Since releasing his blockbuster third album Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post Malone swapped the Hollywood Hills for the more remote and peaceful Utah mountains. As a result of his move — and a two-year pandemic — the superstar has now emerged with his most pensive album yet, twelve carat toothache, released June 2 on Mercury / Republic Records.
His fourth full-length features an array of guests from obvious picks, like Doja Cat, Gunna, The Kid LAROI and The Weeknd to a more surprising collaborator in Fleet Foxes — and the album operates in similar fashion. There are a small handful of characteristically Posty songs, from the inflamed “Insane” to the uplifting pop tune “I Like You (A Happier Song)” that exist alongside some of the artist’s most introspective, bare-boned songs to date like “Wasting Angels,” “Euthanasia” and the gift that is “New Recording 12, Jan 3, 2020.”
As Post Malone told Billboard in his January cover story, the intention was always to make a tight album, and the 14 tracks on twelve carat clock in at just over 40 minutes. As such, they’re best heard as a unit — with the tracklist transitions being a particular high point of the project. It’s also why, when ranking each track, so many that follow one another are listed in succession; Of course, as proven by the previously released singles, these songs can exist on their own, but they’re strongest as a whole.
Below, scroll through Billboard’s track rankings for twelve carat toothache.
14. “Waiting For A Miracle”
Bolstered by sparse keys, Post’s patience is palpable on the slow-burning “Waiting For A Miracle” — patience with himself, his career and above all else his tolerance of his career as a superstar who has been settling more into his life as Austin Post than Post Malone of late.
13. “One Right Now” with The Weeknd
While “One Right Now,” twelve carat toothache‘s lead single, adds a kick of uptempo pop from two chart-toppers, it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album’s narrative. Placed toward the end, this unofficial soundtrack for relationship revenge contrasts the gentle self-reflection heard on much of the album.
12. “Lemon Tree”
As Posty told Billboard at the top of the year, he started picking up his guitar again through the pandemic — it’s often how he’ll begin to piece together his songs. On “Lemon Tree,” fans are gifted a demo-esque song from the artist that’s fairly stripped down with a beat built around an acoustic guitar. His signature reverberated vocals are, of course, still present. Hot off the heels of songs like Justin Bieber’s “Peaches” and Harry Styles’ “Grapejuice,” it’s safe to say “Lemon Tree” is in good company.
11. “When I’m Alone”
The punchy “When I’m Alone” comes at just the right time on Toothache, after a stretch of slower, more introspective tracks. While Post flexes his singing on much of the album, here he takes a moment to remind fans of his rap skills, too, with a rapid-fire verse. But the strength of this song is the way in which it captures the highs and lows of being alone, with an unfortunate storyline set to upbeat production — because who hasn’t both cried and danced when left alone?
10. “Wasting Angels” (feat. The Kid LAROI)
Hearing Post and LAROI on a track together emphasizes just how similar the two are vocally, and as a result “Wasting Angels” comes across as an impressively unified collaboration. Their smoothly-exchanged versus culminate in the track’s climax, when the pair’s voices are joined by an angelic choir as if soundtracking their ascendance to join the angels they sing of.
On the pensive album opener, Post continues to grapple with his fame and position in the industry — and the world. It’s the most direct line to his thoughts and feelings over the past few years, as he’s retreated to his home in Utah and hunkered down through the pandemic. “Saved my own life just to save yours,” he cryptically sings… never explicitly addressing any one person, perhaps because the sentiment is directed at those tuning in.
8. “Wrapped Around Your Finger”
With a bouncy, uptempo bassline, “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is one of Posty’s more pop-leaning tracks on the album. The song offers a refreshing take on a megastar in love (and one that most directly contrasts the vengeance-fueled single “One Right Now”) with the artist admitting to the grip a person once had on his life.
As if not quite done with the thoughts stirred up on “Wasting Angels,” on “Euthanasia” Post compares the word to a “a choir of angels” as he fantasizes, or maybe simply accepts, the idea of his own death. “When I go out, ain’t gonna hurt at all,” he sings with an eerie calm, emphasized only by a Kanye-like produced, omnipresent bleeping.
6. “Cooped Up” (feat. Roddy Ricch)
Released as a single, “Cooped Up” sounds even better when sandwiched between “Reputation” and “Lemon Tree,” immediately proving twelve carat toothache to be the kind of project best consumed as a whole. As the second song on the album, with opener “Reputation” leading directly into its mid-tempo groove, it quickly shows listeners there was a high level of thought put into seamless tracklist transitions, both sonically and lyrically.
5. “New Recording 12, Jan 3, 2020”
For longtime Posty fans, there’s nothing quite like the rush of the first few seconds of “New Recording,” during which the crackle and shuffle of a Voice Memo starting can be heard, followed by the only thing more exciting than a raw recording: the sound Post picking up a guitar. Clocking in at a minute-thirty, it’s an intriguing move to end the album with such a tease — and a a telling one, as the last lyrics, “euthanasia, choir of angels,” prove just how long he’s been toying with and arranging these thoughts before sharing them with the world.
4. “I Cannot Be (A Sadder Song)” (feat. Gunna)
“I Cannot Be” offers another strong piece of evidence to the care put into transitions, building upon similar production bits of its predecessor (“I Like You”) — and then flipping the vibrant energy on its head for a slightly darker take, on which Post and Gunna chronicle the all-too-common aftermath of a crush: reality.
3. “I Like You (A Happier Song)” (feat. Doja Cat)
“I Like You” is arguably the most Post Malone song, as it’s impossible not to smile picturing the artist doing a little dance and grin to the repeated titular phrase: “I like you, I do.” As the title suggests, “I Like You” is in fact a happy song, made even sweeter with the verse and harmonies that guest rapper and fellow crossover superstar Doja Cat contributes. Safe to call this one a new crush anthem — just in time for summer flings.
2. “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol” (feat. Fleet Foxes)
The stunningly ominous and echoing beat of “Love/Hate” is potent enough to make listeners feel the cool chill of an incoming storm. While Post live debuted this track during his appearance as musical guest on Saturday Night Live, the song hits even harder when heard in the context of the album — adding a particularly palpable low to the sonic rollercoaster ride.
The clanking woodblock-type beat perfectly offsets the gritty vexation of “Insane,” on which Posty chronicles the ways in which one can be led to insanity; for him, that’s everything from women to money to access — or more simply put, the perks and pitfalls of fame. While much of twelve carat toothache spotlights Post Malone, the pensive songwriter, “Insane” is a touch more reminiscent of a hard-hitting hit off Hollywood’s Bleeding. Perhaps the only difference? It’s built with a newfound clarity since retreating — and proves just how easily Post can come back, which might be his stardom’s biggest perk of all.