By Emma Weidmann | Personal editor
If there’s one album you shouldn’t be listening to this spring, it would be Machine Gun Kelly’s latest, “Mainstream Sellout.” If you must, listen to it with a healthy sense of irony, because it’s the only way through this whiny pop-punk trash can.
Starting with the very first lyrics 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 opening lyrics being “opening part, why is it so hard to live with?” These lyrics are enough to make you pause the album about 30 seconds after pressing play.
It’s not the feeling of the lyrics that makes it bad. None of the criticisms of Baker’s lyrics are aimed at mental health issues, but a lack of songwriting talent. Immediately, the lyrics sound too on-the-nose, aiming to flatter angsty tweens who are too young to remember when emo music was authentic, like that of My Chemical Romance and Paramore.
Even Blackbear, a well-established alternative pop artist, couldn’t save the song he features 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 every song sounds exactly the same. The only thing that differentiates him is that he has blackbear, which earns a few points.
Other features on this album include Bring Me The Horizon, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, WILLOW and more. They’re all popular artists in the emo, rap, and indie pop genres, but having star power and popularity just isn’t enough to make a bad song good with just one feature.
In fact, “emo girl” featuring WILLOW might be the worst track on “Mainstream Sellout.” He went viral on TikTok this month, much to the disappointment of emo music fans around the world who criticized his downright goofy vocals and shallow lyricism. The song begins by describing the emo girl herself, “dressed up in front of the mirror in her bedroom” and wearing fishnets and black boots.
Later in the song, Willow Smith talks about how the emo girl “keeps” 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 claim to have the best, most advanced, most underground musical taste in the world while covering Blink-182? It immediately becomes clear why these lyrics exist when you find out that Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker has both songwriting and production credit on the song.
Listening to “Mainstream Sellout,” it really feels like Machine Gun Kelly is putting on some sort of character. The album lacks authenticity, especially since Baker’s past work is so different from this one. Pop-punk as a genre only had its renaissance two or three years ago when teenagers like Lil Huddy (Chase Hudson, a TikTok star) and his friends jxdn and Nessa Barrett started coming out of music in the genre.
Machine Gun Kelly was once known as a rapper who publicly beefed up with Eminem and hopped on pop songs with Halsey and Camila Cabello as a rap feature. The sudden shift 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 great music.