Machine Gun Kelly’s crazy run since the release of Hotel Diablo keeps going full speed. And it is probably not going to stop anytime soon.
The fifth studio album of the Cleveland Rap Devil is yet another splendid addition in his discography. And another proof of his diverse skills, interests, and music capabilities. The Gunner has implemented different genres and styles in music during his career – this has led to him gracefully elevating the state of modern hip-hop with different approaches and inspiration while extending the limits of his creativity and capabilities.
For his latest release, the artist entered a territory completely focused on a non-hip-hop style and conquered the pop-punk world with a bang.
The announcement that Machine Gun Kelly’s fifth full-length album would be an all-out pop-punk record quickly turned into a burning topic of discussion. And it had every reason to be one.
An artist taking the bold plunge into a style they are not usually operating in is quite an interesting thing to observe. Breaking away from the limiting box that the music industry loves to put artists in is something to be excited about in itself. However, this particular case had even more solid reasons to be a highly anticipated release.
You can read the Kerrang! cover story pre-album release and get interesting insights on many aspects of the album
Machine Gun Kelly has always been way more than a rapper. During his career, the artist has tapped into numerous inspirations and elevated hip-hop to a whole new level – something which can be considered a major development of the genre that hasn’t happened for a long time.
The Gunner introduced organic, live instrumentals to shows and incorporated rock, punk, and alternative into the classic hip-hop style to create something unique. The soundscape environment around each song is set appropriately – mellow, acoustic-like instrumentals and gentle singing for emotionally crushing confession-like songs, heavy beats, aggressive delivery, and rapid-fire flow for badass stand of ground. Everything is well-calculated and presented accordingly.
Tickets To My Downfall is just another proof of his versatility and open-mindedness towards the creative process.
I wouldn’t dare say pop-punk was dead and there are many artists we can thank for that (The Regrettes, Dead Cross, Tenement for example). However, we can’t pretend that Tickets To My Downfall didn’t just give the genre a kickass push of fresh energy.
The last track on preceding record Hotel Diablo set the stage for that quite well. The first collaboration between The Gunner, drum-machine/punk grandmaster Travis Barker, and punk-rock rising star Yungblud was a smooth display of exceptional synergy and bromance between the three.
I Think I’m Okay is the perfect transition between the dark and heavy Hotel Diablo and the energetic and lively Tickets To My Downfall. It also encapsulates the themes that are present in both records showing that the latter album will keep dwelling on the depths of the artist’s mind but will present those thoughts through a different perspective and in a drastically different environment.
It is confirmed there are two more Machine Gun Kelly x Yungblud songs in existence that we haven’t heard yet
Tickets To My Downfall is a successful pop-punk album for several reasons. It has the classic sound and strong vibes of nostalgia, the intimate stories supported by personal examples and references, the outpour of emotion and relatability – all things typical for the scene.
That is achieved thanks to Machine Gun Kelly’s transparency and unfiltered honesty. We saw some of his most vulnerable moments and shocking confessions during Hotel Diablo. The liberating approach is also preserved on the new record.
Another reason for the album being a great pop-punk record is the creative liberation Machine Gun Kelly experienced. It is easy to tell the artist had a lot of fun recording the album – he was free to show off other parts of his skills like guitar playing and different types of vocals, including beautiful singing.
Tickets To My Downfall also has the signature of Travis Barker written all over it. You can easily figure out his involvement even if you had no idea he produced the whole thing. And when you have such an iconic figure navigating the process results are meant to be good – the beloved classic pop-punk sound and energy are radiating from start to end.
The record is introduced in a very fitting way. The album opener is a true punk track sound and spirit-wise. Title Track kicks things off with a slow, mellow instrumental intro quickly building up into an explosion of guitars and drums setting the introduction of the album concept.
During a Kerrang! interview, Machine Gun Kelly explained the meaning of the album title.
Tickets To My Downfall couldn’t have been my debut album because I had to get to a certain height to then decline and crash. People are aware of this height that I’m at, and they don’t want to see it rise anymore; they want to see it crash. There had to have been a journey for people to care about to then see destroyed.
The artist’s lifestyle, music, and unapologetic sense of style have been a target of many comments during the years. It seems like no matter what he does, what type of music he ventures into, or what kind of topics he exposes some people will always remain unpleased (which is completely normal). Someone would always wait for the day he starts crashing down.
