So coming into this album it's fair to say I was a bit sceptical. Seeing someone cross genres always brings a fair amount of uncertainty. A fan of the original genre may feel betrayed that the artist has moved on while a fan of the new genre may see an attempt at matching the style to be unauthentic or dishonest. Being a fan of rap and punk I felt the unease from both sides when I first heard I Think I’m OKAY, MGK’s first real foray into his new style. My rap fan within deemed it a strange move especially considering the recent success MGK had after his beef with Eminem, it was only a year or two ago it seemed that he had the best days of his rap career ahead. My punk and rock fan within was uncertain whether a rapper could really cut it and whether he should even try. I was relieved when I heard I Think I’m OKAY though, I liked the song and thought MGK’s performance wasn’t too bad but it was still unclear to us all whether this was a flash in the pan style experiment or an introduction to the sounds we should come to expect. With this new album came somewhat of an answer, the punk MGK lives on.
I have to say that from the album you really get the impression that this is more than a switch up for the sake of it or a money move. MGK seems to have a real passion for this style and, well, he’s pretty good at it. So hardcore punk fans might be right in saying he doesn’t sound as good as their old favourites but that isn’t the point. This album feels raw, it feels real and it feels emotional, so whether it sounds good kind of seems irrelevant.
There isn’t a song on the album I really don’t like, sure I like some more than others but I genuinely enjoyed every one individually. The highlight of the album for me though is the beginning and the end. The first song, 'title track'sets the tone for the album and introduces us to the album title Tickets To My Downfall. The song first of all sounds pretty frantic and switches from the sounds of a light acoustic guitar to heavy and unpredictable distortion but this seems to be a commentary on the emotional state of MGK himself. The simple and sweet intro is overlaid by lyrics about how friends will buy tickets to watch his downfall before an ‘ah fuck it’ introduces the heavy section of the song, which along with it brings much more explicit lyrics about ‘using a razor to take off the edge’, being crazy and falling off the ledge which represents the turmoil in the mind of the artist. The song does this really effectively, and on more than one occasion; easily transitioning from sounding somewhat in control to a much heavier and violent section matched by the sentiments in the lyrics. The whole concept of the phrase 'Tickets To My Downfall' is an interesting one documenting how people are fickle and only seem to be interested when you are at your peak so that they can watch you fall, and for someone in the limelight like MGK seems like it carries some real truth in it.
In the middle of the album there are two named interludes as well as a short minute-long song. The short song 'WWIII' is possibly one of the most genuine moments on the album purely because it isn’t written as a song, but more of an outburst. It feels like an explosion of chaos and doesn’t make for the most pleasurable listening but is authentic in this very fact. It’s difficult to put into words but it just sounds like sheer anger and conveys perfectly the turmoil of someone who is feeling frustrated and emotional. It just feels like the musical embodiment of those moments we all have packed with frustration or anger where you feel like giving the nearest person what for. It may be the shortest song on the album but it is filled from start to finish with raw emotion and expression.
The 'kevin and barracuda - interlude' seems to contrast this. Whilst being more light hearted and entertaining I was just confused listening to it. To move directly from something as powerful and as emotive as 'WWIII' into a recording of a chat about aliens when under the influence of mushrooms just seemed odd, it didn’t really add anything to the album or the overall message except for maybe confirming some of the sobriety issues that MGK documents throughout. The only purpose I can see for this skit is that maybe it isn’t meant to have a strict purpose or reason but it just more of a break from what is otherwise a deeply personal album.
'banyan tree – interlude' seems much more fitting in the overall context, moving back to a highly emotive feel. This interlude mixes dialogue between the artist and current girlfriend Megan Fox as well as a short song. The whole thing just feels so romantic with the two laughing and recalling memories and finishes with the line “if the world was coming to an end I don’t wanna close my eyes without feeling like I lived”. It is unsure whether the end of the world is more general, refers to suicide or the current global situation but the sentiment is a powerful one either way and really gets you thinking as you listen, especially in the current climate.
The end of the album is signalled by the song 'play this when I’m gone' and wow, what an ending. This piece had me in literal tears when I listened. The song is written as a suicide letter to a romantic partner with MGK outlining his struggles with anxiety, society and sobriety. It really is a saddening and beautiful piece of music with the deep and cutting message about leaving love behind when the world gets too much with MGK telling his partner that he cannot lie and say things will be ok and that it may hurt at first, but to keep him in mind. For anyone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts or mental health this really encapsulates some of these experiences so well and listening along you have to either credit MGK’s writing for coming across this way or believe the more probable which is that he is writing from his own experience. Whilst maybe not being an uplifting song the way that MGK conveys those feelings so accurately is unbelievable, as I was listening it almost felt like it had been written about my own experiences but in a way that I never could write myself and I’m sure many people listening will have a similar experience. Whilst a lot of the album talks about mental health and love and the struggles that come with it no other song does as openly, explicitly or emotively as this song and it seems like the perfect way to end.
Overall, I was really impressed with the album, I like the sound and the feel. Now I’m not going to sit here and say that MGK’s voice is perfectly suited to this kind of music or that it was the best sounding album ever because it’s not, and I still don’t get the random skit about naming aliens. But overall, I did like it. Sure, there were some songs I didn’t enjoy as much as others and there are some points where MGK’s singing wasn’t maybe where I wanted it to be, but really that’s not the point. This album is amazing because it’s honest. I have heard albums this year that have had better writing, that have had better production, that have had better singers or better songs but I have not heard an album this year that is as authentic, raw or emotional as this one. What makes this album so great is that it feels honest and real.
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