Machine Gun Kelly "Tickets To My Downfall" Album Review
When Machine Gun Kelly announced that he will be releasing a Pop-Punk album in 2020 there were those who raised an eyebrow in wonder. What could possibly cause the Cleveland-based rapper to sway so far from the comfort of his established Hip-Hop career and venture into the unknown waters of fast guitars, clean vocals and teenage dreams?
Could it be that the monumental success of his single “I think I’m Okay” featuring the British rocker Yungblud and Blink 182’s own Travis Barker got in his head and pushed him over the edge with the promise of more Platinum records and looming accolades or is it something he actually always wanted to do and just waited for the perfect time to pursue this long-life dream?
If you are a fan of MGK that would be an easy answer. he is not taking a leap of faith but keeping a steady course with an already versatile arsenal of music genres that he crossed paths with from the very beginning of his career.
Kells (or real name, Colson Baker) is an already known jack-of-all-trades as an actor of both TV and Film, a rapper, singer, songwriter, guitarist, drummer, producer, and a fashion icon.
He also collaborated with Rock legends, Pop princesses, Country stars, EDM DJ gods, and Heavy Metal bangers so why not add Punk to that list?
His last album “Hotel Diablo” (2019) was all about that rap culture and facing some serious personal demons and while it was a well-executed- album, possibly one of his best, it was also a scary one to listen to. Each song bled anger, frustration, pain, and most of all, depression. Each single came out with an equally somber music video and it was clear that something was not okay with the rapper.
At the time he was grinding back-to-back tours, worked on multiple movie sets, and simply looked exhausted and warned-out in every interview.
Then came the notorious 2020, one of the most devastating year for the music industry (and the world as a whole) and it seems that one person had found his happy place with the re-birth of Machine Gun Kelly – Activist, Rocker, Lover (Megan Fox in case you are living under a rock), and the king of “Lockdown Sessions” on YouTube showing that some alone time can do you some good and help you re-invent yourself.
MGK took his sweet time to release “Tickets to my Downfall” and used that time to become a new person, a happier person and one that is not taking hits from anyone who refuses to accept that “genres are dead” and trying to shade him for being secure in his (fabulous) fashion choices.
So let’s dive into “Tickets to my Downfall” and decide if this was a gamble worth taking.
The album was produced by Travis Barker and sticks to the musical standard of Punk songs being shorter than usual so that the entire album, interludes included is 36 minutes.
Title Track (aka Tickets to my Downfall)
Starting off with 40 seconds of melodic old-fashioned acoustic guitar Kells relates that during his worst time he was constantly surrounded by ‘friends” waiting to see him crash and burn. Then cut to full-on fast pace Punk music accompanying the confessions of being in constant pain, wanting to decompose, trying to leave the drugs behind, and the pressure of being misjudged by everyone with a touch of that familiar self-destruct and we are off to a great start as this song is pure gold.
Favorite line: “If I'm a painter, I'd be a depressionist”
Get ready for a quick upbeat number that feels more like an interlude than an actual song, yet is totally fun and will get you all nostalgic for that time in your life when you went barhopping all night long with your friends and got way too drunk to remember anything else (because let's face it, we all kissed the bottle at some point of our lives). Also, it could be just an anthem for alcoholics who drown their sorrows in liquor to escape dealing with the pain of real-life (no judging here!) but be warned, it is unbelievably catchy and you will find yourself singing it to your coffee mug in the morning.
I’m pretty sure this one will become a single soon enough, as it should be, it’s catchy as hell (“I’m still young wasting my youth, I’ll grow up next summer”), it’s relatable to the point of annoyance (“She posts pics to get at me”) and it’s perfect for sing-alongs in the car. we all stuck wanting to delay adulthood in another year or five or 10.
Favorite line: “I'm overcompensating for heartbreak, I swallowed a pill that wasn't a heart shape”
We already know this song is a banger, chosen wisely as the first single for this album and already won a VMA award for ‘Best Alternative Song”, MGK joins forces with Travis Barker, not just a producer or a co-writer but also as a drummer on the track, bringing his mad skills and signature style making it a Pop-Punk anthem and a time-traveling song for us over the age of 30. It is truly one of the best songs of the album both lyrically and musically composed to perfection.
Favorite line: “I'm overstimulated and I'm sad I don't expect you to understand”
Forget Me Too (Feat. Halsey)
Arguably one of the most anticipated collaborations by fans, Halsey herself said it was “Seven years in the making” and indeed it was long overdue for them to work together, especially considering their mutual close relationship with the musician Yungblud (can someone please get me a song with all three of them together or am I being too greedy?) and it is not exactly what I expected.
Going back to that acoustic session/rehearsal type of intro where MGK mumbles to the mic “Let me take my fucking bracelet off” and trails off before the actual song blasts into focus.
Keeping the classic structure of a verse for each before they collide together in an amazing chorus the powerful duo sings about on-again-off-again lovers and all the drama that comes with being in the same social circle (clearly speaking from experience) with a little attitude to bring up the theatrics.
At first, I’ve noticed that Halsey was singing in a different style than her usual accent, her raspy voice was high-pitched, probably to match the song’s tempo, and it felt like she’s lost a little of her unique edge in the process, however, after listening to the song a few times, I understand the artistic choice that was taken here to make the song work better and I just love it. I’m hoping they will decide to shoot a video for this song so we’ll get to see them rocking to it side by side.
