Review Summary: Now I gotta cock back, aim, yeah, bitch, pop champagne to this.
I’ll admit that before Machine Gun Kelly’s diss-track to Eminem back in 2018, I didn’t have a clue who the guy was. In spite of the fact Eminem obliterated Kelly with his one-and-done retort, in the form of the appropriately titled “Killshot”, “Rap Devil” was still a decent little number that backed up Kelly’s daring efforts. Of course, it wasn’t hard to see that Kelly was brazenly monetising the situation – a snatch-and-grab that saw him milking it for all it was worth before Eminem inevitably – and begrudgingly I might add – crushed the opposition. More to the point, this “feud” afforded Kelly a platform which reached out to a mass of people who were unaware of him prior to this; it provided an auspicious moment for MGK to really prove himself as an artist, and so we got the Binge
EP for his efforts. Binge
should have been something that solidified his abilities; however, the cynical realisation was it only revealed the clip of Colson’s shallow intentions. This festering bin fire of an EP wasn’t about artistic expression at all, nor was it even about music, it was about monetising an opportunity. The results were a brace of unfinished, generic mumble-rap songs made for one succinct purpose: to bring a wealth of revenue to the table.
In short, since Binge
I’ve been of the opinion MGK is a one-dimensional artist, desperately clawing at anything and everything he can to stay relevant in Hollywood. Hotel Diablo
was a shade more interesting than the vacant vessel of Binge
, but it still continued to highlight his vapid and painfully prosaic writing style. However, now in 2020, MGK unabashedly doubles down and endorses his chicanery with what is sure to be the most cynical and superficial release of the year. Before we delve into the meat and potatoes of this thing let’s get the positives out of the way, since it won’t take long. The production is decent, it’s chunky and despite the fact it has a shameful, plagiaristic perversion for early-00s Blink 182, it captures the mood it’s going for perfectly. Travis Barker’s drumming is as excellent as ever, displaying the gamut of his abilities with furious drum rolls and schizophrenic stylistic shifts that shouldn’t typically work with this style of music but elevate it nevertheless. And, hell, I’m not a complete grouch to overlook the fact its production values bring a certain level of entertainment to the table – on the basis it captures the pop-punk movement of the late-90s and 00s well, and provided you’re able to listen to Tickets to My Downfall
without a modicum of awareness while doing it.
However, I’m not here to make excuses for Tickets to My Downfall
, in fact I’ll be completely transparent in saying I feel nothing but contempt for this album and everything it stands for. Everything from the awful artwork that has MGK dressed from head to toe in the “How to Pop-Punk”
Hot Topic starter kit, to the completely egregious copy-paste of Blink 182’s glory day sound. It’s the pop-punk equivalent to Greta Van Fleet’s soulless imitations of Led Zeppelin, to the point where – like Kelly did embracing Tommy Lee’s character in The Dirt – Kelly thinks he is Tom DeLonge in places here. One aspect that’s particularly irritating is Kelly’s awful, overproduced vocals – “Concert for Aliens” for instance has Kelly groaning in a nasally baritone that’s almost devoid of melody entirely. Tracks persist in offering monotone drawls soaked in auto-tune and go on for an eternity over surface-level, albeit functional pop-punk instrumentals, while a barrage of backing vocals come from all corners of the sonic spectrum to give you Kelly’s best DeLonge impressions. But even if you manage to disregard the terrible, terrible vocal work, the disingenuous lyric writing will eventually whittle your patience down to the wood. Hearing a thirty-year-old flatly snarl “I use a razor to take off the edge, jump off the ledge they said” in the song “Title Track” would be a worthy sticking point to this edgy number, if it didn’t sound so completely artificial and forced in practice. Worse still, when Tickets to My Downfall
isn’t trying to be the edge-lord of pop-punk, it’s continuing to paint MGK’s typical mantra of drink and drug problems, as well as a slew of pop-punk clichés about girls… and… and problems and stuff which only reassure and advocate the record’s insincerities.
Yes, the production values are decent, and the help from behind the scenes has almost certainly kept Tickets to My Downfall
from turning into something like Corey Feldman’s 2016 masterpiece, but you can only help someone so much. This is proof that you can throw as much money as you want at a project but if you don’t have the minerals to bring something meaningful to the table, you’re wasting your time. MGK has clearly burnt out his time in the rap game and is looking for greener pastures, but reading The Dummies Guide: How to Pop-Punk
and reciting every chord progression and melodic sequence that’s been hammered to death this past twenty years (and a lot better), going to Hot Topic, and rubbing shoulders with the genre’s icons won’t bring the recipes needed to make a great album. Ironically, it’s tracks like “My Ex’s Best Friend (with Blackbear)” that bring any semblance of artistry to the table. It’s not a good song by any means, but it does make the effort to experiment and amalgamate pop-punk riffs with his familiar rap sensibilities; the results are rough but it’s easier to digest than a second-rate rapper imitating second-wave pop-punk with the hubris he’s “bringing pop-punk back” when a.) it never left, and b.) it’s being done a million times better elsewhere. Despite its competence musically, Tickets to My Downfall
’s cookie-cutter, antiquated presentation and MGK’s blatant ignorance make it a truly punishing experience to sit through. Punk by definition is supposed to be something that comes straight from the heart in all its raw ugliness, but this album is the anthesis of that and doesn’t even try to hide its overt shallowness. Tickets to My Downfall
is a hollow corporate cut-out that rests on the shoulders of giants who perfected this style fifteen-or-so years ago and is ultimately a complete farce that’s best forgotten about.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: