‘Hollywood’s Bleeding’ Exhibits Post Malone’s Unique Affinity for Pop Artistry

First rising to prominence with “White Iverson,” Post Malone established himself as a pop trap sensation where many others could have easily sunk into the churning tides of one-hit wonderdom. After releasing “Stoney” and having every song on his second album, “beerbongs & bentleys,” chart, however, there was no question of Austin Richard Post’s staying power. In October of last year, Post released “Sunflower,” which features Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd. The bright and bubbly synth pop-influenced song was a quintessential part of the “Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse” soundtrack, and has remained a fixture on the Billboard Hot 100 charts ever since. 

Hollywood’s Bleeding,” Post Malone’s third album, is a somewhat different, yet familiar exploration for the artist. The cover art is appropriately menacing, featuring Posty turning away from the camera in a dark leather jacket as he stands beneath a dungeonesque archway ⁠— swords and skeletons strewn behind. The record is infused with Post Malone’s signature compressed vocal melodies over hip-hop and pop trap instrumentals, and features a dark undercurrent revolving around breakups, drug use, and the troubles of fame. It isn’t all dark, Byronic brooding, however, there are lighter and uplifting songs towards the latter half with tracks like “I’m Gonna Be,” a song about self-confidence, or “Staring at the Sun,” which features SZA and focuses on optimistically moving on from heartbreak. This stretch is also where “Sunflower” finds a spot on the album.

Instrumentally, the record often incorporates guitars and bright synths alongside primarily hip-hop percussion. There are spots where Post pulls from bedroom pop, doo wop, indie rock, synth pop, and more. Post, of course, isn’t a stranger to varying genre and voice. He’s frequently spoken about his affinity for rock music and performed with a live band for the Bud Light Dive Bar Tour. While it pulls from various genres, it’s a pop album for sure. The production is expensive, Post’s vocals are always the most present part of the mix, and the choruses are explosive. That’s part of its finesse as an album. Even though it’s pulling from a lot of places, it never sounds too out of place. Who else could put Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott on the same song and make it work?

The title track begins with a brooding tone, some light strings and bass, and distant backing vocals before a quick drop into hip-hop percussion. Post sings, “Hollywood’s bleeding, vampire’s feedin’ / Darkness turns to dust” as he injects dark melodies about drugs, howling at the moon, and demons over cinematic instrumentals. There’s a quick mention of “blood in the lambo” in the verse, and for a second you almost wonder how this guy was featured on the Spider-man soundtrack instead of some urban fantasy film or the upcoming Spawn movie.

“Saint-Tropez” features light horns sunk in the mix, drenched in delay and reverb. It’s a pop trap song with absurdly flexing lyrics, “Versace boxers on my dick / Bud Light runnin’ through my piss.” The song “Enemies” is instrumentally composed of light, tropical keys and strings alongside a kick, snare, hats, and clap. It’s about fair weather friends and how they turn to enemies. Dababy raps on a verse, “Friends are like the autumn, ever year they leavin’.” Post applies an indie-rock sound on songs like “Allergic,” where a guitar-centric verse with pop punk adjacent melodic vocals trade off with a thick bass, percussive warped vocal sample, and pumping drums on the chorus. It’s a song about a tumultuous romantic relationship, “So sad but true, you’re friends with all my demons / The only one that sees them, too bad for you.” 

“A Thousand Bad Times” is a more lowkey, soft synth pop inspired track, about romantic struggle, “I should get out, but I still want more / I should get out, what am I waitin’ for?” “Circles” is a soft rock, downtempo song with live instrumentation in the form of guitar, drums, and bass. The chorus is a really great addition to the throwback sound, and continues the album’s breakup theme, “Seasons change and our love went cold / Feed the flame cause we can’t let go / Run away, but we’re running in circles.” The song “Die For Me” features Halsey and Future, and is well-situated as a pop trap song about vulnerability in past relationships. “On The Road” is thematically and stylistically similar. 

“Take What You Want” is a really interesting track. There are soft organs and echoing backing vocals before Ozzy Osbourne delivers the first chorus, “I feel you crumble in my arms down to your heart of stone / You bled me dry just like the tears you never show.” Post and Travis Scott both deliver verses over more conventional hip-hop styled percussion, while Sabbath-adjacent guitars run throughout the song, eventually building towards a squealing guitar solo. 

The next few songs are a stretch of more bubbly synth songs with “I’m Gonna Be,” “Staring At The Sun,” and “Sunflower,” of course. “Internet,” co-written with Kanye West, is a song which describes Post’s disillusionment with the digital space. There’s vague political lyricism like, “The world has gone to shit and we all know that / People freakin’ out, like, hit the Prozac.” The song was originally leaked with an improvised Kanye vocal, which is noticeably absent from the album version. 

“Goodbyes” is lighter, instrumentally, but deals with dark subject matter and features Young Thug, “Me and Kurt feel the same, too much pleasure is pain.” “Myself” has smooth bass and bright drums, and stands as a reflection on Post’s unfurling journey through stardom. “I Know” is spacier and uses restrained instrumentals. “Wow” was the first single, and is a pop trap song with buzzing bass. As a closer, it does relatively little to provide closure, other than leaving with the ending impression of Post as a pop and hip-hop sensible artist. 

The album is well situated in the pop and popular hip-hop domain, but there are open explorations in varying directions, proving Post to be chameleonic in the diverse genres and influences that he fleetingly chooses to inhabit or adopt. It’s a primarily darker turn, which broods in the themes of breakup and troubles of fame, but also manages, at times, to keep things extremely light without breaking character and exhibiting a softer, more optimistic side. The astonishing feat this album accomplishes is in its cohesive production, with Post’s unique style and vocals never feeling out of place. It pulls from so many places, yet still manages to keep things aesthetically and thematically close to home. Overall, it’s a cohesive work of pop artistry that paradoxically breaks the mold by re-establishing Post as a distinctive voice. Even if Hollywood’s bleeding, Post manages to pull some sunshine out of all the doom and gloom.

Hollywood’s Bleeding” is available Sep. 6 on Apple Music.