Hollywood’s Bleeding is an event. During a year in which Post Malone has consistently dominated the pop landscape without putting out an album, Hollywood is a coronation, the inevitable run into the new year in which Post swallows the culture whole, blocking out the sun with his chart real estate and unrelenting radio play.
Post Malone is a top-tier star, and Hollywood’s Bleeding won’t do anything to remove him from his throne. At this point, he’s unimpeachable -- too big to fail -- though with 17 songs, some inevitably miss or have too little to say, while much of the record frames Post as the enemy in his own story.
When Post Malone is vulnerable, he’s easy to access and makes for a compelling, agreeable hitmaker. Those moments don’t appear frequently enough on Hollywood’s Bleeding, but when they do, they encompass some of Post’s most eloquent and smartly crafted music to date.
17. “Take What You Want” (feat. Travis Scott and Ozzy Osbourne)
One look at this song title gives you everything worth knowing. Ozzy Osbourne is more of a spiritual mentor to Post than anyone else featured on this album, which is perhaps a little alarming when considering how sedate Osbourne’s chorus is. Travis Scott has always been better at the center of attention, so these three big personalities together never click, and the result makes little sense on paper or in reality.
Post Malone is at his weakest when he feeds into the tropes most blandly associated with him. “St. Tropez” is a sketch of every argument against him, with bleary synths and empty crooning. Post’s vocals are undeniably strong, but the platitudes here come up empty: “I’ve been waiting, I’ve been waiting for a long time” leaves much to be desired, and it seems to be the most fully-formed idea statement here. “I’m so rich,” less so.
15. “A Thousand Bad Times”
“It’s gonna take a lot more to kill me, bitch,” isn’t a particularly endearing statement. Even when the "bitch" he’s referring to burns down his house, this sort of resolve does no one any favors. The beat never really coheres because it shifts and veers between tempos at a seemingly random rate. It’s a pop-punk track stuck in the body of a revenge anthem. Post is stuck somewhere in the middle, and it never really works.
When Post’s demons consume him, he lashes out. The problems come from outside, and he’s merely the victim of everyone’s desire to cozy up to a star. He may be right, but his lack of empathy at times can be alarming. Here, for example, he drowns himself in a former lover’s pills because she’s no longer there. The song could dive deeply into an examination of addiction and toxic relationships, but Post never really has any interest in getting that introspective.
13. “Im Gonna Be”
Aside from the missing apostrophe, this track’s greatest offense is the meandering performance from Post. His voice doesn’t really move anywhere, and his words don’t really say anything.
Post Malone doesn’t read the Internet, he says, so he’s unlikely to see any of this. On “Internet,” we get an interesting look into Post’s mindset. The world revolves around the web, and life outside it is rendered moot by the chaos of social media. When he disappears off of it, he’s isolated from the world. But if anyone has outgrown the impact of the web, it’s Post. He’s too big to fail, in part because of the Internet, but also, despite it.
11. “I Know”
The penultimate track barely eclipses two minutes, but we get a strong look into Post’s mentality towards women: “I know you could never be my bitch." Post is an ugly antagonist, sour and entitled, but with enough charm to frame himself as the good guy. “I Know” is carried by its vocal line, which even the hardest of critics can admit is Post’s outstanding strength.
10. “Staring at the Sun” (feat. SZA)
Outside of the single, “Circles,” just a few of Hollywood’s strongest tracks come when Post is solo. The idea here isn’t particularly complex: Malone and SZA join forces to sing about love and love lost. With two vocalists this talented, the result is obviously satisfactory, albeit not particularly groundbreaking.
9. “Hollywood’s Bleeding”
A mission statement of sorts, Post once again reveals his strengths as a vulnerable, broken 20-something. “It seem like dying young is an honor, but who be at my funeral I wonder?,” he asks. This gets to the heart of the Post Malone conundrum: He sees death as a rock star’s way out, not a tragic end to a life cut short. But that vulnerability peeks through -- that admission that maybe no one is truly there for Post. He’s unable to fully reconcile these two aspects of his persona, but even when he hints at both, the results are solid.
“Myself,” “I Know,” and “Wow.” close at the album, all three guestless and each revealing a more intimate look at Post’s strengths and flaws. “Myself” is the middle track of a surprising three-song run in which Post is able to carry the weight of this album, bopping along to a classic boom-bap beat, reflecting on materialism and the fleeting nature of experience. “I wish I could have been there myself,” he sings, and for once, we believe him.
Every album cycle, Post adds a few chart-topping hits to his repertoire. This time around is no different, and “Circles” is one of those hits: “Goodbyes” is currently at No. 9 on the Hot 100, and “Wow.” has previously preaked at No. 2. “Circles” is poised to dominate radio in the fall. It’s an uptempo pop track masking the unfiltered vulnerability of Post’s heartbreak, and it’s moments like these that has one wishing for a more transparent protagonist throughout.
The album closer is a quick slice of downtempo pop, with Post referencing Fall Out Boy and his fleet of Mercedes wagons in consecutive lines. It’s not any sort of defining statement, but it does help solidify what Post does best, and how simplicity helps him. This is nothing more than bullshit crooning over a steady trap beat, and the results are pleasing. It’s the strongest solo effort on the album, a moment in which Post proves he can firmly hold his own.
5. “On the Road” (feat. Meek Mill and Lil Baby)
Meek Mill and Lil Baby seem like an odd pair of guest stars, with Meek firmly supplanted in a realistic, grounded world, and Baby at his best when he’s warbling with the cosmos. Together, though, it works. Both help Post bring this song to a place of loneliness and despair, where tour dates turn into months alone, and upon return, everything you once knew is gone. It’s a strong moment of vulnerability for Post, and it shows that he’s at his best when he lets his guard down.
4. "Die For Me” (feat. Future and Halsey)
Post uses Future’s aesthetic to inform this track, drowning himself in pills and sorrow in the same way his guest does. It’s a smart formula, and the best songs on Hollywood showcase Post as a hybrid of sorts, adapting to his surroundings and burrowing into the style of his peers. In this case, his assistants are some of the world's most over-qualified.
3. “Goodbyes” (feat. Young Thug)
Thugger and Post have a completely symbiotic relationship on this single: Thug reaches an audience he may have missed with So Much Fun, and Post is able to ride the numbers and positive buzz Thug garnered with that album. The hook is infectious, and Jeffery uses his verse to work through some of his most avant-garde flows, favoring an otherworldly, nasally yelp this time around.
2. “Enemies” (feat. DaBaby)
DaBaby is arguably the hottest rapper on the planet right now, and any premiere pop-rap record that doesn’t jump for a feature from him is making a costly error. The NC native's streak of tremendous guest verses continues on this catchy track, and as is so often the case, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing. This is Baby’s show.
1. “Sunflower” (with Swae Lee)
You can view “Sunflower” at the top of this list in one of two ways: It either speaks to the unrelenting success of a near-unimpeachable pop song, or to a lack of similarly elite-level singles on Hollywood’s Bleeding. Both things can be true: The Swae Lee collab is an excellent song, one of those perfect Top 40 moments that rarely come around. But Post has generally been one of those songwriters that can pull these anthems from thin air. On his third LP, he doesn’t snag quite as many -- but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a song like “Sunflower” in your back pocket.