Twelve Carat Toothache (out today, June 3rd) is Post Malone’s shortest album to date. And according to Posty, this is a deliberate play to resist the overloaded track lists that dominate streaming platforms; “I’ve made a lot of compromises, especially musically, but now I don’t feel like I want to anymore,” he said in a Billboard cover story back in January, “I don’t need a No. 1; that doesn’t matter to me no more, and at a point, it did.”
This points to a few different potential outcomes for his fourth studio album — now that Post Malone has indeed scored his multiple No. 1s, ascended to true headliner status, and became a “sensitive bad boy” icon, taking some of that pressure off to make hit after hit could absolutely work in his favor. If he has nothing to lose at this point in his somewhat indestructible career, then Twelve Carat Toothache could be anything he wants it to be, and being liberated always sounds pretty fashionable.
Or, the lack of preciousness and pressure could result in all of these songs, essentially, being filler. Post Malone could put anything out at this point and people will still listen; so, would that make him work harder to create a more personal, experimental portrait? Or would he phone it in with an aimless, mostly hollow collection of songs that lack the capacity to cut through the noise? The answer, unfortunately, is the latter — but not without a few illuminating moments.
Post Malone wants you to know that he is tortured. He has been going through it. He’s not been taking care of himself, smoking an unholy amount of cigarettes, and sabotaging his relationships. From the very first song, “Reputation,” he warns the listener with a laundry list of vices that he feels is tied to destiny: “I was born to raise hell/ I was born to take pills/ I was born to fuck up.” These dark and cynical truths aren’t necessarily new concepts for Post, since 2019’s Hollywood’s Bleeding actively doubled down on the tortured excesses of fame.