Credit: Live Nation
by Paul Attard Music Pop Rocks

Machine Gun Kelly — Mainstream Sellout

April 30, 2022

Mainstream Sellout finds MGK in accidental self-parody territory, failing to even deliver any slick pop punk hooks to soften this massive disappointment.

Remember all those distinguished titles (see also) bestowed upon Machine Gun Kelly the last time he went pop-punk? Welp, it seems like we can add the honorific of Mainstream Sellout to that ever-growing list — Colson Baker has even gone to the trouble of naming his most recent (and also way too self-conscious) sixth studio album after this namesake, guided by a sorta desperate “let me beat them to the punch” mentality that tries to be in on a joke that already stopped being funny over a year ago. You see, in MGK’s eyes, the public has not given him the proper respect he deserves; they may have resurrected his failing career and provided him with commercial success and a level of cultural ubiquity the likes of which he had never seen before, but that’s clearly not enough. He needs his respect, goddammit, and he wants it now! Forget the fact that he’s only been a “rock star” for about a fraction of the time he was a rapper, he’s as real as it gets (all according to MGK himself); he’s so sensitive about the topic that hearing the term “fake emo” would probably make him cry.

But in all fairness, he seems to be legitimately attempting some form of self-deprecation, even when he’s really just being obnoxious and pathetic about the whole thing. Straight up, it’s often embarrassing how mannered he gets when he approaches the subject from this all-knowing perspective: the title track in particular becomes laughable in how it takes the supposed “hater” point of view to several different (all equally improbable) illogical ends, including jaunts like he has no friends and that “you’re so ephemeral,” like he’s a friggin’ Stan Brakhage short or something. When he’s not bitching about his lowly social status or indulging any number of dumbass creative choices that should automatically invalidate any argument put forward in his defense — like giving Sk(P)ete Davidson more airtime to do his mopey millennial shtick or having producer Travis Barker’s untalented son show up for 5-minutes at the end; Willow Smith also makes an impassioned (if also not very good) appearance, so it seems nepotism is a recurring motif of sorts here — he’s sticking with what he did last time, except somehow even more sonically watered-down, absent any of the slick hooks and playful pop variability that elevated the high points of his last record. Besides opener “born with horns,” you’d be hard-pressed to find a single track here that actually… well, ya know, rocks — the instrumentals are far more of the Ian Dior/”woe-is-me” bitch-made variety, regressing even further than most of the lukewarm material on Tickets to My Downfall. Which, say what you will about that record, at least had some semblance of vitality (replaced now by contempt and conceitedness) and had actual songs with defined structures and hooks. Now, we have songs like “Ay!,” where MGK just mutters “ay” a lot on the chorus and gets Lil Wayne to piss away his thirty-second guest spot. He even tries the sadboi acoustic closer routine again — gotta get that unearned pathos in somewhere — but dedicating it to your big-breasted goth girlfriend over your own daughter will always be a dicey proposition, much like comparing an album as terrible as this to Kanye West’s Donda. Which Kelly obviously does at one point, because, at this point in time, what else would could we possibly expect from someone so insecure about getting his proper due? We’re all just living in MGK’s world, where the only thing more prevelant than the whining is the delusion.

Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 3.