There’s been a trend in the music industry in recent years of hip-hop artists transitioning into more of a rock n’ roll sound. Post Malone has definitely helped lead that charge with his 2019 album Hollywood’s Bleeding, and other notable artists like MOD SUN have also taken on a grungier sound. However, if anyone personifies the recent phenomenon of the rapper-turned-rocker, it’s Machine Gun Kelly.
Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly, released his first studio album Lace Up with Bad Boy Records in 2012. The hit single from that album Wild Boy, which featured Waka Flocka Flame, was a juiced-up party anthem adored by frat boys and anyone else who likes to break stuff when they drink too much. However, listening to the MGK of 2012 and the MGK of 2020, you wouldn’t even think they were the same artist. And I must say, I like the new MGK a whole lot more.
The transition from hip-hop to pop-punk didn’t come all in one fell swoop, though. MGK’s 2019 album Hotel Diablo certainly had a few songs with a punk sound to them. The last track on the album I Think I’m OKAY even had a feature from Travis Barker. That track would spawn a revolution in MGK’s music, as he booked studio time with Travis Barker to collaborate again on bloody valentine. The recording session was apparently so powerful that MGK asked Barker to collaborate on an entire studio album with him. Thus, Tickets to My Downfall was born.
Tickets to My Downfall Review
Upon first hearing that Machine Gun Kelly dropped a pop-punk album, I must admit that I was a little skeptical. However, by the end of the first song title track, I was banging my head to the point that my neck was sore, and I was full-on ready to shave a mohawk into my hair and get a tattoo of a skeleton smoking a cigarette. This album made me feel like I was 14 years old again, sitting in my room and thinking about how no one understands the real me.
As I listened to drunk face, I had flashbacks to when I tried my first Four Loko back in high school. By the time I got through lonely, the seventh track on the album, my heart was filled with cathartic angst, and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. WWIII made me want to put my fist through some drywall. When I listened to concert for aliens, I found myself ripping holes in all my jeans and drinking a Monster Energy. If there was ever an album to be listened to in a beat up Honda Civic covered in stickers, this is it.
In all seriousness, Machine Gun Kelly showed some serious musical pedigree on this album. Rarely can an artist so seamlessly transition between genres, but Tickets to My Downfall is everything a pop-punk album should be in 2020. The head-banging rhythms laid down by Travis Barker bring me back to a time when I was listening to New Found Glory or Fall Out Boy on my way to Zumiez, and the added layer of hip-hop triplets over pop just makes you want to jump around.
MGK, who was gifted his first guitar by his father at 9 years old, provided many of the driving guitar riffs on the album. Songs like kiss kiss and bloody valentine feature the sloppy and simple guitar-playing style that’s emblematic of the punk genre. MGK’s cited Kurt Cobain from Nirvana as one of his main influences, saying that his music comes from an emotional place and is never overly technical.
MGK’s vocals and lyrics on the album definitely bring you back to the pop punk bands of the ’90s and early 2000s, but at no point on the album does it seem forced or disingenuous. In fact, many of the songs are inspired by real events from MGK’s life, and the sincerity of his craft shines through in every song.
I recently saw MGK’s performance of lonely on Saturday Night Live, and the amount of raw emotion that went into that performance was extremely powerful. His voice was hoarse, it looked as if he was on the verge of tears the entire time, the whole thing was truly special. I was also impressed by the fact that his live version of the song sounded nearly identical to the studio version. It’s safe to say that MGK has silenced anyone who claimed that he wasn’t a legitimate musician.
Less than two months after the release of the album, Colson Baker announced that a corresponding movie called Downfalls High was in the making. The movie eventually premiered on Facebook on January 15, 2021.
The film stars Chase Hudson, who plays a misunderstood, quiet high schooler, and Sydney Sweeney, who plays the school’s most popular girl. The film starts off with a bang, as Hudson’s character sits in a psychiatric hospital as a news report comes over the television telling how a student at Downfalls High School, whose music had recently gained some notoriety, had cut off his ear at the graduation ceremony.
The rest of the film follows the story of Hudson’s character, Fenix, who falls in love with Sweeney’s character, Scarlett. Eventually, Scarlett is revealed to be pregnant just before getting in a car crash that kills her, without ever telling Fenix about the pregnancy. Afterwards, Fenix forms the band Pink Switchblade using a guitar that Scarlett bought for him. Fenix eventually finds out about Scarlett’s pregnancy and decides to cut off his own ear.
The film features appearances from Iann Dior, Omar Fedi, Blackbear, and Trippie Redd.
What Else Is MGK up To?
Colson Baker hasn’t just expanded his artistic repertoire to include pop punk singer/guitarist, he’s also been exploring other art forms as well. He appeared in the Netflix smash hit Bird Box with Sandra Bullock, he made a cameo in his good friend Pete Davidson’s film The King of Staten Island, and he even played his compadre, Tommy Lee, in the Mötley Crüe movie The Dirt. If you haven’t seen any of those three films, I’d highly recommend them.
He also expanded his artistic portfolio to include a graphic novel by the name of Hotel Diablo, the same name as his 2019 album. The horror anthology comic was co-written with Eliot Rahal and Ryan Cady and was illustrated by Martin Morazzo. The story takes place in a fictional hotel, a purgatory of sorts, where your deeds in life are your keys to eternity in the afterlife. The narrative forces you to reflect on your own morality in a deep and profound way. It’s definitely worth a read-through.
It’s clear that MGK has come into his own as an artist, and it will be interesting to follow his journey in the coming years. Will he make another musical transition to, let’s say, freeform jazz? Who knows? Will he establish himself as a painter or some other kind of visual artist? It wouldn’t surprise me. Whatever he decides to do, Colson Baker has established and will continue to progress an artistic brand that is entirely his own.
If you haven’t listened to Tickets to My Downfall yet, go get your nose pierced, call up some of your friends, and go blast it outside of your local gas station convenience store.