Machine Gun Kelly: The Rockstar We Didn’t Know We Needed

2020 has been an uphill battle in the middle of a blazing fire during race riots, earthquakes, political wars, oh, and a pandemic. A goal of mine at the beginning of this year was to see more concerts. There is nothing as therapeutic as standing in a room full of people, in the dark, giving our full attention to the musician on stage while we are lulled into another time. No concert would make me happier, than Tickets to my Downfall by Machine Gun Kelly, which I am already hoping to see in 2021 (no tour dates have currently been announced as of this posting).

Born in 1989, I grew up with the same generation of music as MGK, who is only a year younger than me. This means we were raised on the punk rock anthems of Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Green Day, Dashboard Confessional, The Used, Sum 41, and countless others. A generation of music that I thought had been lost forever, one day to end up on the “classic rock” channels of our parents.

I was, scratch that, am a rocker-chick. There is nothing as electrifying as a singer, his guitar, some kicking drums, and most of all hardcore lyrics to shout along to while I headbang and jump without a care. I thought these days were gone, buried in my memories. I was also raised on a heavy dose of classic rock and 80’s metal, thanks to my mom and her badass musical taste in the likes of Aerosmith, Van Halen, Guns n Roses, Scorpion, Styx, and more. I developed an affinity for rockstars before I knew what was good for me. Give me a musician, his wild hair, tattoos, eclectic aesthetic, and an eclectic guitar.

The last decade-plus has begged the question - Where did all the rockstars go?

In walks Machine Gun Kelly, clad in pearls and ripped black skinny jeans with wild platinum blonde hair, and a pale pink guitar slung around his back. Tickets to my Downfall is easily the best album of 2020. The album is MGK’s first to take the garnered number one spot on Billboard’s 200 list. Clearly, I am not the only one who was starved of rockstars and pop-punk anthems to blare on repeat.

It’s no coincidence the album feels fully reminiscent of Blink-182, Travis Barker is a drummer on two tracks of MGK’s album, Bloody Valentine (electric and acoustic) and Misery Business. MGK also collaborated with pop star Halsey, rappers blackbear, Trippie Redd and iann dior. He also called upon the likes of YUNGBLUD and Bert McCracken from The Used for his track body bag. The album is by far one of the most well-done musical explorations of genre-bending and genre-blending.

This is a year where we need music more than ever, and MGK delivered 21 new rock anthems we desperately needed. Each time I listen to a track, I hear something new. Every instrument carries out an important role, rather than fading listlessly into the background without purpose. The drums have sharp pops, the guitar wails, the lyrics tell a story and flow in a way that circles around my head for days after listening to a track.

The album opens with the aptly named title track, which immediately delivers with an explosion of drums and lyrics that stick, the one’s who gas you up only come around when the flame’s on, and later in the track, if I was a painter, I’d be a depressionist. Bringing to life a vivacious cacophony of music that pairs with a rough time and relate to those of us experiencing mental health difficulties.

This is the fifth album for MGK, and he confessed on The Kelly Clarkson Show earlier this year that he almost gave up on music, and likely would have if this album didn’t get him where he wanted to go (spoiler alert: it did). “It was this album or bust for me,” MGK said, “I hope someone can use [this] as a metaphor for their life to continue manifesting and to never stop chasing your personal legend because what a shame it would have been if I would have turned my back on this right before [it] happened and I didn’t even know that the light was on at the end of the tunnel.”

What a shame it would have been, indeed. Not only would MGK have missed out on accomplishing his biggest life dreams, but the rest of us would have been denied what will go down in history as the best pop-punk revival album of all time. This is an album to garner him fans who had previously never heard of him in his rap days. In classic rock fashion, MGK celebrated in front of the Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset and presented a virtual concert live from The Roxy just a few doors down.

It’s not just the music that makes MGK so iconic, it’s his aesthetic. The moment I laid eyes on the album cover I knew it would become legendary. The pink guitar in the empty swimming pool was not MGK’s first idea for the cover but wound up being the perfect one. MGK is a big fan of pink, and bright neon colors in general, showing men you can be a pop-punk star and still be in touch with your feminine side. Personally, I love it, but not everyone is a fan.

“You’re all still scared of pink? Are you f*cking kidding me? You’re mad. Just say it! You’re mad.” MGK says in a video he posted to social media accounts. That’s true rockstar fashion, is it not? 80’s metal stars were once mocked for wearing makeup, tight pants, and donning long hair. MGK is on point with being himself, expressing himself, and not giving a f*ck. That’s part of the appeal. Last month MGK took home his first VMA, stating later that he received the news while he was on his way to pick up his father’s ashes.

I hope this ignited a fire for other artists to follow suit with the pop-punk revival. If there’s anything we need more of in 2020, it’s music like this. Thank you, MGK, for giving me a reason to smile, dance, and listen to songs on repeat for days.

“If the world was coming to an end, I don’t want to close my eyes without feeling like I lived.”

- MGK, banyan tree - interlude


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