The reviews that surface after a Google search for Post Malone’s beerbongs & bentleys all seem to deliver similarly damning conclusions—that frankly, the album sucks. It’s a “Flexing, Partying, Rich–Sad Bummer,” proclaims Rolling Stone. Pitchfork deems the album “false and performative,” and its predecessor—Post’s debut, Stoney—a “cynical, punishing listen.” 

Despite the stamp of disapproval from music’s most prominent critics, Post is killing it commercially, broken record after broken record. beerbongs & bentleys was certified Platinum four days after its release; Stoney hit double Platinum. Critics who dismissed Post Malone as a one–hit wonder following the success of “White Iverson” clearly failed to foresee his rise to notoriety or his commercial fortune. 

Post Malone is not a conventional hip–hop figure, whatever that means—the LA–based, Texas–raised melodic rapper rocks boxer braids, sometimes a grill, and has “Stay Away” curlicued above his right eyebrow. In interviews, he does a lot of grinning and a lot of wheeze–laughing and comes off endearingly good–natured, if not particularly smart. There was even a rumor that he suffered from B.O. (Post took to Twitter to refute that claim). But the artist kicks up a stink within more serious dialogues, and faces backlash for cultural appropriation and comments like this: “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip–hop.” 

beerbongs & bentleys dropped at the tail–end of April 2018. The narrative hopscotches between break–ups and Post’s rise to stardom, backlit by minor–key hooks and energetic drum programming. “I’ve been sleepin’ with the .45 like every night,” Post sings in opener “Paranoid,” detailing his fame–induced fears and also recalling his firearms collection and views on gun control

Swae Lee has seen better days than “Spoil My Night,” a flimsy tune in which Post sings about a “li’l mama” with “beautiful boobies,” doing little to rebut the critics who disparage his songwriting as shallow. The other non–single features share the same middling charms; basketball–themed “Ball For Me” ft. Nicki Minaj is the inferior sibling of “White Iverson.” “Same Bitches” ft. G–Eazy and YG offers slight commentary on L.A. social climbers but ultimately has as much depth as one would expect from a song titled “Same Bitches.”

Third track “Rich & Sad” is both bittersweet and blisteringly catchy—my personal favorite. “I would throw it all away / I just keep on wishing that the money made you stay,” Post sings, likely in reference to his on–off affair with music promoter Ashlen Diaz. “Better Now,” the most popular non–single track, also pulls on the same break–up narrative with a POV that bounces between Post and his former lover and a hook that Taylor Swift is jealous of. And “Stay” is perhaps the best example of well–executed vulnerability. Post twangs on an acoustic guitar as he mourns a crumbling relationship, with backing vocals that waft soft and dreamy and ahh’s made of sunlight. (Also see: his 2013 cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” American flag shirt and everything.)

“Blame It On Me” layers thick harmonies as Post’s inner emo writhes in the shadow of fame. “They held me down, let me drown / They spit me out, right through the teeth,” he sings. These offenses are attributed both to himself and not to himself—he bounces between “It’s not my fault” in the chorus and “It’s all my fault” in the bridge. 

I like bleeding, spill everything on the floor and break some shit,” Post admits. His affection for carnage yields these dingy but otherwise fun tracks (and also the blood–soaked music video for lead single “rockstar” ft. 21 Savage). 

Other times, it drags both him and the album down. “I’ma put that bitch pussy in a motherfucking bodybag,” Post vows in “Over Now,” while the whiniest of background vocals howl into oblivion. “Otherside” holds some of the album’s better songwriting—lost faith, vials of denial, and zero ridiculous metaphors—but still droops in its darkness. And in “Jonestown (Interlude),” Post compares his own self–destructive habits to the Jonestown Massacre of 1978, but with an “Over Now”–esque chord progression that screeches in its misery.

When Post swaps inner turmoil for rockstar debauchery, issues of emotional excess become issues of redundancy. What he does well, he does well; third single “Psycho” ft. Ty Dolla $ign basks in club appearances and beautiful women and is a hell of a good time. Same with chipper “Candy Paint,” a car–centric bump used to promote The Fate of the Furious. “Zack and Codeine”—as in, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, is stupid catchy in its embrace of drug–induced extravagance. But what Post does well, he often overdoes. “Takin’ Shots” is more stupid than catchy with its distorted synth and hard–hitting lyrics i.e. “Got me speakin’ drunkanese, can you translate?” “92 Explorer” and “Sugar Wraith” close off the album and are fun but unmemorable.

beerbongs & bentleys shines in highs of impeccable production and in lows of measured vulnerability. In the middle lie rehashed “boobies” blather and suffocating over–emotion, all of which would’ve done a greater service off the album.

Despite some qualms, I loved b&B. And for some inconceivable reason, I do love Post Malone. He’s dopey, and his music is low–threshold. Critics actively dislike his albums. Yet here he is, rolling in sales and streaming records, and here I am, consuming his music at high volume. It’s almost paradoxical.

Post Malone is currently on tour with 21 Savage and SOB x RBE.