Machine Gun Kelly pronounces pop-punk dead with new album

Photo courtesy of Spotify

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

If there’s any album that you should not listen to this spring, it would be the latest by Machine Gun Kelly, “Mainstream Sellout.” If you must, listen to it with a healthy sense of irony, because that’s the only way to get through this whiny pop-punk garbage.

Beginning with the very first lyric of the very first song, we get a pretty good window into the mind of Machine Gun Kelly, whose real name is Colson Baker. “born with horns” was written with real subtlety, its first lyric being “part one, why is it so hard to live?” This lyric is enough to make you pause the album about 30 seconds after you just pressed play.

It’s not the sentiment of the lyrics that make it bad. None of the criticisms of Baker’s lyrics are meant to aim at mental health struggles, but a lack of talent for writing. Immediately, the lyrics seem too on-the-nose, aimed to pander to angsty preteens who are too young to remember when emo music was genuine, like that of My Chemical Romance and Paramore.

Not even blackbear, an established alternative pop artist, could save the song he’s featured on, “makeup sex.” Lyrically terrible and sonically bland, this song is still among the best on the album, not because it’s good, but because each song sounds the exact same. The only thing that differentiates it is that it has blackbear, which wins some points.

Other features on this album include Bring Me The Horizon, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, WILLOW and more. All of these are popular artists in emo, rap and indie pop genres, but having star power and popularity simply isn’t enough to make a bad song good with only a feature.

In fact, “emo girl” featuring WILLOW may actually be the worst track on “Mainstream Sellout.” It went viral on TikTok this month, much to the disappointment of emo music fans everywhere who criticized its downright goofy vocals and shallow lyricism. The song begins by describing the emo girl herself, having “makeup by the mirror in her bedroom” and wearing fishnets and black boots.

Later in the song, Willow Smith sings about how the emo girl “gatekeeps” the bands she plays in the car, while simultaneously wearing a Blink-182 T-shirt. “You wouldn’t understand,” the emo girl said.

Honestly, can anyone pretend to have the world’s best, most advanced and underground taste in music whilst also repping Blink-182? It immediately becomes clear why that lyric exists when you discover that Travis Barker, the drummer for Blink-182 has both a writing and producing credit on the song.

When listening to “Mainstream Sellout,” there is a real sense that Machine Gun Kelly is putting on a sort of character. The album lacks authenticity, especially since Baker’s past work is so vastly different from this one. Pop-punk as a genre only had its renaissance two or three years ago as teenagers like Lil Huddy (Chase Hudson, a TikTok star) and his friends jxdn and Nessa Barrett began to release music in the genre.

Machine Gun Kelly was once known as a rapper who publicly beefed with Eminem and hopped on pop songs with Halsey and Camila Cabello as a rap feature. The sudden pivot to pop-punk coinciding with the popularity of TikTok-stars-turned-musicians seems to have a lot more to do with staying relevant than making actually good music.