Review: Post Malone was hip-hop’s saddest champion at the Hollywood Bowl

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2018: Post Malone performs on stage at the Hollywood Bowl
Post Malone performs Wednesday night at the Hollywood Bowl.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Pop Music Critic

“Can I get a beer?” Post Malone asked someone — anyone — from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl. Then he clarified: “Another beer?”

A singer and rapper whose specialty is blurring the line between those roles, 22-year-old Malone has grown accustomed to having his desires fulfilled.

Last month his album “Beerbongs & Bentleys” set a record for the most streams in a week on its way to entering the Billboard 200 at No. 1; shortly after that, he topped the Hot 100 singles chart with “Psycho,” the second track from “Beerbongs” to do that after “Rockstar,” in which he describes throwing a TV through a window at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills.

“This song is about having a cool watch,” Malone said Wednesday night to introduce “Psycho,” not long into a sold-out concert that featured unannounced appearances by Quavo, Swae Lee, Miguel, Tyga and YG.


Yet it’s hard to know whether Malone is enjoying all this success. His music — on “Beerbongs” as well as on his hit 2016 debut, “Stoney” — is sluggish and moody, with minor-key vocal melodies delivered in a parched croon that makes it clear why the guy keeps wetting his whistle.

Malone’s gloom is of the standard nouveau-riche variety. Half his songs are about buying expensive things; the other half are about how those things attract people with shady intentions. (One tune on the new album is titled “Rich & Sad.”)

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2018: Post Malone performs on stage at the Hollywood Bowl
Malone is touring behind his hit album "Beerbongs & Bentleys."
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )

What distinguishes him — beyond his whiteness, which he shared with the vast majority of his audience Wednesday — is the depth of emotion he brings to the rich-and-sad enterprise, and also his consistency.


Listening to the 18-track “Beerbongs,” you don’t feel sorry for Malone, exactly, but you do feel with him, thanks to the tenderness with which he somehow describes a scene like the one in “Spoil My Night,” where a woman points her phone at him as they’re flirting at a party.

“Damn, how many videos you gonna post?” he asks, and here is the glum reality of fame in the Instagram era.

At the Bowl, where Malone is due to appear again tonight, that despair was plainest in several songs he performed with an acoustic guitar, strumming his pain like the emo-folk balladeer he might’ve become had computer software not made it so easy to create hip-hop beats.

“Everybody’s blind when the view’s amazing,” he sang in “Stay,” his voice cracking flamboyantly.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2018: Rapper 21 Savage performs on stage at the Hollywood
21 Savage opened the show.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times )

But you could sense it too in moments that seemed designed to demonstrate his wildness, as when he and 21 Savage (who opened the show) smashed two guitars at the end of “Rockstar” with a pitiful lack of intensity.

There was something similarly obligatory about Malone’s presentation of those cameos. Sure, it was fun to watch Swae Lee join him for “Spoil My Night.” And nobody in his right mind would complain about seeing YG strut across the stage wearing a white T-shirt tucked into athletic shorts that ended above his knees. (Tyga popping out to do his song “Taste”? That I could’ve done without.)

Yet Malone had something of a time-to-make-the-doughnuts look on his fuzzy face as each of these guys went about his business — another perk of the job that was beginning to feel like a concession.


The concert ended with a rambling speech in which Malone recounted his unlikely ascent to stardom; he took time to heap scorn on all those who’d sworn he’d never make it.

This was the rapper’s prologue to his song “Congratulations,” which is what all those haters give him now, he said.

So: Joke’s on them.


Twitter: @mikaelwood

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