uninspiring in the build-up. Post does have a remedy for this elsewhere on ‘Stoney’, however, namely – erring on the side of singing rather than rapping. On ‘No Option’ and ‘Go Flex’ in particular, Post opts to sing the verses, playing around with various melodies before the hook, and sounding just as proficient as any other R&B artist (I needn’t talk about ‘White Iverson’ here; everyone knows he finessed the formula with that track).

The real highlights of ‘Stoney’ manifest when Post eschews the country bravado and lets himself get vulnerable, ‘Feel’ featuring Kehlani and ‘I Fall Apart’ being the best examples of this. ‘I Fall Apart’ in particular really cuts through the noise. Post doesn’t rely on the producer playing a blinder or a big hook to save him, instead – he lets his vocals do the work, his vibrato adding to the poignancy: ‘She fooled me twice and it’s all my fault’. With this track, you can just feel the sincerity. A similarly excellent offering comes in the form of ‘Leave’, a straight country cut that is bolted onto the deluxe version of ‘Stoney’. This is a bit of a shame. Post made it clear that he wanted his debut album to be predominantly hip-hop, however, ‘Leave’ comes together so beautifully that it makes you half-wish that there were more efforts like it.

As the album draws to a close, big work from Pharrell and Metro Boomin on ‘Up There’ and ‘Congratulations’ respectively really make the fourth quarter pop. On top of this, Post delivers his final offering, ‘Yours Truly, Austin Post’, an intriguing track that is as self-aware as it is melancholic. Wailing guitar riffs and vocal squeaks initiate the song, immediately followed by Post as he cries, ‘I just came down from the high of my life’. Despite his frequent drug references, it is fairly clear that this particular crash denotes the fading buzz of ‘White Iverson’, and the impossibly high benchmark that he has set himself commercially and artistically.

When you get such a big buzz from a single SoundCloud hit, trying to identify your fan base and position your debut album accordingly will never be an easy task. With that in mind, I think Post did an excellent job. My only hope for his sophomore effort, however, is that he embraces the country and lets his invariably lovely vocals fly.