After last week’s flashback to a previous generation atop the albums chart, this week we’re square back to late-’10s territory: Post Malone, millennial pop and hip-hop superstar, debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with his new set Hollywood’s Bleeding.
Post’s third official LP begins with 489,000 equivalent album units moved — the second-biggest overall week of the year (behind Taylor Swift’s Lover bow). It’s also his second straight No. 1 set, following 2018’s beerbongs & bentleys, and the largest single-week numbers of his career to date.
How did Post Malone get this consistently successful, and how long can the good times keep rolling for him? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.
1. Another Post Malone album, another first week near half a million. What’s something he doesn’t get enough credit for doing that allows him to put up such consistently massive numbers?
Gab Ginsberg: His streaming prowess. With 365.4 million on-demand audio streams, Posty takes the prize for 2019’s biggest streaming week for a single album. And he’s done it before; that’s actually 65.9 million fewer streams than those garnered by his previous effort Beerbongs & Bentleys, which at the time set the record for the biggest streaming week ever.
Josh Glicksman: Since J. Cole’s famous “platinum with no features” mantra has seemingly gone out the window, the tides have turned back to favor projects that squeeze massive amounts of collaborators on more limited runtimes. There have been many instances where features have felt label-manipulated or forced, but especially on Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post does a good job of picking the right spots — and collaborators — to use guest work. Ozzy Osbourne fits in perfectly on the hazy, haunting vibe on “Take What You Want,” SZA and Post crush their joint choruses on the bouncy “Staring at the Sun,” and DaBaby, a can’t-miss feature right now, turns in another powerhouse verse on the flexing “Enemies.”
Lyndsey Havens: His talent! I still think people underestimate the fact that he…. has any. In a lot of ways, I think it’s fair to compare his output to that of Drake’s — consistent, catchy, chart-topping and at times, Instagram caption worthy. And with this album in particular, it’s easy to liken it to Ed Sheeran’s recent collaborations project. The main difference is that Post’s features feel more fluid and part of a whole.
That, to me is also where he’s overlooked: Post is an albums artist with a knack for burying hidden gems like “Feeling Whitney” (Stoney) or “Stay” (Beerbongs & Bentleys) throughout — they’re not singles nor made for radio, but instead could slide onto an indie playlist nearly unnoticed. Exposure across genre-specific playlists is another area in which he likely reaps the benefits.
Carl Lamarre: I think Posty thrives in collaboration. Run through his Hot 100 hits, and you’ll see why Mr. Malone is so adept at aligning himself with marquee talents. Whether he’s colliding with 21 Savage on “Rockstar” or shining bright with Swae Lee on the effervescent “Sunflower,” Post’s ability to mesh with his features and their skill sets, is one of the many reasons why he continues to bully the competition with such ease.
Andrew Unterberger: It’s all about those choruses. Jayson Greene did an excellent job illustrating this in his Hollywood’s Bleeding review for Pitchfork, but Post is an absolute savant when it comes to creating brain-sticking refrains that sound like they’ve already existed on radio forever the very first time you hear them. (Regular collaboration with several of Top 40’s greatest current behind-the-scenes hitmakers — Louis Bell, Frank Dukes and Andrew Watt among them — no doubt helps with that as well.)
2. Every song off Hollywood’s Bleeding charts on the Hot 100 this week. Outside of “Sunflower,” which has already gotten there, which song do you think has the best chance of becoming Post’s fourth No. 1 hit?
Gab Ginsberg: “Circles” is is just getting started. It seems to be drawing in listeners who weren’t necessarily fans previously, and its elaborate (read: expensive) music video has been lauded as “better than Game of Thrones’ Season 8.” There’s also “Wow.,” which peaked at No. 2 in April, and might be able to get there with the right push — a TikTok challenge? A fan campaign?
