Machine Gun Kelly (Colson Baker) is best known for his rap career, but in his latest album Tickets to My Downfall, Kelly branches out into the world of rock. Collaborating with Blink-182’s Travis Barker, Kelly has created one of the best recent pop-punk albums in recent years. It’s unfortunate the album has arrived in a time where live music is delayed for the foreseeable future, because every song should be played in an arena. You’ll want to dig out your old Warped Tour t-shirts and apply your black eyeliner, preparing to scream-sing your way through every track. Read on for our track by track review of the deluxe edition of Tickets to My Downfall.
“Title Track” starts off slow, just Machine Gun Kelly and an acoustic guitar. But it quickly pivots to the pop punk sound of the album, with Kelly screaming about “taking off the edge” with destructive behavior. It’s the perfect introduction to the themes the rest of the album explores, with vivid imagery and specific lyrics: “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/And the light in my name’s gone/’Cause the ones who gas you up/Only come around when the flame’s on.” “Title Track” warns listeners to strap in for a wild ride through Kelly’s head.
This party anthem is hands down one of the catchiest tunes on the album. Not focused too heavily on the after-effects and coping mechanisms, but focusing more on the dependence of alcohol with the repetition lyric, “Kiss kiss, kiss kiss the bottle all night.” Kelly also discusses a break for freedom, noting that there is a lot he wants to say — the album is more complex than just being all about drinking, drugs, and wanting to remain young forever.
To me, “Drunk Face” and “Kiss Kiss” are the perfect sister tracks of the album. The song is a perfect follow up to “Kiss Kiss,” discussing the pressures of youthfulness, especially in Hollywood. The track chronicles things Kelly has spoken of before, but channels harder beats to do it. Check out the music video above that was just recently released, with footage from the release day of the album, September 25.
The previously released single and one of the pop-punk anthems on the album, “Bloody Valentine” really makes its mark. With obvious musical inspiration taken from Blink-182 — with the energy, intensity, and the fact that Travis Barker produced — it definitely sends out all the early 2000s throwback vibes. Get your black nail polish and band tees ready!
“Forget Me Too” feat. Halsey
The fifth track on Tickets to My Downfall, Kelly yearns for a fresh start and closure in past relationships: “I’m keepin’ you waiting/but I won’t wait on you/you want me to forget you /okay, forget me too.” Partnering up with Halsey, this explosive collaboration completely channels the late 90s and early 2000s in the best way possible. We can’t help but hope for future collaborations from the pair!
“All I Know” feat. Trippie Redd
“All I Know” is about feeling disconnected from your outside persona and lacking agency to make choices. Kelly describes feeling dead on the inside while everyone else assumes he’s having the time of his life. The beat of the song is upbeat while the lyrics are cutting, much like the divide between who people believe Kelly to be versus who he really is. This is most on display in the lyric “All these girls, I don’t want none of them/But I know I’ll end up with one of them/My life on the outside’s fun to them/But the person on the inside is crumblin’.”
“Lonely” is a tribute to the people who have left Kelly too soon, from his beloved aunt to his father (who passed away in July). He describes how he was tough on the people who loved him as a teenager, but that he would trade it all to have them back now. It’s honest, and you can feel his grief through the lyrics and his performance.
Although the track is only one minute long, “WWIII” is chalked full of angst, proving itself to be a pure punk belting tune with heavy drums courtesy of Travis Barker and fast-paced vocals, this is definitely one you’ll want to lock yourself in your room and belt the minimal lyrics to, and maybe throw up a few middle fingers to in the process just for good measure.
“Concert for Aliens”
What’s better than a song with ties to aliens? Nothing, really. Well, I guess besides a song that throws all of Kelly’s teenage angst into one track. Being one of the most pop-punky tunes on the album that is perfectly combined with melodies and harmonies, it’s hard to believe the aliens wouldn’t be jamming out to it.
