“Twelve Carat Toothache”: an emotional, lyrically complex production lacking in musical ambition

July 3, 2022, 10:23 p.m.

After over three years of inactivity from the hip-hop and pop artist Post Malone, the release of “Twelve Carat Toothache” diverges greatly from the style and sound of any of his past albums. The glaring differences in lyricism and production featured in this album may be a signal to fans that Post Malone is maturing as his music- making career progresses.

To say Post Malone’s career has been outstanding would be an understatement. Ever since his introduction to the music industry in 2016, Post Malone has climbed his way to the top of the charts faster than almost any other artist of his time, captivating fans year after year through memorable hits such as “Rockstar” and “Circles.”

While Post Malone’s previous albums “Beerbongs & Bentleys” and “Hollywood’s Bleeding” aimed strictly for radio play and largely avoided the topic of his emotions, “Twelve Carat Toothache” sidelines the priorities of the artist’s past releases. Instead of giving audiences an instantly engaging and digestible tracklist, the album offers mellow instrumentals and nuanced lyrics that require multiple listens to fully understand. 

“Twelve Carat Toothache” was poorly received by most audiences despite debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 after its release on June 3, 2022. Grossing over 75% fewer first week sales and fewer streams than “Hollywood’s Bleeding,” “Twelve Carat Toothache” sacrifices its musical quality and production for more lyrical expression. A first listen of the album uncovers significant flaws in forgettable choruses and bland hooks, but paying closer attention to the artist’s words reveals “Twelve Carat Toothache” to be Post Malone’s most narratively and lyrically deep album yet.

The album delves into Post Malone’s battle with depression — a struggle that has plagued him ever since his rise to fame. In his opening track “Reputation,” he includes unapologetic references to the topic of suicide, abandoning the playful personality of his previous albums and addressing a darker side of his life. He then tackles his issues with alcoholism head-on in “Love/Hate Letter To Alcohol”; in a vignette where a drunken fight almost leads to Post Malone’s death, the artist ascribes alcohol as the source of his problems while also singing in the chorus, “You’re the only way to drown my sadness.” 

In “Lemon Tree,” Post Malone conveys his envy toward those around him who aren’t dealing with the same internal demons. In the song, he describes others as growing metaphorical apples and tangerines while he is stuck with a sour lemon tree. However, the track also includes a glimmer of hope for the artist, who vows to burn down his lemon tree and “grow [him] something better.” He alludes to the prospect of his self-improvement despite having to deal with great setbacks.

Lacking the record-breaking hits boasted by its predecessors, “Twelve Carat Toothache” suffers from its basic instrumentation and somewhat boring melodies, offering audiences nothing more than a mediocre listening experience. The album’s excessive use of reverb muddles Post Malone’s vocals, blending his voice with the background instrumentals to the point where each song sounds messy. The repetitive style and unchanging themes of depression and alcoholism in each song causes the album to grow stale after the first couple of tracks — a sign that the artist may be taking a step back from exploring new sounds to instead open up about his personal life to listeners.

“Twelve Carat Toothache” contains many profound stories about Post Malone’s life, but these lyrics overshadow the artist’s musical production which often took the foreground in previous albums. “Twelve Carat Toothache” may not have the ear-catching hits to make it a top-selling album, but Post Malone masterfully uses his lyrics as a medium to spill his feelings out to his audience. The album may have disappointed some listeners, but for the artist, it could be a stepping stone toward something greater.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.

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