I first took notice of Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly, when he released Rap Devil in 2018. When the back and forth with Eminem died down I thought my journey with Kelly was over, and if you’d told me then that in 2020 he would release a pop-punk album with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker I wouldn’t have believed you. However, last summer I started to notice him all over rock and alternative magazines and radio stations following the release of his song ‘I Think I’m OKAY’, a mid-00s rock-inspired track featuring Yungblud and Travis Barker. This was a side of MGK that I’d never seen before and I absolutely loved it!
I honestly thought ‘I Think I’m OKAY’ was going to be a one-off experiment and Kelly would go back to hip-hop. However, following the release of his last album Hotel Diablo in 2019, which was mostly hip-hop but did include the fantastic Linkin Park-inspired nu-metal track Hollywood Whore and I Think I’m OKAY, there were rumours circulating of MGK working on a pop punk album with Travis Barker and I was very intrigued. It went quiet for a while after those rumours, but eventually he released the first single from Tickets To My Downfall, Bloody Valentine, in May and I was very excited to hear more! The song felt a bit predictable and bland at first, but it really grew on me – as did the second single Concert For Aliens. As for the third single, My Ex’s Best Friend (featuring Blackbear), I really, really liked it from the off. It’s not a traditional pop punk song like the first two singles but I love the way it blends pop punk and hip hop.
Having stayed up until midnight to listen to Tickets To My Downfall from start to finish, I can now say that it’s really, really good! I can be quite critical of new music and a lot of songs often take time to ‘grow’ on me, but there is not one song on Tickets To My Downfall that I dislike. That’s not to say every song is an instant classic, but as an album it works really well and MGK has pulled it off! For an artist that is traditionally hip-hop and at one point perhaps took himself a bit seriously, I love that he’s gone out and made a record that he wants to make. Tickets has insanely catchy choruses, great production, and a really refreshing sound. I wouldn’t even necessarily say it’s an out-and-out pop punk album. If you had to categorise it into one genre, then yes it is pop punk, but it has flavours of rock, punk, hip-hop and indie thrown in. I love the uniqueness of his voice and the energy it provides too – it brings something different to the table and sets it apart from similar records out there.
The album starts with the title track, begins with a slow, acoustic opening before launching into a full-on punk chorus. I love it. For me though, the album really gets going on track three – Drunk Face. There are a few tracks on the album, including Drunk Face, that have a consistent, solid beat underneath, catchy choruses but don’t have predictable crescendos like a lot pop punk songs have – it’s refreshing, original and right up my street. Nothing Inside (feat. Iann Dior), Kiss Kiss and the first single Bloody Valentine are a few more examples that fall into this category.
The standout tracks for me from Tickets To My Downfall are Forget Me Too (feat. Halsey), All I Know (feat. Trippie Redd) and single My Ex’s Best Friend. All three songs feature artists that are perhaps leaving their comfort zone a bit, but they smash it. All three songs are totally different too but are equally fantastic. There are a couple of slower songs on the album, Lonely and Play This When I’m Gone, which again work really well and fit in with the rest of the songs perfectly. The album overall lacks ‘riffs’ in the classic sense, some of the rhythms and vocal melodies get a bit repetitive, and lyrically it’s nothing spectacular, though the two slower songs I mention have the strongest lyrics on the album, but I don’t think it needs to be lyrically impressive. For a start it’s a fun rock album and so shouldn’t be expected to have profound lyrics, but Tickets has its own style and puts two fingers up to anyone who wants to criticise.
A special mention needs to go to one of my favourite musicians of all time and the producer of Tickets To My Downfall, the one and only Travis Barker. He’s shown with this album that he is so much more than just the drummer for Blink-182 and I’m sure he was pivotal in making this album great. Most fans of Travis will know his musical influences range more than most peoples, and likes to dip his toes in so many different projects, but he’s also just so hardworking. He brings his talent, influences and work ethic to this album amazingly well.
If there’s one thing I really admire about this album, it’s that it breaks the pop punk boundaries. I mentioned before that I love the uniqueness of Colson’s voice, and I think in part that’s because it’s not your ‘traditional’ pop punk voice but it really works for this album. I’ve also really admired Machine Gun Kelly’s attitude towards this album throughout the whole cycle and it’s been enjoyable seeing how well he and Travis Barker work together. More than anything though he seems like he’s having fun, and that’s what it should all be about. Going back two years to Rap Devil I saw someone who was clearly in a bad place and taking himself very seriously. With Tickets To My Downfall Kelly seems to be in a great place and making music he loves. This shows throughout the album and even if he doesn’t continue on the pop punk path I know I’ll always enjoy coming back to this album and remembering the excitement and intrigue I felt in the months leading up to the release.
Top Tracks: Forget Me Too (feat. Halsey), Drunk Face, My Ex’s Best Friend (feat. blackbear)
Release Date: September 25th, 2020
- Title Track
- Kiss Kiss
- Drunk Face
- Bloody Valentine
- Forget Me Too (featuring Halsey)
- All I Know (featuring Trippie Redd)
- Kevin and Barracuda (Interlude)
- Concert For Aliens
- My Ex’s Best Friend
- Nothing Inside (featuring Iann Dior)
- Banyan Tree (Interlude)
- Play This When I’m Gone