Review: Post Malone Holds a Mirror Up to Himself on ‘Austin’

Post Malone
3.5 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Almost 14 months after the release of his June 2022 studio album Twelve Carat Toothache, Post Malone returned last Friday (July 28) with his fifth LP Austin. Just before Twelve Carat Toothache came out, though, Malone not only got engaged but also welcomed his first child into the world. Because of this, along with breaking the record for most diamond singles ever, Malone went through immense changes in his personal life between albums, both physically and mentally.

Earlier this year in April, after fans noticed he had lost a great deal of weight, Malone revealed in an Instagram post that he had given up drugs and soda, along with deciding to incorporate a healthier diet. But, while explaining that his new “dad life” inspired these beneficial habits, Malone said he still indulges in his two most beloved vices: beer and cigarettes, though he plans to cut them out too eventually.

On Austin, the superstar crooner lays out why the process of cutting drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes out of his life is so difficult, baring his soul in a way he has never done before.

“This whole deal has been one of the most challenging, rewarding, and exciting records I’ve worked on,” Malone wrote in the caption of the May Instagram post announcing Austin. “i feel it captures who i am as a man and as an artist in this moment. thank y’all so much for your patience, and thank you for being there with me in my hardest times.”

During earlier albums such as Stoney (2016) and Beerbongs & Bentleys (2018), Malone still touched on the issue of his indulgences but did so in a way where he used them to either cope with relationship problems or, essentially, sound like a badass. With this new album, though, we see the emotional toll Malone endures while in the process of ditching the fast life as a celebrity, full of drugs, alcohol, and shallowness. This makes for some of his best songwriting in years, particularly in the first half of the project.

Whether it be lines like Whiskey lullaby just to fall asleep on “Something Real,” Don’t wanna sober up / The sun is killin’ my buzz, that’s why they call it mourning on “Mourning,” or I knew the party was over when she tried to take my alcohol on “Sign Me Up,” Malone’s self-awareness on the first seven songs of Austin is higher than its ever been. Using these songs as a catharsis, it’s clear how punishing abstinence is for him.

[RELATED: Post Malone Delivers Surprise Performance at Times Square]

However, while his lyricism to start the LP is arguably his sharpest in years, his production choices are far from bold or striking. Employing similar instrumentation to the rest of his career, with either mellow, acoustic guitar-driven cuts or tracks with cute pop drums, it’s tough to be blown away as a listener by Malone’s performance, no matter how raw and thorough the singing and writing are. This becomes especially evident in the album’s inconsistent second half.

With songs like “Overdrive,” “Texas Tea,” and “Buyer Beware,” Malone falls short of the high bar of introspection he set for himself on earlier tracks. But, there are still a handful of gems in this portion of the album that shine through, like “Enough is Enough” where he feels shame in drinking, and the outro “Laugh It Off,” where he begins to turn a corner in accepting his flaws, realizing that he’s a human being like everyone else.

Just months before Austin‘s rollout began, Malone had no qualms about his destructive lifestyle, drinking beer out of fans’ shoes and smoking dozens of cigarettes in a single day. Now, though, while his 17 new songs don’t amount to a flawless masterpiece, they do paint a picture of a Post Malone who not only knows he needs to turn things around, but also intends to at any cost.

Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images

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