Favorite line: “My bad dreams are silk-screened cause I taste blood when you bleed, It's eating me alive, we'd both be better off alone”
All I Know (Feat. Trippy Redd)
MGK previously collaborated with fellow rapper Trippy Redd in “Candy” on the “Hotel Diablo” album. Both artists have a lot in common when it comes to breaking genre boundaries and experimenting with mixing musical styles, but this specific feature felt a little out of place in this album context, somewhat depressing but perhaps essential as a bit of a “mood changer” leading up to the next track in the album.
Every great Pop-Punk album needs a good heartfelt ballad and “Lonely” is a real tearjerker. Colson opened his heart and soul recounting his childhood memories and last moments with his aunt and now father, both passed away from cancer. The song ends with an outro of his father talking about his dangerous birth and how he almost died before his life even began. This is such a powerful song and gut-wrenching in every way and it also one of the fan favorites as it allows Colson to open himself up in a way that was never seen before.
Take 100% pure Punk energy and cram it into a one minute song (is it a song tho?) full of rage and angst. There isn’t a lot to add as the lyrics are pretty straightforward with their intention: a big middle finger in the air to all the non-believers, the haters, the critics and I'm here for it!
Kevin and Barracuda (interlude)
So you know how you have these random phone calls with your best friend while they are on speaker and your girlfriend is in the background saying something and you only hear half of what she is saying and both of you are high as a kite? No? Yes? Well, this is one of this conversations, only you are Machine Gun Kelly, your best friend is Pete Davidson and your Girlfriend in the background is Megan Fox and somehow that phone call ended up on your album. Priceless? Random? Funny? Weird? – Yes.
Concert For Aliens
So after MGK and Pete Davidson decided what their alien names should be and how earth sucks and they need to leave with their weed, came the perfectly timed second single of the album and a total favorite of mine, as it too, a perfect Pop-Punk anthem, capturing how it feels to be an angsty teen or a confused young adult or basically anyone living through this bizarre times of Covid-19 and we all just really need a good concert to chill or leave this planet behind. or both.
My Ex’s Best Friend (with Blackbear)
The third single of the album (and one of my personal favorites) is truly the most modern track of the bunch. While the majority of the songs have a flair for the nostalgia, “My ex’s best friend” is completely contemporary. The lyrics, the lingo, Blackbear’s stylish rap and electronic background, they all merge perfectly with the modern plain ol’ god honest to god rock music. In a different universe, this would be a rapper guest spotting in Colson Baker’s latest rock album.
Favorite line: “I swear to god I never fall in love then you showed up and I can’t get enough of it”
Another nostalgic piece meant to pull up those memories of a candy no one could beat. A perfect metaphor for your high school crush or the one that got away, either way, your mind is already swimming in colorful pictures and your mouth can almost taste that sweet candy while you sing along to a catchy pre-chorus, wanting to clap out loud to the beat and without noticing the song ends way too soon.
Nothing Inside (Feat. Iann Dior)
Heavily influenced by Blink 182’s sound, this is the second collaboration between MGK and Iann Dior following “Sick and Tired”. Kells adopts Blink’s Mark Hoppus singing style and blends well into the modern twist of the re-born but never really gone Pop-Punk genre while allowing Dior to keep the contemporary tone of the song and make it just the right fit for this album. The duo sings about unconditional love that is mostly one-sided.
Favorite line: “ I'm running low on serotonin in these empty moments, I'm having trouble operating without my main component”
Banyan Tree (interlude)
Can you feel the love tonight? Well, that “Lion King” romantic moment was sort of re-created by Machine Gun Kelly and his girlfriend actress Megan Fox in an intimate recording of the couple reminiscing about how they fell in love only a few months ago in that very spot.
Despite being a very private person, it can only be assumed that he chose to share this personal moment with his fans (and the world) as a declaration of how much he had changed in the last year and how for the first time in his life he is truly in love and want to shout it from the rooftops. The recording is so unbelievably romantic and genuine is hard not to swoon.
Play This When I’m Gone
I hope you kept those tissues from “Lonely” because this one will break your heart.
As I mentioned earlier 2019 felt like a bad year for MGK, he was a mess and it showed, so it comes with no surprise that during that year he contemplated suicide. This was not the first time he has brought up his suicidal tendencies. In the last album “Hotel Diablo” he talked about ending his life while his daughter was in the next room in “Glass House” and man, it was dark. This brings us back to “Play this when I’m gone” a song written in December 2019 and dedicated to Casie Baker. The song title pretty much says it all. Colson did not think he will live past his 29th birthday (He celebrated his 30th this recent April) and wanted to leave something behind for his daughter to listen to.
It’s impossible to be indifferent to this kind of rare brutal honesty in a song that painfully explains how far gone he was that he thought this was the end.
This song pushed so many buttons for me, as some of my favorite artists had gone down that road and are now lost to the world, I can only be happy that somehow he has found light in his life and allowed himself to push through, to find love, to be happy again and to let a little girl keep her father.
That was quite a ride, wasn’t it?
36 minutes full of all spectrum of emotions, powerful messages alongside feel-good music, tearjerkers, anthems, and a few very personal glimpses into the life of one Machine Gun Kelly.
How can I possibly not recommend this album?