Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Machine Gun Kelly ft. blackbear – My Ex’s Best Friend

Machine Gun Kelly goes pop-punk. Are we convinced?


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: I tried to be as open-minded and objective as possible while reviewing this, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t fit into most of my negative stereotypes about blackbear and Machine Gun Kelly. This is just another boring, toxically masculine song about doing douchebag things and then trying to justify them by feeling sad. 

Jackie Powell: It’s disappointing that “My Ex’s Best Friend” is currently Machine Gun Kelly’s most popular song on Spotify. This song is exactly what you’d expect from a hip-hop edgelord trying to tiptoe his way into pop-punk, but MGK’s latest record Tickets to My Downfall was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2020. The LP and its “Sold Out” deluxe version, executive produced by Blink-182 legend Travis Barker, mostly trends toward turning it up to 11. MGK embraced the pop-punk he grew up with and even acknowledged how this record became an altruistic vehicle that hopefully will inspire “some kids to go and pick a guitar up.” On the lead single “Bloody Valentine,” the Halsey-assisted “Forget Me Too” and “Title Track,” Colson Baker puts the listener in a time capsule from the early to mid-2000s and executes. Most of the record isn’t half-assed, but I do wonder did Interscope encourage him at any point to yield? “My Ex’s Best Friend” sticks out like a sore thumb. This cut with blackbear is one of the weakest on the album. As a hybrid track that tries to draw his base in with some remains of the older sound among the new, it doesn’t allow for the full project to flow. This single follows “Concert For Aliens,” another standout cut that could have been a Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus call-and-response duet, and it actively suppresses the introductory rhythm guitar plucking and Barker’s pre-chorus drum fills. If this is what a pop-punk alt-hip-hop crossover could sound like, it’s underwhelming. The chorus is catchy. I’ll give it that. I can’t help but tap my foot and apply a restrained head nod back and forth. But Baker sounds lackadaisical rather than vulnerable or wired, which is the overarching mood on the rest of the record. Could that be the result of sharing the mic with blackbear, possibly? The story this track tells is theatrical and a bit naughty, but it sounds as indifferent as Pete Davidson’s Chad on SNL. Case in point: watch the VMA performance from this past August, which featured both “My Ex’s Best Friend” and “Bloody Valentine.” There’s a sharp contrast in how Baker and blackbear perform versus how Baker and Barker perform. The former is nonchalant, with maybe a hair flip or two from Machine Gun Kelly, while the latter has MGK singing into the mic with two hands and his foot on the edge of Barker’s bass drum. He even made the decision to alter the chorus’s melody on the final refrain. Pop punk is often characterized by angst, high energy, and exaggerated emotions, and most are absent on “My Ex’s Best Friend.”

Juana Giaimo: Many artists are combining pop-punk with trap, but most times the latter only appears in the form of angsty vocals. Here, instead, Machine Gun Kelly could somehow combine electronic beats in the verses with drums and guitar in the chorus, and it doesn’t sound weird! Although it’s true it doesn’t offer a great addictive chorus as other of his recent singles, I think blackbear’s verse gives the song some great dynamics especially because of how his Auto-Tuned vocals contrast with MGK’s hoarse voice. It’s a silly song, but it’s a great one and that’s why I still can’t get over how catchy and fun it is singing to “now we’re in the back seat of the black car” and stressing the words like he does.

Ryo Miyauchi: While MGK dresses “My Ex’s Best Friend” in a mix of the snotty pop-punk of Blink-182 and the doomed wallows of Juice WRLD, the song doesn’t feel built of the some navel-gazing confusion and heartbreak as those two. Rather, it’s the irony of their situations that MGK and blackbear want us to engage with. Their misery seems secondary, and what takes precedent in MGK and blackbear’s overshare is their own adolescent stories, both of which predictably unfold like MTV teen soap operas.

Thomas Inskeep: Two rapping white boys, one of whom (blackbear) sounds like a nasty incel, the other (MGK) who’s not so offensive, but also not very talented either. And apparently Blink-182 is a major influence on pop/rock in 2020? As if the year couldn’t get worse.

Edward Okulicz: Because I’m old and long for the ’90s, even the involvement of a member of a band I don’t really like makes me go “aww, Blink 182.” And “My Ex’s Best Friend” is a very creditable mash of Blink-esque energetic pop with the unappealing but effective intrusion of blackbear. It’s got good riffs, good hooks and sounds good loud. Actually, I recommend listening to it very loud indeed, because it’s mostly wah-boo-man-emotion nonsense that should be ignored or mocked by all right-thinking people. But as a right-thinking person, I like it anyway.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: MGK manages to do horny guitar pop compellingly — Travis Barker’s production is too clean for this to work as punk or angst, but power pop will always have a place on the charts and it’s easier to see this as a spiritual descendant of “Your Love” than it is to crown MGK the king of pop punk. Unfortunately, blackbear’s feature doesn’t fit into “My Ex’s Best Friend” as well as a blackbear feature on an MGK song should — he seems stuck in the same sleazy gruel that he’s always in, the interesting elements of the beat dropping out for his momentum-killer of a verse.

Vikram Joseph: Does Machine Gun Kelly genuinely have a three-note vocal range, or is he hoping to ascend to a higher plane of existence by fastidiously abstaining from all the other notes as some kind of ritual of ascetic self-denial? Anyhow, this is just landfill indie redux, a monochrome mid-tempo chug for lads who think they’re sensitive because they use moisturiser. It remains unclear exactly why Kelly is singing in an Australian accent (but I guess it’s too late to change it now).

Katherine St Asaph: Snotty pop-punk should be simple and brainless; I shouldn’t have to make a Charlie chart to figure out who’s sleeping with whose friend and whose ex and who’s texting whom and which part, exactly, makes anyone an asshole.

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One Response to “Machine Gun Kelly ft. blackbear – My Ex’s Best Friend”

  1. I just want to say that I love all the blurbs here!!

    And Vikram, after listening to his cover of Paramore’s “Misery Business” I think he really only has a three-note vocal range and that’s why I can’t understand how he thought it was a good idea to do a cover of a song that originally has Hayley Williams on vocals