Alright, confession time: I’m almost glad that Rockstar has remained at number one for its third week. Almost. Because before first listening (I’ve taken to actively avoiding all forms of mumble and Soundcloud rap since I don’t actively seek out hip-hop music that sends me to sleep) I was at least glad that it wasn’t the overly sappy Too Good at Goodbyes or, god forbid, that Chris and Kem should rise back up the hit parade like poorly imitative vomit. I wish I could say Rockstar was the shakeup that every pop chart should always be waiting for, and I wish I thought of it as a victory for a young artist over an endlessly fickle industry. But no. Instead what we have currently sitting atop the UK charts is a track so bland, so insultingly toothless that I can barely summon the energy to complain about it; but, since you’re here…
Rockstar is the first collaboration between Post Malone and 21 Savage – two of the four horsemen of the Soundcloud apocalypse – and is the first number one hit for both rappers. I use the phrase ‘rappers’ lightly, however, as there are very few intelligent lyrical observations to be found here, or any dynamic sense of flow for that matter. Yet, Post has the nerve to namecheck both Bon Scott and Jim Morrison, who are still more exciting than Malone despite being dearly departed. In the verses Post Malone slurs “Man, I feel just like a rockstar” with all the energy of a grandparent after Christmas dinner, before stretching his average-at-best sung/rapped vocals from merely passable to outright painful in the chorus, exclaiming “cocaine on the table, liquor pourin’ don’t give a damn”. I didn’t think it was possible to make the contents of Motley Crue’s Dirt sound so dull. Also, this might seem like a minor complaint but hear me out, there’s a strange autotuned effect on Malone’s vocals at this point in the track that adds a strange vibrato to the held notes. Not only is it distracting, it’s also really out of place with the supposed edginess in the rest of the lyrics; he’s singing about getting high while seemingly standing in a wind tunnel. I just couldn’t take the song seriously after that.
Then, just when you thought it wasn’t possible to be less engaged by a piece of music, 21 Savage’s midway feature essentially anaesthetises the last minute and a half. Honestly, the man sounds like he’s been thrust into a booth after a bottle of Nytol, hell, maybe he was, but it still doesn’t excuse some of his own atrocious lines. ‘“Savage, why you got a 12 car garage when you only got 6 cars?”’ is my personal favourite, painful on so many levels; much like being thrown from the roof of the garage I imagine. As for the instrumental it’s copy and paste in truth, the sort of thing Protools will probably create for you soon, crisp Trap-flavoured drum beats and spaced out synthesisers obscured by the stupid lyrics. And then it’s over: three and a half minutes I will never be in the right frame of mind to listen to as long as I’m conscious.
Last week Stereogum published a piece entitled ‘Coming To Terms With The Idea That Post Malone Is Good’, in which the writer describes how likeable Malone is as a person and that this ultimately affected how they felt about his music, Rockstar in particular. It’s an interesting read, but if I may say so, not one I agree with. It’s not about coming to terms with the idea that Post Malone or 21 Savage or any other similar rappers routinely blasted by critics, it’s about coming to terms with the fact that this is just what people are listening to. In the same article, the author calls the track “meaningless trifle” – isn’t that just what so much pop music comes down to? Of course, not all pop or rap falls into that category, but this trend of passable, vapidly atmospheric rap and horribly over-produced pop seems to be here to stay. So, if Kanye’s Glastonbury exclamation that rappers are the new rock stars is true, in Post Malone and 21 Savage, we’ve found our Hall & Oates. Even saying that is an insult to Daryl and John. Maneater? It’s heavy metal compared to this shit.