Machine Gun Kelly has had a strange and off-the-wall trajectory in his career up until this point. He first emerged as one of the more riveting rappers to come up through the Hip Hop blog era(the early 2000s to late 2010s). He had a harsh and gritty Trap sound that stood out, and he was known to put on very fun and wild live shows. Unfortunately, he began to slowly fade off during the 2010s. His music seemed to get more and more Poppy and less and less exciting; it was like he had completely lost the spark he possessed earlier in his career. Eventually, he became most well known for his rap beef with Eminem(this wasn’t a good look). In the late 2010s, he realized he needed to switch things up, and started slowly moving towards Pop-Punk. He started using this sound on his 2019 album Hotel Diablo, most notably on the song ‘I Think I’m Ok’ featuring Yungblud and Travis Barker. With this song becoming his most successful in a while, he decided to double down on this sound. He started by releasing a bunch of covers on YouTube during 2020 of various songs; he put a Pop-Punk spin on all of these releases. The success of these covers showed him he was really onto something, so he decided to make a whole Pop-Punk album and release it at the end of 2020. Tickets To My Downfall was Machine Gun Kelly’s best and most successful record to date. It is obvious he put his heart into this record, and he worked very hard to make it unique while still honoring the early 2000s music who inspired it. Machine Gun Kelly has now returned with a follow-up to Tickets To My Downfall called mainstream sellout. Unfortunately, this record doesn’t have the same quality or passion as the one that precedes it. He obviously realized how successful his first Pop-Punk record was and decided to capitalize, but it feels like he didn’t put his soul into this one as much. It is ironic that this album is called mainstream sellout because for a lot of the album the sound matches this title too well. mainstream sellout does have some quality tracks on it, though, and I want to highlight some of those tracks today. Please let me know in the comments how you feel about mainstream sellout, and also comment what your favorite songs from this record are.
drug dealer feat. Lil Wayne
It is unsurprising that Lil Wayne enjoys collaborating with Machine Gun Kelly considering their collective affinity for Pop-Punk music. Lil Wayne was one of the first mainstream rappers to foray into Pop-Punk and Rock music, and he tends to support other rappers who try it out. ‘drug dealer’ has a different kind of Pop-Punk sound than what most would usually expect from Machine Gun Kelly. ‘drug dealer’ has more of a Dance-Rock Pop-Punk sound that reminds me a lot of Good Charlotte. This song has a bright melody and is very upbeat, and it makes me want to move when I hear it. Lil Wayne’s approach to his verse is perfect. He splits the difference between straight-up singing and rapping, and his cadence/ vocal style fit the song well. On ‘drug dealer,’ MGK and Wayne are talking about a girl they like who also gives them drugs. This person can make them feel good in so many different ways, and they want to do everything possible to stay near this person.
make up sex feat. blackbear
Similar to MGK’s last album, one of the best songs on this record is his collaboration with blackbear. Their vocal styles go so well together, and they blend Hip Hop with other genres in a similar way. Unlike their last collaboration, which had more of an Emo-Trap sound, this song has more of a straight-up Emo Rock sound. There is nothing overly special or complicated about this track. It has a super catchy and fun guitar riff that drives the melody, and both Machine Gun Kelly’s and Blackbear’s vocals go super well with this riff. As I said earlier, their vocals complement each other well, and this makes the song so clean and fun sounding. ‘make up sex’ is a song that is about exactly what the title implies. This song is about drunk or high sex between two former partners to make each other feel good for one night before they go back to disliking each other. This is not the most sophisticated song sonically or lyrically, but it is fun to listen to.
‘papercuts’ is a song that sonically stands out on this album. It is a remake of a 2021 track by MGK. On this track, Machine Gun Kelly tries out a style of rock I haven’t heard him go with before in an original song. ‘papercuts’ is not Pop-Punk at all; instead, it has a mid-1990s Alt-Rock feeling to it. The guitar riff is so distorted and chunky and Grungey, and the drum pattern reminds me of a slow-burning 90s Grunge sound as well. On ‘papercuts,’ MGK brings out the raspy and gruff nature in his voice in a larger way than I have heard before; he does his best to make his voice match the sound of the instrumental, and honestly, it works out very well. In this song, MGK highlights all of his self-destructive qualities. He knows that he is constantly screwing up and doing things he shouldn’t, but he just can’t help himself. With MGK’s vocals and the instrumental, this song feels so retro in the best way. It was very cool and interesting to hear him go down this route, and I honestly hope he does it more in the future.
