Monday, November 12th, 2018

Post Malone x Swae Lee – Sunflower

With great Swae Lee comes great Post Malone?


Hannah Jocelyn: First off, can we just acknowledge how good Into The Spider-Verse looks? Not just in the literal sense, but in the way it looks to incorporate Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s meta tendencies into a genuinely compelling story. I hope it doesn’t turn out like Post Malone’s music, where the lushness gives otherwise banal sentiments the illusion of grandeur. An ideal soundtrack for Spider-Verse should be as colorful as the movie looks, and even the lyric video deserves a better, more relevant soundtrack. Considering what’s happened to the live-action Peter Parker, even “Ashes” would be more appropriate. But that lyric video is effective, doing its best to lend weight to an unremarkable, weirdly arrogant song (“you’d be left in the dust unless I stuck by you”). The movie’s likely going to be great on the visuals alone, but concerning the soundtrack, for now I don’t feel so good.

Juan F. Carruyo: It’s a soundtrack song, so it’s appropriately cinematic. Cavernous boom-boom clap drums follow deep synth bass tones and an air of menace. Though it’s Post Malone who’s ostensibly bringing them sweet sweet monetized clicks; in practice, his gravely voice emoting corny lyrics about being a sunflower is just very off-putting. So, it’s a minute and a half of pleasing melodies sang by Swae Lee before it crumbles down. 

John Seroff: Live long enough and you’ll hear all the radio stars of your youth gently rinsed and recycled into audio pablum echoing down the grocery store aisles. For a generation that may not have longevity as an option, this Post/Swae collabo helpfully offers prewashed pop, elevator-friendly out of the wrapper.

Iris Xie: Both Post Malone and Swae Lee’s delivery takes sweet lyrics and makes them sound labored and tired. What gives? I understand they’re trying to do a floaty, sweet summer vibe, but I just get the feeling of two men who are trying to woo another girl for the hundredth time, without really self-reflecting on what they are doing. It makes such nice platitudes sound generic, and leaves me cold.

Jonathan Bradley: I’m reminded of a certain mode of 1990s alternative rock, a style that had expanded its stylistic outlook so far beyond the rudiments of guitar music that its connection to generic tradition was its mulish white masculinity rather than its sound. “Sunflower” made me think of the spacey anomie of Filter’s “Take a Picture,” but it fits into the late-rock pluralism of everything from Crazy Town to OPM to 311 to Primitive Radio Gods. “You mightn’t like Post Malone,” an old friend told me when we were catching up for the first time in a few years and comparing notes on contemporary sounds, “but you remember his choruses.” Then he hummed a couple hooks from Beerbongs & Bentleys, an album I’ve heard once, and I realized how right he was.

Julian Axelrod: I’ve finally figured it out: If we want to make Post Malone tolerable, we just need to slowly inch him as far away from rap as possible. This is the most engaging and sincere Post has sounded in a while, and it’s on a song that’s closer to Drive-era synth pop than rap. Swae Lee’s presence helps a lot; he’s a similarly feelings-first wailer who twists every bar into a hook, and he’s innately charming enough to sell “She wanna ride me like a cruise” as a Hallmark sentiment. But their combined charisma is a bright new coat of paint on the conflicted devotion that pervades most love songs in rap today. It’s an asshole aria, it’s the dirtbag blues, it’s “Islands in the Stream” for guys who sell whippits at house parties. And it’s way better than the phrase “Post Malone and Swae Lee present a song from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has any right to be.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Post Malone and Swae Lee use this Spider-Man soundtrack opportunity to take on the superhero role in a relationship. Is this codependency or men just being snotty? Either way, things seem awry, so the two deliver sweet melodies to keep things at bay. In the moment this is soothing, if fleeting; keep it on repeat and you’ll be convinced to stay.

Alfred Soto: Swae’s bray (brae?) increases in volume as his swinish admissions get more pronounced (“Or you’ll be left in the dust, unless I stuck by ya”), while Post Malone puts his gravel to empathetic use. They don’t cancel each out so much as act as amiable mirrors — they could easily have switched places and no one would’ve noticed.

Taylor Alatorre: You can always count on the lead single from a Spider-Man movie soundtrack to provide a quick-and-dirty snapshot of the musical landscape. In 2002 we got post-9/11 post-grunge; in 2004 it was post-Unplugged Dashboard; in 2007, post-Coldplay melodrama; and in 2014 it was an unholy amalgam of misapplied talent and wasted money, just like the film it was made for. Now it’s 2018 and Sony/Columbia have enlisted Post Malone and Swae Lee, two of-the-moment sing-rappers with whom Miles Morales would undoubtedly be familiar. The track is clearly inspired by emo rap, but in Dashboard terms, it’s more “Hands Down” than “Screaming Infidelities”; the hazy atmosphere and ornamental guitar plucking are no much for the earnestly romantic, if lyrically ambivalent chorus. It’s for this reason that Post Malone, despite his “Rockstar” pedigree, is outshone almost completely by Swae Lee, whose melodic tendencies are more suited for earnest romance. Aware of his own limitations, Swae uses his singing voice with strategic aplomb, strictly regimenting his phrases so they pierce like beacons through the fog. It helps that he still sounds much younger than his 24 years, which results in the typical rap lyric “she wanna ride me like a cruise” being transformed into a singular projection of both innocence and precocity. This frank mention of sex makes his decision to self-censor by saying “bad bad” even less explicable, and thus more charming. More than anything else, “Sunflower” sounds like adolescence, an achievement that largely exonerates its underdeveloped view of women on grounds of verisimilitude. Teenage boys are perpetually unsure of themselves and act tough or spiteful in order to mask their vulnerabilities: nothing new under the sun. What songs like “Sunflower” offer them is a recognition of shared suffering and a chance to embrace their vulnerabilities — a permission slip to feel unguarded feelings for a few minutes. As long as there are boys and girls in America having sad times together, there will be a need for these songs.

Reader average: [5.5] (2 votes)

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5 Responses to “Post Malone x Swae Lee – Sunflower”

  1. One of these reviews is not like the other…have high standards for men, y’all! Lol! Don’t let this convince you that this is what serenading looks like!!

  2. man here i am at thesinglesjukebox to read writers dunking on post malone and all of a sudden BAM there’s a link to the climate report T___T

  3. R.I.P. Stan Lee.

  4. @rebecca It won’t be the last time this week the climate report comes up on TSJ…

  5. big welcome to Iris, who after three blurbs has already become my new favorite writer?????