Yes, for the first time this calendar year — the first time since the Hot 100 dated Dec. 22, 2018, a 37-week streak in all — the artist born Austin Richard Post was nowhere to be found within the chart’s top 10 slots. He had been represented by one or multiple songs in every week since then, first with the chart-topping Swae Lee teamup “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse),” then with his own No. 2-peaking solo smash “Wow.” and then finally with his Young Thug collab “Goodbyes,” which debuted at No. 3 in July.
Not that he’s disappeared from the chart altogether, though — all three hits are still in the top 40, with “Goodbyes” sliding to No. 12, “Sunflower” at No. 17 and “Wow.” still hanging on at No. 35. And what’s more, the Post-less drought in the top tier should probably last just the one week, as next week’s chart will reflect the debut of the singer/rapper’s new single — the alt-leaning “Circles” — and then immediately after that comes the release of his third full-length album, Hollywood’s Bleeding. It might be a little while before we see a top 10 without Post Malone on it again.
At this point, Post Malone on the charts just sort of feels like a fact of life. It’s only been four years since he first broke out with the viral rap hit “White Iverson,” but since then he’s shed the one-hit wonder tag that plagued him for about a year — until the success of debut album Stoney and its most popular single, the Quavo-featuring “Congratulations,” made it clear he wasn’t going away that easily — to prove himself arguably pop’s most consistent performer. He’s scored six top 5 hits on the Hot 100, including three chart-toppers in “Sunflower,” “Psycho” (with Ty Dolla $ign) and “Rockstar” (with 21 Savage); he’s charted all 18 songs off his Billboard 200-besting sophomore LP Beerbongs and Bentleys; he’s smashed streaming records, and been nominated for Grammys — in pop, rap, and all-genre categories.
And he’s done it all a little… quietly? New album Hollywood’s Bleeding arrives without a major press campaign behind it, without any major narrative hook preceding it, without really anyone saying all that much about it or what it might mean — least of all Post himself. He’s wormed his way so deep into pop’s center that top 40 now conforms to meet him, not the other away around: When “Circles” debuts and represents an almost total musical about-face for the artist, trading trap beats and booming bass for a loping Rex Orange County-type groove, there’s no handwringing about what it means for Post and his career. Instead, it just immediately shoots to the top of the Spotify charts, while radio programmers nationwide shrug and place it into heavy rotation. It’s good to be Post Malone in 2019.
Which isn’t to say it’s always been easy for the Post-man. He had an unexpectedly perilous 2018, a year in which he experienced so many unlikely brushes with mortality that fans eventually wondered if he was the victim of a historical curse. More pressingly, part of the reason behind him letting the music speak for itself at this point no doubt comes due to his having been burned in the past, by writers and critics who have taken him to task for a variety of complaints — ranging from a lack of originality or depth to his music, to a lack of respect for the hip-hop culture that he draws from, and the struggles he has the privilege to bypass by virtue of being white. None of these grievances have come totally without merit, and Post has struggled in the past to coherently defend himself against them, thus making his current media strategy of barely any media engagement at all a fairly logical one.
But for better or worse, Post Malone’s success has outlived the criticism. Whatever the critics end up saying about Hollywood’s Bleeding (and they certainly had their opinions about Beerbongs and Bentleys), its status as a commercial blockbuster is practically pre-ordained: “Sunflower,” “Wow.” and “Goodbyes” already give it three smash hits — top 10s on both radio and streaming — and “Circles” seems well on its way to becoming its fourth. Given Post’s recent track record, and the star-studded list of features on Bleeding tracks still to come (including fellow ’10s stars Future, Meek Mill, Travis Scott, Halsey, SZA and Lil Baby), there’s almost zero chance that the set doesn’t become of one of the year’s biggest, regardless of what anyone has to write about it.
Of course, it’s unlikely that Post Malone will thrive to this degree forever — maybe he’ll finally attract criticism that actually does affect his popularity, or maybe musical trends will simply start to drift away from his post-genre sense of smoked-out melancholy hedonism. But at the end of the 2010s, there might not be a safer bet in pop music on a song-by-song basis — maybe not Taylor Swift, and maybe not even Drake, both of whom swing too big to not miss at least occasionally — than Austin Richard Post. And when the 2020s start, smart money would be on his smiling face being front and center in the Hot 100’s top 10.