Who knew that the best pop-punk album of the year would come from a rapper? Maxwell Jeffries takes a probe to the latest album from motor-mouthed rapper Machine Gun Kelly, which reboots him as an heir to the early 2000's pop-punk throne.
Colson Baker, known in the ‘music biz’ as Machine Gun Kelly, is a rapper and actor from Cleveland, Ohio, who burst onto the scene in 2012 with his debut release Lace Up. Despite having a loyal following, his music may not have ever crossed over into the pop-punk fanbase. However, that was until the release of the first single from Tickets to My Downfall – Bloody Valentine. Sounding like some of the finest pop-punk from the early 2000’s, the track was a breath of fresh air for the musician, and triggered a whole new wave of interest in the release of the Travis Barker produced record.
So, with the release of the album, has Machine Gun Kelly revived popular interest in pop-punk? He most certainly has. Tickets to My Downfall is surprisingly one of the most accomplished albums in the genre since Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out to Get You. Kicking off the bill with title track, the album is immediately injected with an unexpected punk attitude. The song is further improved by the excellent-as-always drumming from Travis Barker – who’s influence can be found all over the project. Following this, kiss the bottle is another addictive ditty that highlights MGK’s love for the genre he seems to have adopted. drunk face – a highlight cut from the record – respectively sees some trademark pop-punk personal lyricism penned from Baker, leading to an emotionally charged anthem with a chorus that will follow you around for days.
Next track, forget me too sees the first of a few features across the album – Halsey. An unexpected collaboration perhaps, but based on this track alone, enough proof that Halsey should write a rock-influenced album of her own. Channelling her inner Hayley Williams, she puts in the best vocal performance on the record by a long shot in a surprisingly energetic duet. Speaking of vocals, it is clear that MGK has been putting some serious practice into his own. Whilst the autotune is fairly obvious throughout, the passion is evident and the conviction behind every word more than enough to make the vocals sound great – once again proving that an exhaustive vocal range is not needed to make stellar music.
Meanwhile WWIII, a punk-rock tinged, minute long rager echoes songs like Sum 41's A.N.I.C or Never – a welcome addition to the album’s repertoire. concert for aliens and my ex’s best friend (previously released as singles) come next, and are easily up there with some of the best pop-rock singles of the past decade. Walking the line perfectly between pop-punk and pop-rock, these are the types of songs everyone wished Blink 182 had been releasing for the past couple of years; particularly the latter my ex’s best friend, which includes an excellent feature from Blackbear.
‘Tickets to My Downfall is proof that anybody from any genre can break outside their comfort zone and write an album.’
That isn’t to say that every song is a complete home run, however. Tracks like jawbreaker, nothing inside and all I know, whilst still listenable and catchy in their own right, are not quite up to the standard of the rest of the album – feeling a little cliché and pastiche. Final track play this when I’m gone however, does not quite fall into the cliché emotional album closer trap. After a brief interlude where Baker discusses his time with girlfriend, Megan Fox, the track hits hard in its departure from the open-diary lyricism of the rest of the album, and is an excellent end to the record.
Tickets to My Downfall is proof that anybody from any genre can break outside their comfort zone and write an album. Not every album done this way may result in an offering as accomplished as Machine Gun Kelly has managed to craft here, but that’s not the point. It’s great to see rock of any form in the mainstream once again - it being done so well is an added bonus. On an album of this high-profile and scope, nearly every single track seems to feature real drums and/or electric guitar, and this is a real win for the world of heavy music.
With its confessional lyrics, deeply humorous moments (see kevin and barracuda – interlude, featuring an intoxicated Pete Davidson and Baker discussing what their alien names would be) and rocking choruses – this record is a testament to MGK’s clear love for the pop-punk genre, and to a style that he would be foolish not to endeavour into further. It seems to suit him.
Words by: Maxwell Jeffries
Edited by: Dominic Allum