As a rapper, Machine Gun Kelly once vied for Eminem’s crown. However, his Hot Topic aesthetic and take on rock-rap always felt more suited to a spot on the Warped tour. It made his reboot to pop-punk star on 2020’s Tickets to My Downfall – facilitated by Blink-182 drummer and genre revivalist Travis Barker – feel as inevitable as his subsequent tabloid-baiting romance with actor Megan Fox: the pair allegedly drank each other’s blood when they got engaged.
Unhinged rockstar relationships and heightened celebrity have clearly shaped Mainstream Sellout. The songs about infatuation are most entertaining: the energetic guitars and yelped vocals on devotional Emo Girl feel lifted from a 2000s teen flick; the poppier Post Malone stylings of Make Up Sex houses the album’s best (albeit lyrically uninspired) chorus; and bewildering Lil Wayne collaboration Drug Dealer, hopefully a metaphor for the addictive power of love, is so melodically enticing that you can overlook its abject absurdity.
A reliance on cliches sours things. “I’m fucked up,” Kelly sings on God Save Me; “Don’t belong / I’m a punk,” he moans on Papercuts. Coming from a 31-year-old, it’s embarrassing. It’s better when the aim is Hollywood insincerity, like the title track’s wry dismissal of genre gatekeeping, or the breezy Fake Love Don’t Last’s warning to wannabe influencers (“I want you to know you can’t come back”).
It’s all well-trodden stuff, and Kelly adds nothing new, but Mainstream Sellout is so much fun that – as the title suggests – it’s easy to leave your integrity behind and mosh along.