I have to be honest with you. I’m not that familiar with Machine Gun Kelly’s music. Prior to this album, all I knew about the 30-year-old rapper a.k.a. Colson Baker, was that he once had a beef with Eminem, he played Tommy Lee in the Motley Crue biopic “The Dirt” and had a song called “I Think I’m Okay” he made with Yungblud and Travis Barker. When I heard Barker was working with Machine Gun Kelly on a pop-punk project, I raised my eyebrow like The Rock and assumed it was probably something I wouldn’t listen to. Then I heard “Bloody Valentine.”
“Bloody Valentine” has been stuck in my head, in my head, since the first moment I heard it in May. I’ve long been a fan of pop-punk, and this song was right up my alley, taking me back to a time when the genre was at its highest of highs in the early 2000s. “Bloody Valentine” left me wanting more, and suddenly MGK’s new album, Tickets To My Downfall, was one of my most anticipated albums for the fall. When it finally arrived on Sept. 25 after being delayed in the spring thanks to COVID, it completely exceeded my expectations and left me feeling like I was 12 again, when I would listen to Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless and Blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket on repeat.
You immediately know what you’re in for when the record kicks off with “Title Track.” The song begins with MGK singing over some light guitar strumming before the energy gets turned all the way up to 10. “Title Track” is a rush of adrenaline thanks to the familiar speedy drumming of Barker and Machine Gun Kelly’s vocals are meant for this kind of music. MGK’s lyrics focus on his struggles with drug abuse and selling tickets to his downfall, hence the title track. He continues to discuss his substance abuse by singing about getting shitfaced on “Kiss Kiss” and taking drugs he thought he quit on “Drunk Face.”
The aforementioned “Bloody Valentine” continues to be a song I can’t help but listen to over and over again. The simple guitar riff and Barker’s steadily maintaining the beat just hooks you in, as does Kelly’s repetition of “In my head, in my head” before the catchy chorus kicks in. This song is a true earworm and it even has some Blink-182-like “na, na, na’s” in there at the end.
While I love “Bloody Valentine” “Forget Me Too” is far and away the best track on the album. Halsey absolutely kills her feature and shows yet again just how talented of a singer she is. Her powerful vocals on her verse and on the chorus elevate the song to a level where it could be considered one of the best songs of 2020. While MGK showed he can successfully pull off pop-punk on the album, this song left many wanting Halsey to put out a record of her own in the genre. I mean, she has tweeted in the past that listening to The Story So Far makes her want to start a side project. Good luck not listening to this gem on repeat, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this song is all over the Billboard charts soon.
With Barker both producing and bringing down the house on drums, it’s no surprise how much of this record sounds like Blink-182. You have the “na, na, na” on “My Bloody Valentine,” “WWIII” is a short burst of pop-punk energy ala Blink’s “Cynical.” On the fun “Concert for Aliens,” MGK even does his own call and response on the bridge, just like what Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge did once upon a time. The lyrics on “Jawbreaker” give off a real “What’s My Age Again?” vibe. Honestly, you can probably pull Blink-182 comparisons to almost every track on here if you wanted to and I’m sure there are people who don’t like this album that will point to this. However, I feel this influence is an ingredient that makes Tickets To My Downfall work.
While you can hear shades of Blink-182 and Good Charlotte, there are also some tracks that are unique to who MGK is as an artist. MGK gets to show off his hip-hop background on “All I Know,” which is basically a rap song with subtle guitars, a steady beat you can lose yourself in, and some guest vocals from Trippie Redd. He again successfully meshes genres on “My Ex’s Best Friend,” which has a chorus that follows a pop formula, all while an infectious beat plays underneath it. Blackbear also adds a rap verse that gives this song a little bit of everything.
Tickets To My Downfall concludes with the 1-2 punch of “Banyan Tree – interlude” and “Play This When I’m Gone.” “Banyan Tree – interlude” is a nice song by itself, but it’s pushed in the middle of a conversation between Megan Fox (his girlfriend) and MGK talking about how much they care about each other. He then wraps up the album with a song for his daughter called “Play This When I’m Gone.” Lyrically, this is probably MGK’s best work on the album (“Lonely” is a close second) as he pours his heart onto this one, letting his daughter know how much he loves her and giving her a memento in the event he passes away.
It’s unknown whether or not Machine Gun Kelly will go on to release more pop-punk albums in the future, but I really hope he does. There was something fresh about this record, even though the sound of Tickets To My Downfall has roots in the past. The pop-punk influences of yesterday were clear, but MGK was able to put his own spin on it thanks to some help from Barker. It’s a really fun record and one you can just sit back and enjoy. Hate him or love him, MGK put together a solid album and may have put pop-punk back on the map at the same time.