Machine Gun Kelly, bloom | Album Review
Machine Gun Kelly delivers an enjoyable third album with ‘bloom,’ balancing tougher rhymes and kinder, gentler pop-rapping.
Machine Gun Kelly is proud to hail from Cleveland, Ohio. He always has been. That doesn’t change on his third studio album, bloom. What has changed on album no. 3 is MGK’s approach. Part of the effort finds him dropping more pop-oriented rap joints, while the other part finds him being hard-nosed and tough – Cleveland through and through. Ultimately, bloom ends up being enjoyable, if rough around the edges.
“The Gunner” kicks things off with energy and toughness. The production is malicious, led by big drums and a hella memorable piano loop. While Machine Gun Kelly doesn’t deliver a transcendent performance, he flexes, essentially characterizing himself as the man.
“The everyday 100, this ain’t no façade shit / This that ‘look me in my eyes and don’t you f*ckin’ lie’ shit / Still don’t need no opinions / B*tch, most these artists my minions, whoa.”
“Wake + Bake” retains the unapologetic sentiment established by “The Gunner.” The only substance within the record itself is weed. Otherwise, it’s devoid of depth. “Go for Broke” is more memorable, featuring James Arthur of “Say You Won’t Let Go” fame. It is enjoyable but imperfect. Initially, it sounds a bit clunky, particularly the chorus. After a while, it settles in a bit better. Arthur gives a solid performance, with his best moments being his falsetto on the chorus, as well as the harmonized vocals on the bridge. As for Machine Gun Kelly, he spits about his come up.
“At My Best”
“At My Best” featuring Hailee Steinfeld is soundly produced, fusing elements of pop and rap. This is pop-rap, but Machine Gun Kelly retains his toughness. He doesn’t merely sing rhythmically, but still musters up grit with unpitched rhymes. The message is a selling point. MGK uplifts, rapping with the utmost prudence. As for Steinfeld, she shines on the uplifting hook:
“I shout, I swear, I get angry, I get scared / I fall, I break, I mess up, I make mistakes / But if you can’t take me at my worst / You don’t deserve me at my best.”
“What was at the bottom now has risen / If this isn’t heaven then what is it?” Sigh, “Kiss the Sky” has a tough act to follow. While it doesn’t supplant “At My Best,” it’s pleasant. He’s certainly less cocky on “Kiss the Sky” than “Golden God.” On “Golden God,” he proclaims he’s a god:
“I’m a golden god, I’m a golden god / I’m on the roof of the party / Still almost famous, still all the way dangerous.”
Simply stated, Machine Gun Kelly is “kind of a big deal.” He still hasn’t achieved indisputable fame, but, in his eyes at least, he’s got next. If nothing else, “Golden God” gives the listener more glorious piano lines, and that’s winning.
“Trap Paris” featuring Quavo and Ty Dolla $ign isn’t really about Paris, France, but about how far the respective artists – namely MGK – have come. Rapping the first verse himself, explicit Machine Gun Kelly is back full force.
“Woke up in Paris / Broke all the mirrors (that lean) / Watch me, last night was too turnt / They caught me f*cking on camera.”
More important than his sexcapades, he represents for Cleveland, for the umpteenth time in his career. Ty Dolla $ign delivers the chorus, with his signature, raspy vocals. Quavo, like MGK, raps about coming up.
“Made it from the bottom, what you thinking of me? / Now I got some dollars, they keep hanging with me…”
Like many songs on bloom, “Trap Paris” is enjoyable, but not the second coming.
“Michael Jackson with my actions, I call this moonwalkin’.” Hmm. “Moonwalkers” featuring DUBXX lifts the spirit of a signature Michael Jackson move. However, the spirit that is the driving force isn’t the late, great, King of Pop – it’s weed, again. More than weed, it’s about the lifestyle that Machine Gun Kelly is living:
“Yeah, fast life, hash pipes, lit up like flashlights / Fast cash, back scratch, steal off on last night.”
“Can’t Walk” ranks among the crème de la crème of bloom. It is among the few moments where shallowness bodes well in MGK’s favor. The hook is successful, using a spoken word approach in which Machine Gun Kelly sounds tortured by his demons.
“Y’all can’t see my eyes behind these shades…/ I been f*cked up for the last two days straight / I been f*cked up for the last two days, dog / And I can’t walk, and I can’t walk…”
Adding to the success is epic production work, namely the synths and the hard-hitting drums. “Can’t Walk” sounds like it has a rock sensibility. This plays to the rapper’s strengths, as MGK has always possessed the swagger of rock star. After all, doesn’t a badass need a badass song?
“Bad Things” featuring Camila Cabello may have lost a bit of its luster (it arrived in late 2006), but it still packs a punch, ranking right alongside the elite on bloom. Simply put, it’s a gift to pop radio, as well as a gift to Machine Gun Kelly. Fans of MGK’s tough, Cleveland flow may write off “Bad Things,” but those less invested in him may give the MC a second look (or first).
As for Cabello, she’s exceptional here. Vocally, she showcases her potential, exhibiting a radiant vocal tone, bursting with youth. She shines on the memorable chorus, clearly the selling point of the record:
“Am I out of my head? / Am I out of my mind? / If you only knew the bad things I like / Don’t think that I can explain it / What can I say, it’s complicated…”
The rest of the album is good, not particularly great. There’s one exception: pop-rap record “Rehab.” “Rehab” lines up with pop joints like “Go For Broke,” “At My Best,” or “Bad Things.” The premise? Rekindling old flames. Like many songs from bloom, MGK references drugs and in this case, getting help via rehab for drugs. In his eyes, however, no rehab is necessarily in their relationship.
The final two songs are less memorable. “Let You Go” continues to explore relationships. While it’s not a bad choice, “Rehab” was sufficient in its focus on relationships. “27” is more predictable than it should be, at least for the well-versed music listener. Many musicians saw their end come untimely at 27, hence, why 27-year old Machine Gun Kelly decides to explore and reflect on his 27th year of life.
All in all, Machine Gun Kelly delivers a good album with bloom. Is bloom a great album? No. There are both good and great moments. Furthermore, there are no outright, horrid moments or songs. Still, as whole, the project itself isn’t fully bloomed. This isn’t album folks will be discussing a year from now, let alone several years.
Gems: “At My Best,” “Trap Paris,” “Can’t Walk,” “Bad Things” & “Rehab”