You can’t take me away from a stage, you can’t put me in a box, you can’t tell me what f*cking music to make… Joke’s on you, there is no downfall.
Watch the full Kerrang! Face To Face interview with The Gunner featuring fan questions regarding the new album here
Tickets To My Downfall as a title reflects a reoccurring topic for The Gunner’s artistic expression – negativity, betrayal, and people’s wish to see him fall. Interestingly enough the tracklist of the album seems to prove the exact opposite – despite the many struggles and the uneasy road the artist walks the tickets to his downfall seem to be invalid as he has no intention of going down anytime soon.
WWIII is a good example of a song partially dealing with this issue. The true punk-rock anthem is filled with energy, agitation, and aggressive loud instrumentals in an attempt to get through with the point that people should mind their own business and do something themselves if they don’t like how others are doing it (which was also addressed in the Kerrang! Face To Face interview).
WWIII is a short but powerful track. Almost like an interlude once again highlighting the most important message of the record. It is a nice “break-like” song flowing into an actual interlude marking a smooth transition of topics.
Concert For Aliens is a chaotic explosion of true pop-punk energy. It shows The Gunner trying to navigate through the chaos and confusion in the world and his personal life. With an illustrative video and the preceding interlude, displaying a conversation between the artist and his long-time friend Pete Davidson discussing aliens and migration to another planet, the track manages to build-up a small world representing the idea it wants to push through quite well.
A small blooper is added as an outro – something which we see in other songs like Forget Me Too and Bloody Valentine, to add a nice human touch and goofiness to the overall presentation of the album.
Confusion and loss of direction are actually hinted even earlier in the tracklist.
All I Know introduces the theme and presents the second collaboration between Machine Gun Kelly and Trippie Red. The two artists get honest and transparent once again and top it all with a beautiful outro instrumental flowing into the next track on the album – probably the most emotional and hard-hitting pieces on Tickets To My Downfall.
Back in Hotel Diablo, Machine Gun Kelly opened up about his family and the impact the passing of his aunt had on his emotional well-being – Burning Memories and Death In My Pocket both dealt with rough family relationships.
Lonely brings back that emotional heaviness with an exploration of personal moments and unfulfilled reconnection. It deals with the death of the artist’s father right after the two started getting close after a long lack of communication.
The tragic undertone of the song contrasts the overall energetic and lively atmosphere of the album and allows us to get another peek of Machine Gun Kelly’s torturous thoughts.
[As my father was dying] I was encouraged by someone to ask about my life, knowing that this could be the last time I was able to find out certain truths. I think I ultimately chose to put it on the album because it can maybe help people understand my psyche a little more, that even before I came out of the womb, I was already trying to take myself out of this world – almost feeling like I shouldn’t be here or something.Kerrang! Interview
I personally get goosebumps every time I hear this song
Most of the album is rich in emotion in one way or another. Closing track Play This When I’m Gone is another good example – it is a dedication to the artist’s daughter Casey.
Machine Gun Kelly pours out his thoughts for his daughter so she could have something that would remind her of his true feelings when he is gone. The track is haunting and scary as it represents a “last goodbye” written in advance. The almost acoustic instrumental supporting it enhances the emotional impact even more and makes it a fitting closing act for the album.
Not the first “last goodbye” we have heard from the artist
The artist seems to be perfectly aware his lifestyle would most likely bury him at an early age and he is once again preparing to face it. Those motives are not new for the artist – the most vivid example of him addressing the dangers of his recklessness is 27. The final track of the Bloom record has a very similar vibe and serves as another “last goodbye” this time targeted towards the artist’s fanbase.
Banyan Tree is another interlude with a crucial role for the album. It connects all the themes the record explores since track one, including alcohol and drug abuse, instability and chaos, love and lust, as well as strong passion and emotional overflow.
The song is a simple conversation between Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox (his other half) in which they discuss life and love which brings back many moments from the preceding tracks and also flows perfectly into the last piece of the album.
If the world was coming to an end
I don’t wanna close my eyes without
Feeling like I lived
Going back to the start of the album – before plunging into a love-fueled exploration, Kiss Kiss brings forth a topic which seems to have equal importance for the artist’s life at the moment. It is targeted towards the bad habits of The Gunner in regard to alcohol overuse in his attempts to deal with stress. Despite the catchy, energetic sound, the darkness peeks behind the lyrics exposing another vulnerable part of the artist’s true self.