Josh Glicksman: I’d like to say “Circles” because that song has been, well, circling in my head since its release, but given that Post already dropped a music video for it, I’ll go with “Take What You Want” instead. Making its debut on the Hot 100 at No. 8 this week, it boasts no shortage of star power, featuring fellow charts mainstay Travis Scott and the long-awaited return of Ozzy Osbourne. It’s got the genre-blending vibe that fits perfectly into 2019, and with the right promotion and a well-timed music video, the song could make the ultimate jump. Plus, how cool would it be to get Andrew Watt’s shredding guitar solo atop the Hot 100?
Lyndsey Havens: It seems most likely for “Goodbyes” or “Circles,” simply because they were pre-release singles and, as such, already have more of a trajectory than the rest. Plus, the fact that they are Nos. 3 and 4 already means they don’t have much more to climb before they hit the top.
Carl Lamarre: If we’re looking at the Hot 100 charts, as of today, “Goodbyes” and “Circles” have the best chances due to their current standings at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. I would love to see a record like “Die For Me” skate its way to the top because the song screams pain and heartbreak. The starry triad of Future, Post, and Halsey pose a threat to any potential Hot 100 contenders. When it comes to dark love tales, these guys know how to seriously make a song cry.
Andrew Unterberger: “Circles” would certainly seem to be the obvious choice, though the song’s sound is so alt-based compared to his previous biggest hits that I’m not ready to pencil it in for a No. 1 just yet. I’m a little surprised we didn’t see a higher first week debut for “Staring at the Sun” (No. 34 this week) — a collab with an artist in SZA that folks are hungry for new music from, which almost sounds like a spiritual sequel to “Sunflower” in its bright pop-readiness. It should still have some chart life from here, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the song that got pushed to pop radio, at the very least.
3. Welcome back to the top 10, Ozzy Osbourne! What’s your favorite example of an older rock star being brought back to the mainstream by an unexpected hip-hop cameo?
Gab Ginsberg: Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “FourFiveSeconds,” of course. (Not that McCartney has ever really fallen off, but 2015 was really his year of hip-hop dream team-dom.) The collab peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100 that year, earning all sorts of accolades for the trio.
Josh Glicksman: Paul McCartney, thanks to his work with Kanye West (though perhaps Ye should get some credit for discovering the famed Beatles rocker in the first place). McCartney wasn’t exactly struggling before his collaborations with the Chicago rapper on “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds” — his 2013 effort, New, hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200. But it certainly boasted a fresh look for the 77-year-old, who went on to notch his first No. 1 album in 36 years on his next album, 2018’s Egypt Station.
Lyndsey Havens: At one point in my life, when I took dance classes as a kid, I had a routine to “Walk This Way” — the Run-D.M.C with Aerosmith version. It was definitely the first time I heard the song, but that riff has stayed with me to this day. It’s a total classic, and much like Post and Ozzy, a pretty seamless collaboration that had massive cross-genre appeal; while the original hit No. 10 on the Hot 100, the revamp peaked at No. 4.
Carl Lamarre: It’s hard to ever neglect U2’s contributions because they’re music immortals, but I do believe Kendrick’s decision to tap them on DAMN. for “XXX” was a unique collaboration for in today’s time. I bet my bottom dollar that not a lot of people from Compton or even this music generation can name you a U2 song, but after watching K. Dot inject the group into this world, more eyes were placed on the group and served as a reminder to why they’re musical savants in the studio no matter what year it is.
Andrew Unterberger: I’ll admit to having a soft spot in my heart for Puff Daddy’s “Come With Me,” his Jimmy Page-featuring monstrosity off the soundtrack to 1998’s Godzilla blockbuster. Hasn’t aged brilliantly, but 11-year-old me was totally familiar with the song whose riff the 40-something guitarist was enlisted to recreate: “Kashmir,” from Page’s most famous band, Led Zeppelin, which would end up being high school me’s favorite song for at least a year or two. Plus, the video remains peak Puffy MTV largesse, when no idea was too big or too gaudy for the Bad Boy mogul.
4. Post goes in a couple new-ish directions and works with a couple new folks on Hollywood’s Bleeding. Are there any sounds or collabs on the album you’d like to see him explore further in his work to come?
