“My name is Austin Richard Post,” said the artist more commonly known as Post Malone, by way of introduction. “And I’m way too fat to be doing this shit.”
Indeed, Post struck an odd figure for a pop superstar during his Sahara tent-closing set at Coachella on Saturday night (Apr. 14) — for all intents and purposes the night’s second headliner, though Beyoncé continues to dramatically overshadow all. Stocky, bearded, and wearing a matching print jacket and pants — and with a voice hoarse and a little growling — the 22-year-old looked a little like he already should be entering his Vegas Years, rather then still being on the outset of his prime, making his debut performance at North America’s preeminent music festival.
The roughshod, self-effacing nature of Post Malone factors highly into his appeal, however. When his voice cracks doing the upper-register outro to his Stoney bonus cut “Feeling Whitney,” and he asks the audience to help him sing the part because he’s “too drunk and too shitty a singer to do this shit,” it diffuses any legit criticism you could have of him as a performer, and just turns into part of his overall charm. He manages to blend the casually supreme confidence of an artist who’s had enough hits to know he’s gonna get to stick around for a while with the shrugging incredulity of a guy who couldn’t really tell you how so much happened for him so quickly if you asked.
But yeah, those hits. You don’t even really realize just how many he’s already had since breaking out with debut single “White Iverson” — barely two-and-a-half years ago — until he plays an hour-long Coachella set and only needs to throw in a handful of deep cuts for padding. He ended with a run of his three first (and probably still best-known) smashes — “Rockstar,” “Iverson” and “Congratulations” — without it even being all that conspicuous that he was holding back the big guns for his closer. He slipped in his most recent single “Psycho” early on, without any fanfare or intro hype about it currently being the No. 3 song in the country. When your last single spent eight weeks at No. 1, maybe you don’t feel the need to crow about going top 5 anymore.
There may be more such hits on the way soon, too. Post previewed his upcoming Beerbongs & Bentleys release with a couple “new shits” (in the name of “group resourcing,” as he jokingly claimed), the most promising of which was likely “Spoil My Night” — an immediately compelling groover with a knockout falsetto hook courtesy of Swae Lee, which could very easily become this year’s “Unforgettable” on radio, and seems likely to add to the artist’s streak of Spotify-conquering smashes regardless.
— w i l l (@WillzzzYT) April 15, 2018
However, the more telling of the new songs played by Post Malone might’ve been “Stay,” the acoustic ballad which he debuted at his Bud Light Dive Bar stop in Nashvile earlier this month. Played as part of an unplugged mini-set of Post’s halfway through his gig (“Y’all mind if I play some guitar for you? It is fucking Coachella…”), the song comes off as a more emo version of a classic Oasis B-side, and while that’s a pretty cool thing in theory, it’s unclear if that’s what the rapper’s fans really want from him. There is evidence that there’s some interest in that side of Post: “I Fall Apart” largely became a hit for him in 2017 off the virality of an emotional, stripped-down live performance of the heartbreak anthem.
But last night at least, it didn’t seem like the fans were feeling it: The crowd’s engagement level noticeably dropped during the set’s acoustic run, and the crowd started thinning a little in the back. With the artist frequently referencing his love for Bob Dylan and other rock music, and seeming to imply an increasing disinterest in being known primarily as a rapper, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go further down more of a singer-songwriter direction on Beerbongs & Bentleys — and if so, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect that will have on his streaming supremacy.
For his Coachella peformance, though, the hits still carried the day — rapturously received guest appearances from Ty Dolla $ign (“Psycho”) and 21 Savage (“Rockstar”) certainly helped — and Post ended the gig by re-confirming that sophomore LP Beerbongs & Bentleys would be out by month’s end. He also introduced his final song with an affirmation of his own artistic instincts, by remembering all those who had loudly doubted him after “White Iverson” took off, calling him “one-hit wonder,” “culture vulture” and even “piece of shit.” “I see those same motherfuckers, right?” he offered with perhaps the night’s biggest chest puff. “And they always say, congratulations.”