Thursday, June 6th, 2024

Post Malone ft. Morgan Wallen – I Had Some Help

You’ve heard of post-punk and post-hardcore; here’s post-wallen…

Post Malone ft. Morgan Wallen - I Had Some Help

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Chipper and catchy, the ideal PSA for male friendships based in toxic masculinity. Can’t wait for “Teamwork makes the dreamwork/Hell, I had some help” to play at the cookout before the next insurrection while the bros believe in their hearts that they’re the good guys! 

Aaron Bergstrom: The “Blurred Lines” copyright lawsuit was a net negative for music as a whole. It was a cynical cash-grab, it was incorrectly decided, and it set a dangerous precedent for artistic freedom. On the other hand, it’s not like people were lining up to defend that song, and there was a pleasant hit of schadenfreude in seeing a lowest-common-denominator vehicle for smug misogyny get its comeuppance, even if it was for the wrong reasons. So, all of that said, on the matter of “I Had Some Help”: I’m not saying Tom Petty‘s estate should get involved here, but I’m not not saying that, either.

Alfred Soto: I can’t argue with the confidence of the verses — that’s how you drawl, kids — and I admire the hint of ambiguity. Morgan Wallen’s recorded enough songs in which he can’t remember what he said and did before he passed out, what he’s going to drink to help him recover from passing out, and the consequences of passing out too many nights a week; I can hear “I Had Some Help” directed at a buddy who let him down as much as at a woman, especially since in the male-male duet tradition he and Post Malone look like they wanna cootchie-cootchie-cool each other in the video. I don’t need to hear it again, though it’s not like Top 40 radio’s helping. Sure hope Martha-Ann and Sam Alito spot the upside American flag in the video.

Katherine St. Asaph: A breakup postmortem presented as an Am I The Asshole post that — like many Am I The Asshole posts —  is noticeably vague about the specifics of the breakup, about what exactly “all the shit she did” was and how it supposedly counterbalances whatever shit he did. This isn’t meant as moral indignation — the song might well be better if it were more clearly an asshole’s POV (and certainly more believable from Morgan Wallen). It’s just hard to have an emotional response given nothing solid to respond to; the music certainly isn’t contributing much there.

Scott Mildenhall: How would America have felt if, on embracing DHT’s “Listen to Your Heart”, it had been rewarded with the lesser half of Clubland 4: The Night of Your Life? Delighted, if it had any sense — wait til you meet Jurgen Vries! — but you have to take things step by step. Hitting the rest of the world straight with this bottom-of-the-barrel bottom-of-a-bottle country is likewise something of a liberty. If it wasn’t for the familiar throat frog of Malone, it would be the kind of wallpaper you can only buy at Home Depot.

Jonathan Bradley: There are engaging stories to tell about two people who take one another to worse places than they could reach alone — John Darnielle has produced an entire song cycle demonstrating as much — but Morgs and Posty speak in such non-specific and evasive terms (count the clichés: throwing stones at glass houses, fucking “teamwork makes the dreamwork”) that I can’t trust them about the source of the toxicity in this relationship. That could well be the basis for a compelling dramatic irony, but it would also require a much nastier song than this breezy Tom Petty facsimile of an arrangement could tolerate.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Real poptimism has never been tried; if it had, there’d be reams of essays about this track, a true mega-hit floating above all the various pop conversation objects of the late spring. Instead, nothing. No reflections on the grand symbolism of this link-up, no canny narrativization of the continued Post Malone country-turn, no long-form exegesis on Morgan Wallen’s fraught relationship with rap music and his own proclivity for racial slurs, no pondering of the state of the charts. We’ve got a paragraph in the New York Times, a third of a Chris Molanphy article, a anti-Post jeremiad in Saving Country Music, and not much else. This ought to be the “WAP” of dryness, a discourse schelling point, but the commentariat has fallen silent. The obvious conclusion here is that there’s nothing to say about “I Had Some Help” — that I’ve written 120 words of this review without talking about the song perhaps serves as useful corroboration. But that’s not quite right; “I Had Some Help,” like every one of the great blank chart-topping colossi that these two men have been responsible for, is full of interesting little details if you listen to it enough times— that little “Help!” yelped after the chorus, the surprisingly delicate mandolin and fiddle interplay on the bridge, the way that the two vocalists reach towards harmonies they can’t quite nail by the last chorus. Do these details add together to anything of worth? God, no. Perhaps the most intriguing thing is comparing their two approaches as singers — Wallen continues his honking reign of terror, bulldozing those melodies and sounding less like the charming rascal the song wants him to be and more like your best friend’s worst boyfriend, but Malone sounds more pitiful and beautiful, leaning on the fucked-up choir-boy warble that has always lent his music a certain pathos. I’d like this more if he didn’t have the help.