ay! feat. Lil Wayne
‘ay!’ is one of the only songs on this record with any sort of Hip Hop feeling or tendency. This is an Emo-Trap track in the purest of ways. It is driven by a chunky Emo-style guitar ruff that is put over a gritty and bass-heavy Trap beat. A lot of this record feels over-bloated and way too commercialized, and this is one of the most natural-sounding songs on the record. It isn’t trying to be anything special or sophisticated; it’s just a simple Emo-Trap banger with a fun beat that any rapper can go hard on. And, as expected, both MGK and Lil Wayne do kill it on this beat. It sounds like MGK is having so much fun on this song. That tough and in-your-face way of rapping he became known for way back in the day shines through on this track. Lil Wayne has been on a roll in terms of excellent features over the last couple of years, and this one is no different. Lil Wayne bodies this beat, and once again shows why he’s still one of the pillars in the rap game. ‘ay!’ doesn’t have some big overlying meaning or theme; it’s just two talented rappers showing how skilled they are on a great instrumental.
fake love don’t last feat. iann dior
It shouldn’t be surprising that a song featuring iann dior is one of the best on this album considering his history with MGK. At this point, these two should make a joint record considering how consistent they’ve been at making great music together. This is another song that has a bit more of a Dance-Rock feeling than the Pop-Punk we typically get from MGK. I can hear a bit of inspiration by artists like Walk the Moon or Boys Like Girls in this one. The melody has an upbeat and friendly tone; as far as the melody goes, this song veers away from Emo-Rock and feels bright and Poppy instead. I enjoy the drum pattern on this song as well, It is fun and makes me want to dance. As far as vocals go, MGK doesn’t do anything special. He sounds pretty close to what is the norm for him. iann dior, however, stands out in this song. His voice shines on this melody, and his flow sounds super good with the beat. His voice contrasts MGK’s very well. On this song? MGK and iann dior are letting an ex-lover know she can’t come back under any circumstance. as great as the good times were, the bad outweighs the good way too much.
die in California feat. Gunna, Young Thug, and Landon Barker
‘die in California’ is a song that sticks out on this record. In my opinion, it is the most “Pop” sounding song on this record. This is a melancholy and calm Emo-Pop track. It has a soft and somber acoustic Emo guitar riff for a melody, and a low-key Trap drum pattern that drives the beat. The thing that stands out in this song is the vocal performances, though. First off, I have to shout out MGK himself. He does not have a singing voice that is typically conducive with Pop music. On ‘die in California,’ though, he sounds great. He tones down his typical raspiness, which helps his singing flow with the melody well. I would like to hear him takes this softer approach in the future. I also have to shout out Landon Parker(Travis’ son). His performance in the chorus is so clean and nice to listen to. He no doubt has a future as an Emo music vocalist. Gunna doesn’t stand out with his performance, but he does so clean and crisp which helps drive the song along. As he typically does, Young Thug provides a major contrast to what everyone else is doing and provides so much texture to the track. Honestly, I would love to hear him pursue Emo-Pop Trap more because his voice suits it very well. For how sad this song is lyrically, all of these artists make ‘die in California’ super fun to listen to.
‘twin flame’ has emerged as one of the biggest fan favorites from this record. It does stick out in a positive way. For the most part, this is a low-key Acoustic Emo track. It consists of a melancholy acoustic guitar riff and MGK’s vocals which(besides for a moment in the second chorus) have a softer and lighter tone than I have heard him sing with. Lyrically, this is a song that one can easily tell MGK put his heart and soul into. It is about MGK’s insecurities and doubts in his relationship. He realizes he’s probably way too good for his partner and is constantly worried about them leaving him since honestly, they should. It is very easy to hear the anguish Machine Gun Kelly feels in this song; I personally really like the fact he opened up and let himself be vulnerable like this. ‘twin flame’ ends with an instrumental breakdown that veers towards hardcore punk. It has a very thrashing and intense sound; it honestly matches up with the emotion of the song well. this is one of the most emotionally fierce and vivid MGK has made in his Pop-Punk era, and I would love to hear him open up like this more in the future because it worked so well on this song.