“My Ex’s Best Friend” feat. blackbear
This song deserves to be played full blast in a stadium with thousands of people singing along. The chorus of “I swear to God, I never fall in love/Then you showed up and I can’t get enough of it” punches each beat that will have listeners dancing as they listen. The teasing, flirty tone is also different from the more confessional songs on the album, making it stand out.
“..And this one is titled, Jawbreaker.”
With Kelly’s gnarled vocals, “Jawbreaker” is definitely an already underrated piece of material from the album. Blasting into the pop side, it encourages listeners to dance around their room belting out the lyrics (as we said, there’s a lot of that on this album).
“Nothing Inside” feat. Iann Dior
Revisiting his classic “yeah, yeah, yeah’s,” “Nothing Inside” is the 13th track on the album. It also marks the second collaboration between Kelly and Dior, having previously worked on “Sick and Tired” together. “Nothing Inside” is an infectious pop-punk track with remnants of Kelly’s usual rap flow in his music, but this time it comes from Dior.
“Play This When I’m Gone”
“Play This When I’m Gone” is written as a letter to Machine Gun Kelly’s daughter Casie, and it is heartbreaking. The lyrics express all of his hopes for her as though he expects to not be around to see her grow up. He apologizes for his perceived shortcomings but tells her how much he loves her. Again, the specificity of the lyrics makes the listener feel like they’re listening in to a private conversation: “I hope you get to go to all the places that I showed you/When I was on the road and couldn’t be home to hold you/Part of me doesn’t want this cruel world to know you/So just try and keep in mind everything that I told you.” It ends on Kelly chanting “And I’ll miss you” over and over, capping off a lovely song that has a different tone to the others on the album.
“Body Bag” feat. YUNGBLUD and The Used
This song more than any other on the album instantly transports the listener to the Warped Tour, likely due to featured artists Yungblud and The Used and the sampling of the Fall Out Boy classic “Dance, Dance.” The guitar hook is addictive, and you’ll want to play it on a loop while singing along to lyrics like “Her lips are soda, and I just miss the way they taste/Like Coca-Cola, spiked with aromas/I heard a rumor that she’s been dancin’ in the rain/I’m gonna lose it ’cause I can’t swim.”
“Hangover Cure” talks about the part in the relationship when you know you’re all in, but you’re not sure if the other person is yet. It also tackles feeling like you’re too much of a mess for another person. It perfectly captures the anxiety of a new relationship with lyrics like this: “Wake up, still drunk from last night/The first dates are always uncomfortable/Stayed up, I couldn’t sleep last night/I’ll admit, I’m a little dysfunctional/Are you, okay with the fact I’m a little off track, to be honest/I’ve been through, relationships/I’ve never been in love, but I want this.”
“Split a Pill”
“Split a Pill” talks about the destructive love Machine Gun Kelly feels for people when he’s not sober. At first the song seems to celebrate the party culture, but as the behavior described gets worse and worse, it’s clear he knows he’s gone too far and isn’t safe. In the bridge, he confesses how he really feels: “I’ve lost all of my feelings (I keep on suffocating)/These pills I take don’t heal me (These pills I take might kill me)/I’ve lost all of my feelings (And I keep on suffocating)/These pills I take don’t heal me.”
“Can’t Look Back”
One of the darker melodic songs on the album, “Can’t Look Back” definitely has roots in the emo genre as a whole. Listening to the track for the first time, I felt like I was being transported back to 2008, in a good way. The song is the perfect tie in to the slow riffs that build into an explosive chorus that are also part of the album.
The album as a whole owes a great deal to the pop-punk renaissance of the early to mid 2000s, and this cover of the Paramore hit “Misery Business” acknowledges that debt directly. It’s a great cover that captures the rage of the original track and fits well with the rest of Tickets to My Downfall.
“Bloody Valentine” — Acoustic Edit
A different spin on “Bloody Valentine,” Kelly gives off a more melodic feel in the acoustic version. This isn’t the first time he’s sung on any of his albums, but it does prove that as an artist, he’s versatile, as Tickets to My Downfall in its entirety proves.
Tickets to My Downfall is available to stream on all platforms and for purchase now.