Gab Ginsberg: More ladies! Bringing on SZA and Halsey is a great start, and I’d love to see Post continue to progress in that department. How about a joint tour with Halsey, or the inevitable Taylor Swift collaboration? It could happen.
Josh Glicksman: It doesn’t feel so much to me as Post heading in new-ish directions as it does him maturing as an artist. The foundation for a home run track like “Circles” is present on “Feeling Whitney,” a standout from his 2016 debut album, Stoney. He’s simply turned raw potential into next-level success. Sure, the collaborations fit cleaner and Post has more tools and players at his disposable to create a stronger overall product, but Hollywood’s Bleeding is an example of a 2019 pop star honing his craft and adapting with the landscape of the genre.
Lyndsey Havens: I have been saying this for as long as I can remember, and I’d scream it from the top of a mountain: all I want is for one day, Post Malone to release a rootsier, folk-leaning album under his birth name, Austin Post. (His cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” which has 8.5 million views, gets me every time). The beginning of the album’s title track alludes to Posty’s softer, more stripped down side — before going hard. But in the absence of anything in the vein of “Feeling Whitney” or “Stay” (“Internet” comes closest), I’m personally enjoying how Post has leaned into bouncier, more pop inspired production. It’s best heard on “Allergic,” “Circles” and his SZA collab “Staring at the Sun.”
Carl Lamarre: The pairing of Post and DaBaby was dope to see. They’re polar opposites, but that didn’t stop them from cooking up a banger with “Enemies.” I think their chemistry would also shine on-camera, since they’re both goofballs and know how to make their personalities shine visually.
Andrew Unterberger: “Allergic” brings us ever closer to that dirtbag punk rock record Post Malone seems destined to make at some point in his career — probably bad news for his record label, but very fun news for the rest of us.
5. How much longer can Post Malone’s winning streak last? Do you think, say, in 2024 we’ll still be talking about him as one of pop’s most consistently successful hitmakers?
Gab Ginsberg: As long as everyone keeps converting him from “guilty pleasure” to “unironic main pop girl,” I see no end in sight.
Josh Glicksman: It’s hard to predict anything five years away given the current landscape of popular music, but why not? He’s safe for roughly the next 18 months thanks to Hollywood’s Bleeding. One underratedly big thing that Post has going for him: he’s already gone through a public skepticism phase. It’s incredibly rare for an artist to avoid one — think Taylor Swift’s reputation, Drake’s Views, Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day — and Post is no exception. The consensus toward the 24-year-old rapper-rockstar appears to be ever-turning in his favor though, and that’s a mighty powerful thing.
Lyndsey Havens: By 2024, he won’t even be 30. I think Post has a long career ahead of him (hopefully one that delivers a folk album!), but despite how long his winning streak lasts, over these past few years he has so successfully cemented his place in popular music. For that alone, I think we will be discussing his work for a long time — at least I will.
Carl Lamarre: The scariest thing about Post’s success is that his 2016 debut album Stoney still resides on the Billboard 200 — in fact, it’s still in the top 30 after 144 weeks. I think his longevity is going to heavily rely on him not running himself ragged and thin with constant album drops. If he can spread out his releases by returning onto the scene every other year, there’s no reason why Posty can’t be a perennial hitmaker well into his 30s.
Andrew Unterberger: I don’t think it’ll be a sudden thing necessarily, but I think there will come a time when pop music kinda drifts away from Post Malone for a while, and we look back and realize all of a sudden that it’s kinda been a while since he had a real hit. Will that moment come in the next five years? The evidence doesn’t seem to suggest as much, but pop music moves quickly these days, and Posty hasn’t proven himself trend-proof yet. Still, can’t say he’s not making the most of his time in the spotlight: seven top 5 hits on the Hot 100 in a span of under two years is just incredible production: enough to ensure that even if he won’t be at pop’s center forever, he’ll never be totally forgotten, either.