Pop Punk’s Savior: How Machine Gun Kelly Is Bringing An Entire Genre Back To The Forefront
I wake up every morning and thank the powers that be that I grew up in the early 2000s. Motorola Razrs,*~*AIM aWaY MeSsAgEs*~*(brb, showering), MySpace Top Eights, MTV Hits, and iPods. The internet was just starting to blossom. “Going outside” was still the main source of entertainment for a kid. TikTok didn’t exist. What a time to be alive. Most importantly though, pop punk was thriving.
Blink182, New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Sum 41, Yellowcard, Simple Plan, Paramore, Alkaline Trio, The All American Rejects, Cartel, Relient K, Jimmy Eat World, The Used, My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Hawthorne Heights , Panic! At The Disco, Hit The Lights. The list goes on.
These bands were the voice of a generation. A generation of emotionally vulnerable kids left to navigate an ever changing world. A world driven by aggressive technological advancement that would alter the way we communicate forever. In a way these kids were lab rats. Experimented on to see how the youth would traverse childhood with a cellphone attached to their hip. Given the ability to impulsively text their middle school crush at any moment. What could go wrong? Pop punk music bottled up that uncertainty and angst, added some power chords, and created music that was the soundtrack to the breakup as well as the mosh pit.
Like all good things do, the pop punk era came to an end. Plenty of amazing bands still populate the genre however. The Story So Far, Neck Deep, Four Years Strong, Knuckle Puck, Moose Blood, Real Friends, The Wonder Years, Belmont, State Champs, Seaway. Again, the list goes on. But the music was never brought back up to the stratosphere it had been launched into in the early 2000s. That is, until now.
Machine Gun Kelly (born Colson Baker) is a product of the aforementioned generation. He is a kid left with scars from a tumultuous upbringing. A kid with iffy coping mechanisms, bad habits, and a sleeve with a heart on it. A kid that so many 20-somethings who are starring down the barrel of their 30s can relate to. A kid who just so happens to be a rock star with a once in a generation musical talent at his disposal.
MGK uses this aptitude on Tickets To My Downfall to not only let us into his world but to bring pop punk back to the forefront of American popular music. Tickets To My Downfall scored him the first #1 album of his career. It’s packed full of melodies and lyrics that ooze with malaise. Backed by punk riffs and the genius of Travis Barker on drums, it is not hard to see why the album is enjoying so much success.
Songs like “title track” , “concert for aliens” , and “body bag” (including outstanding vocal performances from YUNGBLUD and Emo/Pop Punk legend Bert McCracken of The Used) bleed through speakers with a fuck everything attitude and a sense of trepidation. “WWIII” flips the biggest middle finger of the album despite its one minute run time. A song that evokes a similar spirit of “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” , a forty second punch in the face from Blink182 off of their fifth album Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. Halsey adds a Hayley Williams-esque tour de force on “forget me too”. It begs to be played in front of a flailing mosh pit.
One of MGK’s many strengths resides in his songwriting. His most successful pop punk successors were able to seamlessly mesh themes of anxiety, loneliness, and heartbreak with “accessible” poppy choruses and aurally orgasmic melodies. MGK has proven on this album that he can do just that. Give “drunk face” or “jawbreaker” a listen and find them embedded in your memory, leaving you singing them long after they conclude. His songs are succinct yet full of energy and emotion.
With Tickets To My Downfall MGK has catapulted a genre adored by a lost generation back to the top of the charts. Hopefully he sparked the pop punk kid in you. The kid that may have been lost under the pressure of sifting through the bullshit of your 20s. The kid that used to scream to songs with your windows down. The kid who didn’t give a fuck. Because right now more than ever, we could use a little more of that. Thanks Colson.