Tickets to My Downfall is the fifth studio album by American musician Machine Gun Kelly. A departure from his established rap sound, the album is a more guitar-driven pop punk album. It was released through Bad Boy and Interscope Records on September 25, 2020.
Background and recording
Machine Gun Kelly, birth name Colson Baker, had released four studio albums through the 2010's. While his first four studio album had been hip hop/rap styled, by the end of the decade, Baker started moving into a rock music direction. In 2019, Baker appeared in the film The Dirt, a biographic film about the band Mötley Crüe where he played drummer Tommy Lee. The same year, Baker released his fourth studio album, Hotel Diablo, which ended with the track "I Think I'm Okay", a more rock-leaning song collaboration with Yungblud and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. It was released as a single and became very popular, hitting number 8 on the year-end Billboard US Hot Rock Songs and ended up being certified platinum in the US.
Baker, wishing to explore the sound further, booked a day in recording studio to work with Barker, to record what would become the song "Bloody Valentine". The session was so powerful to Baker that he asked Barker to set aside two months aside for them to collaborate on an entire studio album, to which Barker obliged. For much of the rest of the year, Baker would refer to be working on the album informally referred to as "the untitled pop punk project". Along with Baker on vocals and guitar, the entire album would feature Barker on drums and as a producer. Other collaborations in the studio include Bert McCracken of The Used, Blackbear on the track "My Ex's Best Friend", Goody Grace, Mod Sun, Trippie Redd, Young Thug, and another collaboration with Yungblud. Baker later revealed that the collaborations with McCracken and Yungblud were left off the album, to be released on a separate project. Baker also noted that the albums originally concluded with a track titled "Times of My Life", but that he couldn’t get authorization to publish the song from Tom Petty's estate, who felt the hook was too similar to a song of Petty's.
Themes and composition
Contrary to the hip-hop style of Baker's first four studio albums, Tickets to My Downfall was designed by Baker to be a pop punk album. Baker created a more guitar-driven and live instrument sound in hopes of inspiring a younger generation to learn guitar. He wished to use the sound to branch out to a larger demographic as well, and succeeded, with Baker noting that his own father liked his music for the first time in his career. Tracks "Bloody Valentine" and "Concert for Aliens" were both described as "pop punk", while "My Ex's Best Friend" was described as having a more modern take on the genre, not having "the same 'classic' pop punk vibe". The album's delay to September 2020 was something Baker felt worked out in the end, as he noted that the album has a summery, good-times vibe that he felt people could appreciate in enduring the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Baker used a metaphor related to the Goodyear Blimp to explain the meaning of the album title: stating:
As soon as that Goodyear Blimp catches on fire, or that thing starts falling from the sky, I guarantee you every single eye is going to look up at it; every single phone is going to capture that moment; every single person is going to talk about that, right? ‘The Goodyear Blimp falls from the sky.’ But do the headlines ever say when you wake up on this casual fuckin’ Wednesday that the Goodyear Blimp is floating, alive and well? No. And that’s kind of sad: that it takes you to crash and burn to get people to pay attention to you again. Tickets To My Downfall couldn’t have been my debut album because...I had to get to a certain height to then decline and crash, and people are aware of this height that I’m at, and they don’t want to see it rise anymore; they want to see it crash. There had to have been a journey for people to care about to still be tuned into, to then see destroyed.
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