(September 23, 2019). Post Malone has the current No. 1 album in America with Hollywood’s Bleeding. The set was consumed near gold-certified levels in its first week out, making it the second-highest opening week so far this year, behind Taylor Swift’s 800k+ debut for Lover in August.
Hollywood’s Bleeding is also Malone’s second No. 1 album, after 2018’s beerbongs & bentleys, and it solidifies the artist’s status as a millennial superstar, one whose hit-making ability seemingly knows no bounds and will likely carry him well into the next decade.
But Malone’s success has created a bit of a dilemma for statisticians and historians who like to categorize artists and their work in certain bins. And Hollywood’s Bleeding takes Malone’s knack for mixing genres to even higher levels than his previous efforts did.
Malone, who has been characterized as a hip-hop artist for the better part of his career, has famously rejected the “rapper” label in interviews. Truth be told, he’s right, he’s not really a rapper.
But you don’t have to be a rapper to be a hip-hop artist. Just ask T-Pain or Mary J. Blige or Bone Thugs-n-Harmony from back in the day. Post Malone is no more a rapper than any of those artists, who all made their marks in the industry by, get this…singing.
In fact, I used to hate when most mainstream media publications and news stories referred to T-Pain as a “rapper.” Even recently when he won the first season of The Masked Singer, pop culture beat writers referred to the Tallahassee-based singer as a “rapper.” He was anything but that. It was a lazy, stereotypical labeling of the Auto-tuned singer that revealed the writers’ ignorance more than anything else.
But few would ever question whether T-Pain or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are “hip-hop” artists, as that term has always had a broader meaning that’s been more about the culture than it is one’s ability to spit rhymes…with that ability no doubt being a key subset. Heck, MJB has been branded the Queen of “Hip-Hop/Soul” ever since she first hit the scene nearly three decades ago, and she rarely rapped.
Post Malone, however, is even stretching the bounds of hip-hop and redefining it with his latest album, which contains no less than four or five pop-oriented tunes that – sung by anyone else – wouldn’t even cross the minds of rap purists, much less make their playlists.
“Circles,” for instance, is a straight-up pop ditty, complete with an acoustic guitar motif and an accessible melody that mainstream radio has had no problem playing in heavy rotation. As the album’s latest single, it also has the best chance to become Posty’s next No. 1 on the Hot 100.
On the darker, but equally pop-accessible “Take What You Want,” Malone teams with hip-hop’s Travis Scott and rock icon Ozzy Osbourne. The song’s chorus is straight throwback to Osbourne’s 1989 solo period, with Scott giving it a little street cred on the second verse. But the song as a whole is squarely meant to be a rocker.
On “Staring At The Sun,” which features SZA, Posty engages in a full-on singalong duet with the once-retired, alternative-R&B singer. The song is as built for pop radio as anything Malone has ever released (with a few key edits of the f-bombs, of course).
Even the former No. 1 single, “Sunflower- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” employs guest hip-hop artist Swae Lee to do what he does best…sing pop hooks.
There’s even more pop than that on Hollywood’s Bleeding. “A Thousand Bad Times” has Posty singing to an old-school, new wave beat. Earlier single “Goodbyes” and the newer song “I’m Gonna Be” have him singing at his raspy, Auto-tuned best. “Wow” is as close to rapping as the artist comes on this album.
It’s this musical stretch routine that has critics lauding the album as Malone’s best yet, and fans streamed the tunes enough to send four of them into the top ten of the Hot 100 – and eight into the top 20 – last week.
But even this writer is faced with the dilemma of just how to characterize Malone and this latest masterpiece. In this blog’s running tally of hip-hop albums that have topped the Billboard 200 chart, Malone’s beerbongs is included.
Repeated listens to Hollywood’s Bleeding, however, has even the most liberal interpretations of hip-hop being challenged. Yes, Malone uses rappers DaBaby, Lil Baby, Meek Mill, Young Thug, and Future to give the album its street edge. But does it really belong in the category?
Fans can decide for themselves whether or not they consider Hollywood’s Bleeding true hip-hop. And whether it is or not, Posty’s fans are probably relishing in the fact that their favorite artist can’t be limited by the traditional categorizations that have defined the music industry for eons.
In a music world – and the world in general – where the blending of cultures and the blurring of traditional color lines is to be celebrated, perhaps we ought to simply embrace the genre-blending – or busting – that characterizes Post Malone’s latest effort.
In that regard, maybe we’re better off not trying to bin Post Malone in any one genre and should just conclude that the artist belongs in a category all to himself…rap – and hip-hop – be damned.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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