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Music

Why Post Malone is the perfect pop star for Donald Trump’s America

  • Malone, who is white, pumps out a pale imitation of African-American music – ignorant, dull, brainless and fake
  • Qualities that should have killed his career only made him bigger
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 9:04pm

The most popular young artist in the unpopular nation that is the United States is a rhinestone cowboy who looks like he crawled out of a primordial swamp of nacho cheese.

Post Malone is a Halloween rental, a removable platinum grill. His music – one of the shallowest bastardisations of rap to date – has the creative tension of associates at a downtown law firm complaining that US$150,000 a year just does not cut it.

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He looks like he got clubbed over the head by a cartoon peacock. He just turned 23.

And America just cannot get enough. Nielsen recently named the suburban-Dallas-raised rapper 2018’s most popular musician. So it was only a matter of time before Malone had his own music festival, a contemporary rite of passage for nearly every major pop-rap star.

The inaugural Posty Fest was held on Sunday night in Dallas’ Dos Equis Pavilion on a few acres of corporate-branded concrete. Many festivals pride themselves on offering non-music diversions such as art installations or novel culinary options. There was none of that here, but there were US$5 Jell-O shots.

There was little to separate it from a regular Post Malone concert other than the big-name opening acts (Travis Scott; Tyler, the Creator; Lil Skies) and Post Malone bandanas featuring an extreme close-up of Austin Post himself, glazed and squinting, as ever.

This should have been a coronation, his unequivocal ascension to the A-list pop superstardom of mono-named visionaries. There are artists who dictate the zeitgeist and those who reflect it.

Post Malone is decidedly the latter, an avatar of algorithm culture that rewards pleasant banality over the creatively vexing.

By 9.30pm, chants of “Posty! Posty!” filled the amphitheatre. Fifteen-year-old blonde girls shrieked as if Post were the next in the lineage of the Backstreet Boys, Jonas Brothers or One Direction. The main difference this time is that they honoured their hero with matching temporary face tattoos: barbed wire on their foreheads, a knife-like crucifix on their cheeks, and his trademark phrases inked in cursive – “Stay Away” and “Rest Easy”.

Bros in Troy Aikman jerseys grunted with simian glee. Twenty thousand people rocketed up, stood on their seats, and for a brief moment there was the palpable fear of being stampeded to death at a Post Malone concert.

Three different Eminem songs served as his intro music – presumably a tacit nod to his fandom but also a heavy-handed reminder that Malone is the most popular white guy in hip-hop since Marshall Mathers.

At the moment when the hysteria seemed in danger of waning, Post Malone took the stage to deafening cheers, scorching jet flames and billowing clouds of smoke like a Groupon version of a Kiss concert from 1975.

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Sipping from a red Solo cup, he soon began slurring Too Young with the casual misogyny of a member of a Red Pill subreddit: “My whip fast/ My b**** bad/ I skrrr skrrr, that coupe fast/ My coupe fast, your b**** know/ My b**** slow/ She do what I say so and she always keep me on my toes.” Those lines are as good as any at representing what Malone is working with on a lyrical level.

On recordings, his falsetto is afforded a modest four-cylinder strength. But onstage it comes off slurred and sloppy, twitching like road kill, limp off-key notes underscored by a booming backing track that operated like a life preserver.

Post Malone’s music is dead-eyed and ignorant, astonishingly dull in its materialism, an abandoned lot of creativity with absolutely no evidence of traffic in his cerebral cortex – and there’s also a negative side. Even if his intention is sincere homage, the bludgeoning, witless imitation cannot help but feel like minstrelsy.

White people will inevitably appropriate the most culturally relevant music genre, one that is become almost intrinsically bound to the modern conception of pop, but it’s not asking too much to attempt modest synthesis or the incorporation of a single new idea, or at least to not be so grotesquely desolate. If Post Malone were black, he wouldn’t have sold half; he simply wouldn’t exist.

There was no backing band and not even any set design for this victory-lap performance. Just smoke and fire and yellow sodium stage lights that seemed to expose his limitations.

What’s most damning is Post Malone’s bloodless abyss of soul and funk. His attempts at being emotional feel like hollow gestures. When he tries to be turned up, it feels inert and airless. His songs completely lack volatility and swing, leaving him as a little boy trying on oversized sequin suits and Versace loafers alternately trying to be a fake musty Elvis, a swaggering baller, a redneck back-country rebel, but flailing somewhere in the doughy middle.

The problem isn’t that he is a bad person or even completely untalented. It’s that he stands for nothing at all. He can afford to feign the swagger and cool of hip-hop when it’s convenient, and opt out when it’s time to see who’s riding for the cause.

It’s always been a fairly straightforward compact when it comes to hip-hop: if you’re a white person eating off what has historically been black culture, you have a certain obligation to repay that creative debt. Eminem continues to attack the hypocrisies and contradictions that allowed him to leapfrog equally gifted artists.

Macklemore may have lacked subtlety or a rudimentary understanding of when to share text messages, but there was no questioning his dedication to confronting his white privilege.

Malone predictably ended Posty Fest with the trio of his biggest hits: Rockstar, White Iverson and Congratulations. He introduced Rockstar as about being really wasted and trashing your hotel room, the cliched fantasies of half a century of guitar god rot coming home to roost in rap.

Approaching the conclusion of his set, Post thanked the crowd, telling them they are “kick ass”. Then he launched into a well-rehearsed diatribe about how no one believed in him but now he is a No 1 artist with his own festival. Suck on that, haters.

It is true, after all. Post Malone has won. He’s received wealth and fame with little accountability. He’s reaped the extreme benefits of a system that allowed him to flourish, yet asserts his privilege to remain purposefully ignorant. He knows he won the lottery, but does not understand that it was rigged in his favour.

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What Post Malone so perfectly represents is the idiotic currents that have carried us to this present cultural submersion, where an objective notion of the truth has been systematically muddied, facts are negotiable and any hint of criticism – be it for lacking integrity, dignity or talent – can be brazenly dismissed as the pitiful cries of the “haters”.

Who allowed this to happen? What hole in the system allowed this greasy discarded barbecue wrapper to prosper?