There is an old Clickhole article I think a lot about. It’s a fake op-ed by Meagan Trainor, titled “I Am the New Person You Have to Know About Now,” and it pretty much nails the modern pop-culture phenomenon of celebrities just sort of showing up and reaching a level of immediate ubiquity that it almost seems like they’ve never not been famous. “Despite the fact that you might not seek out this knowledge of me, I will be taught to you by the intertwining forces of culture and capitalism, and you will have no choice but to know me,” writes fake Megan Trainor. “Ignorance is not an option.”
In this cultural moment, Post Malone is the new person we have to know about now. His music is fine in the way that all the Marvel movies are fine or in the way that lettuce on a hamburger is fine — just there, inoffensively, forever, existing as something that I will never be able to bring myself to care about. A Marvel movie will never win an Oscar, lettuce will never be the best part of a burger, and Post Malone will never be the type of artist who makes achingly personal work that inspires the desire to understand everything about their life. He’s a dude who’s very good at presenting cultural products to the masses. He’s not Patti Smith. His defining album is called Beerbongs and Bentleys, not Horses. As long as we toil under the yoke of capitalism, the Post Malone archetype will always exist.
Except, through some strange alchemy, that’s not how things have turned out for Post Malone. He does have legions of loyal fans, and he’s been able to capitalize on those fans by doing patently absurd shit. He gets paid to stream himself playing Call of Duty on Twitch. He designed a pair of Crocs — Crocs! — that last week, sold out in ten minutes. And, as with any musician who’s accrued an inordinately massive fanbase these days, he got to put on his own festival, called Posty Fest, held in his hometown of Dallas on October 28.
This is where things get interesting. The music critic Jeff Weiss reviewed Posty Fest for The Washington Post, filing what can only be called a blistering deconstruction of Malone’s entire career. “There are artists who dictate the zeitgeist and those who reflect it. Post Malone is decidedly the latter, an avatar of algorithm culture that rewards pleasant banality over the creatively vexing,” Weiss wrote. And that’s one of the nicer things he had to say. (Other choice lines include, “He looks like he got clubbed over the head by a cartoon peacock,” “He soon began slurring ‘Too Young’ with a voice like bong water bubbling and the casual misogyny of a member of a Red Pill subreddit,” and “Who allowed this to happen?”)
While I, personally, enjoyed reading Weiss’s barbed criticisms of Post Malone, Post Malone himself decidedly did not. “fuck u,” Malone tweeted — presumably at Weiss — the day the piece live, following that up several hours later with the word “chodez.” Within days, he retweeted a short piece from an Irish publication called The Daily Edge pushing back against Weiss’s criticisms, specifically taking issue with jokes that Weiss made about Malone’s appearance.
The link to the Daily Edge article that Post Malone retweeted, by the way, was sent by his father, Rich Post, who, in his quest to defend his grown son from an article on the internet, proceeded to marshall Malone’s fans against Weiss and, in a truly bizarre Twitter interaction with Post Malone’s stepmom, referred to Weiss as a “cuck.” Post Malone’s dad repurposing what I assume was a well-intentioned critique of Weiss’s choice of words into a call for targeted harassment of a much-less-famous-than-Post-Malone journalist is the same sort of rhetorical misdirection that the alt-right uses when they equate neo-Nazis with anti-fascists, or make the case that homophobes and racists unfairly face discrimination because of their beliefs. In each case, just because the words are similar doesn’t mean that they’re saying the same thing.
And though it might not be particularly nice to say that Post Malone looks “like he crawled out of a primordial swamp of nacho cheese,” as Weiss put it, it’s the sort of acutely aimed dart that has the potential to make Post Malone — and Post Malone alone — feel bad. The same can’t also be said of, oh, I don’t know, Post’s habit of leading entire crowds through chants of, “Fuck that bitch.”[Disclosure: Weiss is a friend of mine, but even if he weren’t, I’d still be on his side over Post’s.]
I’m not saying that you, reader, should hop on Twitter and say the meanest thing you can think of to your least favorite celebrity, when a person enters the public consciousness in the way the Post Malone has, they sort of lose the right to not be clowned on the internet — especially when they get there by shamelessly co-opting black art while being openly disdainful of it. Popularity does not immunize a musician from criticism, and criticism itself, even at its harshest, doesn’t warrant retaliation from a popular musician’s disproportionately large platform. Claiming otherwise is to preserve a system of hierarchies that favor the rich, the white, the untalented but marketable, the human Crocs of the world — when instead we should be working to rip it all up and start over again.