Written by Irrenoid - August 9th, 2022
I don't have anything witty to say for an opener, nor do I want to. Anger sucks, Depression sucks; it all really fucking sucks. So please understand this is not a joke, and I take this seriously. Thank you for reading, and I hope you understand why I feel the way I do about this by the end.
To let yourself be emotionally vulnerable in the public eye is something that so many of us fear, myself included. There is nothing wrong with feeling afraid; we are people. I'm scared as shit typing this because I'm generally not the type of person to talk about this side of myself openly, and I'm damn well scared of how people I both know and don't know will take and respond to this point I want to make about something emotionally very dear to me. Machine Gun Kelly's two most recent albums, Tickets to my Downfall and Mainstream Sellout, made me feel emotions that I thought, from the pit of my soul, depression stole from me. Sure, we all laughed at the repetitive chorus of 'emo girl' for a few months; sometimes we need an excellent rib-tickler. Honestly, though, the lyrics on 'maybe' hit different when you're six drinks in or 40 mg under and thinking about every individual fuck up in your life and what you would have done to change how you acted if you had your more experienced mindset back then.
"...I used to have a soul until I threw it away
There's shadows on the wall, wish I would've ran
Gotta get away, I hope you understand
I try to hide my face like a wanted man
Maybe I'll be gone before you count to ten...
...I made up my mind this evening
I'm takin' the last, I'm takin' the last
Drink while my conscience eats me
I'm takin' the last, I'm takin' the last
I'm ready to let you go
This time is the last, this time is the last..."
('maybe' by Machine Gun Kelly)
When you're so depressed from so many facets of your mind, you almost become repeatedly desensitized to your suicidal ideations and become an unmoving, unfeeling stone. When you undervalue yourself so drastically because no matter what you've achieved, you're constantly internalizing every past shitty choice you've made or shitty thing you said when you were younger. Whichever way you handle the unceasing emotional emptiness, those struggles are yours and whoever you choose to share them with. Hell, I didn't even want to admit that I was depressed for a fucking decade. I lashed out in any way I could to anyone who would listen to keep the internalized lie that I was happy on life support. Over the last ten years, I have turned from being an angry, abrasive cis emo dude getting pissed off at all the wrong things into a slightly less abrasive genderfluid bisexual (who still gets pissed off but has learned to confront their thoughts instead of acting without thinking). We all change so drastically in such a short time that we forget one thing about the internet; it punishes emotional growth in black and white, right or wrong rhetoric.
Remember One More Light by Linkin Park? Remember how one of Chester Bennington's bandmates Sean Dowell talked about how Chester would unhealthily lash out at people who threw hateful remarks about One More Light and Chester himself on Twitter and other social media? Remember how Chester took his own life, and the world was shocked? Everyone dogpiled on that album and ignored Chester's cries for help.
"...I don’t like my mind right now
Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary
Wish that I could slow things down
I wanna let go but there’s comfort in the panic
And I drive myself crazy
Thinking everything's about me
Yeah, I drive myself crazy
'Cause I can’t escape the gravity
...I'm holding on
Why is everything so heavy?
So much more than I can carry
I keep dragging around what's bringing me down
If I just let go, I'd be set free
Why is everything so heavy?"
('Heavy' by Linkin Park)
That album was hated in the same way that Mainstream Sellout is now, and that was from a respected, highly popular band most people loved to some degree. Mainstream Sellout has matched Tickets to my Downfall's cultural optimism with a far more raging pessimism. Think about this recent span of events summarized: "the collective alternative music sphere laughed at a touring musician getting a homophobic slur tagged on his bus."
I thought we were better than this. Sure, we can joke about what we were called growing up; but none of us want to go back to the worst days when we were called faggots at school. The days where we had piss tossed on us, or our backpacks thrown on top of buildings, our physical means of escape stolen and destroyed. Do we, the kids who banded together because of the abuse we all suffered, want to become the same type of people that abused us? There's not a single person alive or dead who hasn't said or done something they regret to some degree. It will never be too late to be honest with yourself and have a chance at true happiness. I'm ashamed to admit that I've said some asshole remarks in the past to people, and for a long time, I've internalized self-hatred for the shitty person I was. We can apologize and react to apologies or lack thereof given to us, but forgiveness is the right of the wronged to give, not the right of the wrongdoer to expect.
Has Machine Gun Kelly said some stupid shit? Yes, absolutely. Has he apologized for those shitty things he said? Yes, on multiple occasions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the brain "does not finish developing and maturing until the mid to late 20s." (NIH, Section 2). Can you honestly say that your views and morals, regardless of how consistent they are, haven't improved or gotten better in almost a decade? Can you honestly say that you're still proud to talk about the off-hand, assholish social media quips you shot out without thinking when you were in your late teens or early 20s? If your answer to those questions was "yeah, I've changed" and "yeah, I feel bad about some of the shit I did or said before," you're likely a self-aware person who has grown from their past self in some kind of way. Understanding this, why do we put so much undue pressure on those in the public eye? We can talk about heightened responsibility and having a platform, but this has a flip side. Higher stressors and higher triggers require higher care. No amount of fame or monetary gain can repair deeply ingrained trauma.
Mainstream Sellout worked its way into the cultural sphere by being the punching bag for a societal frustration that has been building since the last time we truly smiled without having to force it. We, as people, are frustrated as fuck. Not just at the world, not just at the people in our lives, but at ourselves. Should a person be able to cope with hate received at age 29 or 30, maybe? Remember that a good portion of us went to therapy or did extensive internalized self-care for the trauma inflicted on us by one person or multiple people. How do you go about that, as one person, handling the vitriolic hate, destruction of property, and so much other shit from literally millions of people? You don't handle it; you lash out because you feel so attacked that you're afraid to be in your own skin out of fear. Chester Bennington lashed out publically in similar ways to how Colson Baker is acting now, albeit Colson is doing so in more extreme ways (similar to how our general culture thrives off of "one or the other" extremes, whether we want to admit it or not).
That is why Mainstream Sellout works and why it so quickly became the "worst album" for so many people; every negative concept covered in the lyrics relates to the specific tonality of the type of anger he would receive from the general public. Remember when the album was going to be titled Born with Horns? Remember when the album was delayed pretty shortly after emo girl came out? The change is because Born with Horns was likely a completely different album than Mainstream Sellout. It's why so many unreleased Machine Gun Kelly songs continue to leak all over Youtube with themes more synonymous with Born with Horns. It's why Machine Gun Kelly's song 'maybe,' a Post-Hardcore song with a screamed bridge, is sitting at over 100 million streams across streaming services as of August 10th, 2022 (Almost 60 million streams on Spotify alone) with continued mainstream success. Colson reacted by lashing out and baring what he feels is his most emotionally honest musical statement, and it started a conversation. Regardless of the side you took, you participated in that emotionally charged conversation; participating was your choice. It was your choice to make with Chester Bennington up until his death five years ago, and it's your choice to make with Colson Baker now.
We are not unfeeling machines; we are human beings. Even the people who are the source of our worst traumas are human beings, just like us. We praise albums for bringing people together through happiness; shouldn't we give other emotions the same respect? Machine Gun Kelly's album Mainstream Sellout unified people through anger and sadness. There's a certain power to that which I wholeheartedly respect, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. So be kinder to those around you, even if you aren't in the same room. Thank you for reading; I genuinely hope that whatever troubles you in life gets better and that you find the energy to smile today. :)
From someone proud to feel like a living, breathing person a little more each day.