A good in-between song serving as a middle ground between the theme of substance abuse and love is Drunk Face. A true pop-punk anthem in every possible angle – from the instrumental build-up, the lyrical content, addictive chorus, catchy construction, and 2000s style homemade video (by Mod Sun himself).
The track symbolically compares getting back to a dangerous relationship to a drug addiction. The artist makes nostalgia take form with his playful lyricism, on-point references, and powerful metaphors.
As we quickly learned, Megan Fox is not only the start of this video but the main inspiraiton behind most of the love-related songs on the record
One of the lead singles opens up the romance theme for the record. Bloody Valentine shows a radical contrast to Hotel Diablo’s overall suspicious and dark atmosphere.
The song shows the artist head over heels for a particular woman, intoxicated by love, and completely consumed by her presence. This song is one of the rare occasions where we can see The Gunner trusting and hopeful (once again contrasting the previous record).
In the true spirit of pop-punk, the song is a playful representation of a person falling in love and being unsure how the target of his emotions is feeling.
Forget Me Too, My Ex’s Best Friend, Jawbreaker, and Nothing Inside also represent romantic (or lustful) situations, however, the focus is on more unpleasant events and experiences. The songs are most likely still derived from Machine Gun Kelly’s personal experiences and each tells a real story dressed in metaphors and catchy lyrical content.
Forget Me Too might be one of the catchiest songs on the record. It is also a long-awaited collaboration between two great artists and friends.
Halsey enters the track smoothly and reportedly recorded her verse for the stunning 5 minutes without any complications or editing – this is how much of a dynamic the two artists managed to build-up over the years.
The song goes back to a past romance and exposes the inability to shake off the feelings for the particular person. It eventually unveils that the people are still (and will most likely always be) in love. This is represented by an alluring vocal exchange between MGK and Halsey under a fast-pace tempo and energetic instrumentals.
I left before you woke up
I don’t feel right (Seeing you sober)
You left before I woke up
Why don’t I ever see you sober?
Several lines in the song tie up with other tracks and indicate that the story in question is once again a real-life situation The Gunner experienced with his now-partner Megan Fox. “I saw you walk in the room and tried my best/Not to panic while I’m looking for the back door” foreshadows the events of standalone single Why Are You Here while “Permanent calligraphy I just/Tattooed/Your name on me forever, f*ck” refers to the dialogue in Banyan Tree.
It is a nice follow-up to Bloody Valentine and one of the songs with most personal references and details making it one incredible track to enjoy – not to mention Halsey’s natural and elevating contribution. The wait for this collab was definitely worth it.
Jawbreaker, My Ex’s Best Friend, and Nothing Inside also tell captivating personal stories supported by the established pop-punk sound and catchy references. Complicated life stories of lust, playful romance, and failed past relationships with lingering after-effects are all part of the show.
The Target Exclusive includes some of the long-desired lockdown session covers that kept Machine Gun Kelly busy and inspired during the biggest outbreak of the virus – Roll The Windows Up, In These Walls, Love On The Brain, and Misery Business.
The last cover is also on the “SOLD OUT” Deluxe version together with another stunning collaboration. Body Bag with Yungblud and Bert McCracken (The Used) is a Fall Out Boy inspired (and also blessed by them a day before the deluxe album release) track with major punk energy and a love-related theme. Hangover Pill – a continuation of Bloody Valentine also makes an appearance as well as Split A Pill and an acoustic variation of Bloody Valentine.
All of those add up to the overall great execution of the album and the fresh take on pop-punk with a notable Machine Gun Kelly twist.
Tickets to My Downfall is a little bit more boyish [than my previous work]. A little bit more… Like, the me that’s smiling, a teenage me. The me that didn’t really get a chance to be shown off to the world because I didn’t really have that when I was a teenager. I was growing up too fast. […] [Typical teenage] moments hit me earlier this year.Source
Tickets To My Downfall is a refreshing and nostalgic record. It takes listeners back to the golden days of pop-punk and elevates the genre with the recognizable style of The Gunner. It might not be what we are used to hearing from MGK, but it is still clearly his record.
As with every good release the album gets deeper and exposes more of the artist’s depth the more you listen and the more you pay attention. That is something typical for Machine Gun Kelly, something that needs to be acknowledged more – the artist is one of the most important icons of our generation and one look at the surface cannot show you everything that is hidden inside.
Tickets To My Downfall might not be his best release yet, but it is a necessary part of his career and a breath of fresh air all of us needed this year.
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