By Debra Kate Schafer
Most people know Machine Gun Kelly as the rapper who traded diss tracks with Eminem, or as the artist on “Bad Things,” the chart-topping hit he had alongside Camila Cabello, that took over airwaves between late 2016 and early 2017.
Now, many people are getting to know Machine Gun Kelly as the pop-punk singing, electric guitar-wielding, alt. radio commanding artist that he is. The musician’s latest album “Tickets to My Downfall” is not only musically sound and cohesive from start to finish, but it’s an inside, vulnerable look at MGK’s life and perspective on the world around him.
“Tickets to My Downfall” is a 15-track piece of music that features the singles, “Bloody Valentine,” “concert for aliens” and “my ex’s best friend.” Bonus tracks on the deluxe editions of the new record also include covers of “Misery Business” by Paramore and “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna. If Colson Baker, also known as Machine Gun Kelly, wanted to do something solely for himself while still challenging people’s perspectives of him, he did so flawlessly with “Tickets to My Downfall.”
Machine Gun Kelly took what people knew as pop-punk and turned it on its head in the best way possible, proving both that a rapper can do so much more than rap and pop-punk is still relevant in 2020. Executively produced by Blink-182’s Travis Barker, who accompanies Baker on multiple tracks, it’s easy to see the influence that that band has always had on him. Machine Gun Kelly and Barker’s friendship goes all the way back to 2011, so working together to create something monumental has been a long time coming.
Barker isn’t the only collaborator on this record. Halsey is featured on “forget me too,” and Trippie Redd, blackbear and Iann Dior come in for their respective songs as well. Yungblud, The Used and Bert McCracken have a special song on the deluxe edition, “body bag,” which is already a fan favorite.
“Tickets to My Downfall” is filled with so much heart and showcases a lot of unexplainable, personal moments from Machine Gun Kelly’s life. This record, unlike 2019’s “Hotel Diablo,” is a concise, intimate look inside his mind instead of just individual feelings and moments. It’s obvious how cathartic this record was for him, and how writing these songs with such passion and angst brought him peace in a time of turmoil.
At its core, the album illuminates how humans are obsessed with watching the destruction of something — of someone. We’re programmed to highlight the bad, tune into the turmoil and overlook the simple positives in day-to-day life. Machine Gun Kelly highlights this from the beginning in the opening song, aptly named “title track.” It starts off slow before kicking off with a bang, referencing razor blades, personal danger and unabashed violence. It comes full circle, much like life itself, because the last song is its very opposite.
“play this when i’m gone” is about being there for others, wanting the best for someone else and living your life with another person in mind. Machine Gun Kelly wrote this song for his daughter Casie, whom he often references as his reason for doing what he does.
Voice notes are intertwined throughout the album, too, taking the intimacy level up even more as you get an inside look into conversations that Machine Gun Kelly has had in his own life. We hear his current girlfriend, Megan Fox, on “banyan tree,” speaking about their relationship and the life-filled wildness that ensues.
There’s also an entire track (“Kevin and barracuda”) dedicated to a hallucinogenic-induced conversation that Machine Gun Kelly had with one of his close friends, Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson. Most importantly, at the very end of “lonely,” possibly the most heartfelt song on the record, it touches on the losses he carries with him. There is a voice note of Colson’s late father speaking.
As personal as this record gets, it’s also off-the-wall, rock-and-roll fun, tinted with urban elements. It features more than enough tracks that you could turn the volume up for in your car, while driving down the highway with the sunroof open. There are songs on “Tickets to My Downfall” that will make you think, cry and reflect, but as often as you find that, you’ll find songs that you and your friends can rock out to.
That’s the beauty of this new era of Machine Gun Kelly. Every song is sung from the heart and deeply complex — there is something for everyone to grab onto at every different point in their life.