Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall

Neo-pop-punk is dead. Sure, there are “bigger” bands still out there like Blink-182, Fall Out Boy (do we still consider FOB pop-punk?), and the like. But there’s so much disparity in pop-punk, you’re either huge or no one seems to care. So, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, because of his higher profile and known persona, can go ahead and skip the “paying your dues” stage in a scene he’s never participated in before and the braindead pop-punk kids will still reward him with praise and silly accolades, like he somehow reinvented the wheel, that he revitalized the dead genre of pop-punk. Well, he didn’t. And his new, super-safe record, Tickets to My Downfall, is proof of that. But it’s also proof that pop-punk kids, a lot of them at least, just have poor taste in music. And maybe that’s kind of a millennial thing too, to over-hype something that is distinctly mediocre?

The Travis Barker-produced album (he also plays drums on it), has his stamp all over it. Some songs are blatant Blink-182 rip-offs, some aren’t, but the Blink trappings of songs under the three-minute mark, big hooks, half-time drums and sing-songy broken-sentence vocals are all there. The production is all over the place. Some of the songs sound deliberately shitty, while other songs sound overproduced on the other end of the spectrum – Top-40-sounding, which is about as far removed from “punk” as possible. The bass is okay throughout, very Mark Hoppus-y, but the guitar tones sound thin and tinny, which goes back to the whole Blink rip-off thing. The drums are fake, all sound-replaced to hell, to sound overly perfect. MGK’s voice isn’t that great either. There’s no pronounced distinction in his voice. It’s very garden variety/generic.

The title track starts off with annoying/whiny broken-sentence vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitar. “drunk face” (most the titles are lowercase for some reason) chronicles the vicious cycle of drug abuse, something MGK’s been singing about for years. “concert for aliens” is a straight-up homage to Blink’s Enema of the State, with its Tom DeLonge-esque guitar riffs and extraterrestrial theme (Blink and aliens are kind of a thing). “WWIII,” a track that clocks in at about a minute long, channels Face to Face and Green Day, and is one of the better songs on the record.

Elsewhere, “forget me too,” featuring Halsey on guest vocals doing her best/annoying Paramore impersonation, sounds more like a Broadway show tune than anything remotely resembling “punk.” It gets worse though. “my ex’s best friend,” featuring blackbear, is complete and utter Top-40 schlock. The finale, “play this when i’m gone” is a ballad that doesn’t go anywhere with some of the most clichéd lyrics you’ll ever come across, and MGK is supposed to be this master lyricist. I don’t get it.

Basically, MGK bought a new wardrobe at Hot Topic and got Travis Barker from Blink-182 to produce and play drums for him. He completely changed genres that easily. I don’t know, if I got dissed by Eminem I would probably want to completely switch genres too.

Machine Gun Kelly
Tickets to My Downfall
[Bad Boy/Interscope]