Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets To My Downfall

Photo Credit: Alexandre Faraci

The musically multi-talented Machine Gun Kelly has made a name for himself in the hip-hop world as a renowned rap star, since storming onto the scene with debut studio effort Lace Up some eight years previous. Proving his prowess with the full-lengths to follow, a stylistic shift has been lurking in the shadows of Kelly’s killer hip-hop career for years. The Houston born artist’s most recent record, Tickets To My Downfall, is his ascent into the pop-punk universe, overhauling rap diss tracks in place for an alternative rock reinvention of the rapper, singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor himself. 

A notable sound departure from 2019’s Hotel Diablo, Tickets To My Downfall takes Machine Gun Kelly’s blatant emotional state, genre blurring and blunt, open honesty into a bold album that’s both musically pop-punk and lyrically raw to its core. There’s instrumental and production work from Blink-182‘s Travis Barker throughout TTMD’s entirety and guest vocal spots from blackbear, Trippie Redd, the Halsey featuring forget me too and iann dior on nothing inside during the fifteen-track collection. Single my ex’s best friend and all I know are prime cuts that exhibit the bridging of the genres between hip-hop, rap, rock and pop-punk that MGK has mastered so maturely on this release. Recognising Kells’ established rap sound, synonymous with his first four studio albums, the tracks enlist alternative hip-hop artist blackbear alongside Candy co-rapper Trippie to inject a serving of fire rap-based vocals, to the otherwise more infectious slice of guitar and drum driven pop-punk, with memorable melodies and amped-up energy pepping up the pairing of tracks.   

Speaking of the singles, lead bloody valentine and sophomore concert for aliens firmly cement their worthiness of single status. A taster for Tickets… and the single that sparked the partnership between MGK and Barker for the remainder of the then untitled pop-punk project, bloody valentine proves that MGK could expertly pull off the pop-punk vibe prior to the record’s release. The track offers up catchy instrumentals and a lesson in the declaration of love, one that’s filled with romantic hope for the future, rather than past betrayals which you’d find in previous bodies of work. MGK marks this by calling out for a real relationship in the songs chorus singing: I don’t do fake love/But I’ll take some from you tonight/I know I’ve got to go/But I might just miss the flight/I can’t stay forever, let’s play pretend/And treat this night like it’ll happen again/You’ll be my bloody valentine tonight”. Whereas second single concert for aliens sounds like something straight outta the golden years of this sound’s popularity, with the pounding drums of Travis Barker and racing riffs of Machine Gun Kelly bouncing together in a musical moshpit, ultimately making concert for aliens the pinnacle pop-punk anthem of this album. 

Standing out as stellar songs elsewhere on Tickets… tracklisting, kiss kiss and WWIII are a speedy duo you dare not skip. First up, kiss kiss kicks in with electrifying guitars that wouldn’t look out of place on Paramore’s Misery Business, before the track takes a downward spiral into some audacious activities; anything from drinking alcohol and smoking substances doesn’t go a miss on kiss kiss. Whereas WWIII works at high speed; clocking in at a mere one-minute, this track has attitude in abundance and a full-throttled punk musicality to match.  

Whilst this record, for the most part, works around upbeat pop-punk goodness underneath the surface, MGK‘s songwriting showcases open, honest and raw undertones that are impossible to ignore, no matter how hard the sound drowns these deeply personal thoughts out. “I sold some tickets/To come see my downfall/It sold out in minutes/I saw friends in the front row/ They’ll leave when I’m finished,” MGK announces upon the opening to title track, an unassuming acoustic tune that turns into a fired up chorus, one in which tickets to what people perceive to be Machine Gun Kelly’s downfall are still on sale, because this bloody valentine singer isn’t crashing and burning no time soon. On the contrary to colossal punk stadium filler title track, lonely and closer play this when I’m gone see Colson Baker, not Machine Gun Kelly, expose his vulnerabilities. Lonely sees his down beaten tone take centre stage, to openly deal with and discuss the deaths of loved ones and imperfect family relationships: I lived with your sister/My first home since Mom had left/And I wrote my first song with him in the basement,and “then he said goodbye way too soon/And this don’t feel right without you.” Similarly, album ender play this when i’m gone keeps the instrumentals acoustic, with tender guitar strings a constant to support MGK‘s calm vocals and the lyrics in the family, written for daughter Casie as an open ode to the true version of who Colson Baker really is. 

In its entirety, Tickets To My Downfall delivers on Machine Gun Kelly’s pop-punk hopes and dreams, deeply rooted from the early days of covering Blink songs on stage some nine years ago. Since then, the hip-hop rap star has blossomed into a genre defying alternative artist, hellbent on harnessing honest lyrics derived from years of disguised agony, and a soundscape that has naturally progressed into the pop-punk scene, with a collection of confessional tracks that has taken the form of the four-star worthy, fifth full-length Tickets To My Downfall. 

8.5/10

Standout Tracks: bloody valentine, concert for aliens, title track, kiss kiss, WWIII

For Fans Of: Blink-182, Neck Deep, Post Malone, State Champs, Yungblud

Written by: Katie Conway-Flood

Katie Conway-Flood
Katie Conway-Flood is a music journalist, music publicist and general band enthusiast. For several years, since graduating university with a first class degree in music business, Katie has written single, album and live reviews, and regularly contributed to news stories and feature pieces for a plethora of online music publications. Katie is otherwise a pop-punk, pop-rock listener and ethical vegan.