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Post Malone, "Twelve Carat Toothache" (Mercury)

Having witnessed A-list peers like Billie Eilish, Drake and Lorde lament the unexpected hardship of celebrity, Malone seems to have concluded that none were being honest about the role they played in their own misery. Behold "Twelve Carat Toothache," perhaps the most self-loathing album by any conflicted pop idol since Kurt Cobain.

Malone's fourth studio LP — his follow-up to the 2019 blockbuster "Hollywood's Bleeding" — presents a discomfiting portrait of the 26-year-old singer/rapper, a titan of the streaming era. He drinks too much; he lets his big mouth get him into fights; he cheats on his lovers and induces his friends' lovers to cheat on them with him. But the desperation with which he details his inability to healthily navigate being famous sets him apart from pop's other rich-and-sad types.

"Love/Hate Letter to Alcohol" addresses booze like it's a person. In "Cooped Up" he not only pukes in a woman's pricey Birkin bag but tells of a visit from the cops that led him to flush something down the toilet.

You're tempted in moments like the toilet lyric to wonder whether Malone is inching toward a knowing self-parody. But then you get "Waiting for a Miracle." "Oh my God / Just take the firearm from me," he pleads, "I understand that I'm too weak." The effect is chilling.

Musically, "Twelve Carat Toothache" again mashes crunchy rock guitars, oozing synths and throbbing machine beats. Malone's melodies are maybe a bit less sticky than on "Hollywood's Bleeding," though hooks and guests (Roddy Ricch, the Weeknd) still abound. The album's heavy gloom lifts a couple of times, most notably in the beachy "I Like You (A Happier Song)," where Malone and Doja Cat trade flirtations.

There's also " Wasting Angels," a tuneful duet with one of Malone's foremost inheritors, 18-year-old the Kid Laroi. Malone seems to be dispensing hard-won advice. And yet: "I don't wanna know the truth," Laroi responds. He showed up on the wrong album.

MIKAEL WOOD, Los Angeles Times

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