It seems like an eternity ago that derpy, 19-year-old Grapevine native Austin Post threw open the SoundCloud floodgates with “White Iverson” and thrust us into our current pop zeitgeist.
Since then, there’s seldom been a mainstream radio hour, party or Spotify playlist sans one of his songs. Now 24 and on his third full-length album, Post Malone appears to have hit that sweet spot in his career where he feels the freedom to take some artistic risks. And I think he’s bringing rock 'n' roll back.
Hear me out.
I’m not a huge Posty fan, though I will admit I’ve danced to his songs more than a few times. He doesn’t break my top 10 artists, and more often than not, I think his songs are regular, old pop bullshit. That said, he is the most rock 'n' roll pop star this generation has.
Before he rose to fame, young Austin was covering Bob Dylan and playing folk music more frequently than he did hip-hop. Post rise to fame, he’s become something of a Dylan in a sea of Camila Cabellos and Charlie Puths.
He’s an everyman: a little bit ugly, a little bit chunky, and a lot-a-bit awkward. He’s the opposite of an Ariana Grande or a Beyoncé, and I think that’s why we love him. He’s not the type of artist who wows you with vocal prowess, but damn it if he isn’t a master of making you sing along.
Whether it’s deliberate, that little quaver in his voice that peeks out over the Auto-Tune makes people who can’t sing feel like they too can sing with him. Kind of like Dylan's honest drawl does. Post talks about having money and fame, like Judas Priest, only to turn around and channel Bruce Springsteen, to say that despite it all he’s still a depressed twentysomething with girl problems.
Malone brought Willie Nelson braids back, looks more grunge than the whole of Seattle, got teens to start singing Nirvana songs again and is steeped in this whole 1980s Dungeons & Dragons artwork revival that's putting O.G. power metal bands’ album artwork back in vogue.
I mean, just look at the artwork for his single “Wow.” It’s a drawing of an ice-white dragon winging its way through a maze of lightning and looks like the cover of a '80s high-fantasy novel that you’d pluck from a 50-cent basket on the thrift store floor.
The Hollywood’s Bleeding artwork takes the 1980s theme to a whole new level, with Post channeling his inner Ghost Rider beneath a stone arch complete with a skeleton and some medieval-looking swords adorning the margins.
Most of it is forgettable and does little to evoke the influences teased in its cover, but there are some gems interspersed throughout, not the least of which is Post’s collaboration with the old bat himself, Ozzy Osbourne (yes, you read that right). Fun fact: The album artwork for Hollywood’s Bleeding is reallllllly similar to Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz. Coincidence? I think not.
“Take What You Want” is a sad song of betrayal that begins with Ozzy crooning over a guitar-driven intro ripped straight out of Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive.” According to him, it’s the most fun he’s had making music since Black Sabbath. Damn.
The man who probably did more to define heavy metal than any other gave this song his blessing. Think about that.
Osbourne's approval is well-deserved. The intro is classic Ozzy through and through, and the solo that rips through the outro is indeed a Sabbath-worthy shredder if I ever heard one, and the craziest thing is that it fits the song. None of the heavy metal elements feel out of place or tacked on in the midst of an unabashedly poppy soundscape.
And that’s when it hit me: “Holy shit. Rock 'n' roll’s not dead. It’s just … different.” Genre lines are bending so hard these days they might as well be a giant circle. Post has said as much.
“Everything in music is shifting,” he told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “You look at all the genre-bending and everything now that’s just like, ‘this element and this element and you know what? Fuck it; I like this so let’s put that in too,’ and everything comes together and it’s just shmusic.”
And you know what? He’s dead on. This is how Gen-Z wants to rock: In tiny bursts of headbanging ecstasy. And if it opens the door for some more good, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll to break up the monotony of pop’s perfect plastic sheen, then I say “roll tide.”
I’m just happy to see rock make a comeback, even if it is just for a small fraction of the seconds in a handful of songs. Post Malone and a few others in the mainstream pop machine are slowly reintroducing distorted guitars into the wild. And as far as I can tell, it’s working.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a tongue-in-cheek collection of posts where kids were saying that Post Malone just put “whoever this Ozzy guy is on the map” and that they loved Post for “shining a light on undiscovered artists.”
As funny and absolutely ridiculous as that is, I think Post’s rock 'n' roll advocacy on and off stage is a breath of fresh air, and I can’t wait to see what the whippersnappers listening to him come up with next. Horns up and rock on, little ones.