Ian Mathers: Two great tastes that taste great together!

Taylor Alatorre: Rest easy, reader: our beloved Posty has not gone full Rock n Roll Jesus just yet. What he and Wallen have done is inadvertently craft an anthem that better taps into the mindset of post-Cold War conservatism than any tryhard harangue by the likes of Kid Rock or Jason Aldean. The duo breeze through the nominal relationship angst with such airy detachment that the song’s pretext easily outstrips the text: this is little more than an excuse to bring together two imperial-era megastars and have them act out their dented masculine stoicism at the altar of Tom Petty. And wouldn’t you know it, each of them happens to be repping a different red state milieu: Post from the affluent North Texas suburb that trended blue so much it had to be redistricted, and Wallen from the rural Tennessee outpost that was side-eying Democrats even before the Civil Rights Act. The result is less musical fusion and more Buckleyite fusionism, with each artist giving up a bit of their distinctiveness so the partnership can coalesce as smoothly and inevitably as possible. This might be a complaint if it didn’t end up sounding exactly as seamless as intended, barring some tin-eared Wallenisms like “us a-crumblin’.” Everything else is built along a frictionless straight-line path that offers little opportunity for resistance, which is fitting for a song that’s essentially about passing one’s agency into the hands of another. Post and Wallen want to take us along for a ride in which they too are being taken along by someone, or more specifically dragged under. “Help!” they numbingly shout at us from some unseen subterranean place, sounding at first like punctuation and only over time registering as desperation. There’s a hard-to-explain thrill in watching these avatars of white America willingly make themselves into the subaltern for a few minutes, bemoaning their limited range of choices under the accumulated weight of history. Personal responsibility is an overrated concept, they imply — finally, some bipartisanship! On the one hand, “I Had Some Help” is the cri de coeur of the anti-anti-Trump voter, the kind who has little use for the man except as a corrective lesson, a Mandate of Heaven against the haughty overreaches of the liberal elite. In Swiftie terms, it’s “Look What You Made Me Do” for people who either write for National Review or drive lifted trucks. On the other hand, whataboutism is all-American fun; that’s why Both Sides Do It™. “You blame me, and baby, I blame you” — himbo insight, maybe, but ain’t that really the truth, in a century where politics on all sides is less and less about improving material outcomes, and more and more about the proper rationing of sympathy and apportionment of blame?  A nation of stadium crowds, 30,000 apiece, all screaming along to a jaunty country rocker about the joys of denying one’s own free will — America, what a country! 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I cannot deny how propulsive the verses sound here and how much the song suffers when nobody is singing. And just as I’m about to give up on it, the two deliver a bridge that brings it all together. This would go so hard at a wedding — I hope I get to dance to this at one soon.

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One Response to “Post Malone ft. Morgan Wallen – I Had Some Help”

  1. TBH, I can’t fault it! We know who Posty and Wallen are by now. And they deliver on that promise. The music video exposes their lack of ideas, or perhaps just reflects the audience they know will eat this up. The guitar and drums are absolutely forgettable. No impact, no texture, no grit. That’s pop country sadly. But the vocals are relatable enough to get smashed to. Envisioning karaoke circles with the guys on the dance floor, while double-fisting beers of course.

    I’ll be at the Calgary Stampede again this summer and will be praying Cowboys tent plays this instead of worse fare (and there’s a lot worse to be had, trust).

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