MACHINE GUN KELLY – SWING LIFE AWAY: A VIDEO BREAKDOWN

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In this week’s video breakdown, HessianHunter puts a spotlight on rapper Machine Gun Kelly’s interpretation of a classic ballad from melodic punk band Rise Against. Buckle your seatbelts – this ride is gonna get wild.

Colson Baker, AKA Machine Gun Kelly, first came to national prominence as a young protege of hip hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs way back in 2009. However, he totally flew under my radar until I watched his appearance on the YouTube interview series Hot Ones in 2015. From the first words I heard out of his mouth, I found his try-hard tough guy demeanor and tacky-as-hell leather jacket to be off-putting. I may also be just a teensy bit salty that a dude of such middling talent can become a successful musician and get to date Amber Rose just by co-opting a stereotypical “rocker” look and speed-rapping over generic trap beats.

Of course, these are forgivable offenses, and are generally harmless in the grand scheme of things. But do you know what I, as a white man in his late twenties who spends too much time on the internet, find to be completely unforgiveable? Kicking my nostalgia right in the nuts by “covering” a song I loved as a teenager and destroying everything that made it special.

Rise Against is the first punk band I got into all on my own as a teenager, thanks to hearing singles from their breakout major label debut Siren Song of the Counter Culture. One of my favorite songs from that record was Swing Life Away, a charming little acoustic number about living in the Midwest and “getting by on minimum wage”. It’s one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar, and my friends and I listened to it constantly in the weeks leading up to our high school graduation, a time when our lives were in the midst of drastic changes and we knew we might not stay as close to each other as we’d like to, even if we’d never admit it to each other.

Machine Gun Kelly is close to the same age as me, so we could very well have the same nostalgic experience with Rise Against and Swing Life Away. I wonder why, then, ten years after that song’s release, MGK felt the need to take a sweet little tune from Chicago hardcore veterans and turn it into an overproduced pile of rap-rock swill that sounds like a misguided attempt to make an edgier version of Vitamin C’s “Graduation” song.

0:05 – “Hello little girl, I notice you are having fun riding your bicycle. Can I abruptly stop you to hand you this sunflower you have no way of carrying? No? Well that’s too bad, I need this scene to set up my character in this video as a sensitive family man underneath my bad boy image.”
0:12 – FYI, Kellin Quinn is the the singer of tween mallcore heartthrobs Sleeping With Sirens. The world is a worse place because of his vocal chords. You’ll hear why soon enough.
0:20 – “Screenplay by Machine Gun Kelly”. Over the next five and a half minutes, keep in mind that you are witnessing MGK’s vision unfolding exactly as he wanted it to. As the screenwriter, the plot and dialogue of this video are presumably his doing. We will be seeing MGK’s inner world come to life before our very eyes, in his own words. (Spoiler alert: they are bad words.)
0:40 – Question – “What am I doing?” Answer – somehow being a worse actor than you are a musician.
0:55 – This conversation feels like two college freshman bumbling their way through an improv drama exercise.
1:03 – Wait, where did Pretty Lady just pull that guitar from? Does MGK store his guitar outside for some reason? That thing’s gonna warp if you just leave it on your porch, dude.
1:18 – Pretty Lady, to MGK – “No amount of money can ever take me to the place I go when I hear your music.”
1:34 – MGK – *starts playing someone else’s music instead*
1:37 – Ok, after seeing how limply and clumsily you are playing that guitar, I think I might have jumped the gun on saying you are worse at acting than music.
1:51 – Oh god
1:56 – Why does this sound like this?
2:03 – The most well-written lyric in this track so far is the one he just lifted from a 1999 Blink 182 song, for the record.
2:21 – What the hell is that sound
2:24 – Is that… someone singing?
2:28 – Who do I have to kill to make this stop
2:32 – Oh yeah, Kellin Quinn. I have to kill Kellin Quinn.
2:36 – I would willingly give myself a vasectomy with a rusty sewing needle to make this chorus go away.
2:40 – Thank Christ, it’s over.
2:43 – MGK pouting about the cool kids not letting him freestyle is giving me flashbacks to all my idiotic suburban white friends and their 8-Mile-fueled fantasies of becoming battle rapping champs of the gritty streets of Maplewood, Minnesota.
3:03 – MGK’s flow on this whole song feels like a thought experiment in “what if Kanye West‘s awful guest verse from Katy Perry‘s ‘ET’ was even more cringy and awkward?”
3:11 – OH JESUS FUCK, IT’S BACK
3:16 – I REGRET HAVING BEEN BORN INTO THE WORLD AT A TIME WHEN THE HUMAN SINGING THIS CHORUS IS ALIVE AND WELL
3:20 – Look, you can moan about how Rise Against are lame radio rock sellouts all you want, but all they ever wanted to do was promote veganism and tell people to listen to Descendents. They deserve better than this.
3:28 – Alright, that transition to present-day was clever. I’ll give you that one, MGK.
3:47 – Nice speech you wrote about yourself, MGK. Top-notch 3rd-person humblebragging.
3:50 – As tacky and awful as this scene is, I don’t really want it to stop because I feel like the chorus is just going to co-
3:54 – MOTHER FUCKER
4:02 – I HAVE LIVED 1000 TORTURED LIVES AND 1000 AGONIZINGLY SLOW DEATHS SINCE THE START OF THIS THIRD CHORUS – TRAPPED IN A VICIOUS ARTIFICIAL SAMSARA OF BEELZEBUB’S OWN MAKING
4:15 – What the hell just happened with Pretty Lady? She shows up in a greenroom where her boyfriend is living it up and surrounded by adoring fans, gives him an emotionless blank stare, and then just ghosts?
4:20 – Wait a second, what if Pretty Lady is actually a ghost though, Sixth Sense style? I mean, she hasn’t done anything in this video except follow MGK around and tell him he’s great. Does that make any more or less sense than a grown woman somehow being entranced by this cover of a 2000’s emo power ballad? Have the happenings of this video all been an elaborate fantasy spun by MGK while he plunks away at his guitar all by himself with his scrawny ass soaking in a pool of his own tears on the kitchen floor? Maybe this video really is deep after all.
4:34 – It’s ok MGK, I would run away from Kellin Quinn’s voice, too.
4:36 – THIS IS THE FOURTH CHORUS IN A FOUR MINUTE SONG
4:43 – OH GOD AND IT’S A DOUBLE CHORUS!?!?
5:04 – Ok, my eyes are getting a little watery as I watch this. I’m not moved by the rags-to-riches tale of true love conquering the temptations of fame or anything, it’s just that I tried to stab my own eardrum with a screwdriver, involuntarily convulsed when that wretched creature started singing “swing life away”, and I accidentally got myself in the eyeball instead.
5:15 – Wow, what a generous guy MGK is for giving that man so much money. MGK should really thank the screenwriter of this music video for thinking to portray him in such a positive light. What a generous man that screenwriter is for doing that.
5:35 – FUCK MORE, FAME LOVE. Nice.

Machine Gun Kelly and Sleeping With Sirens records are available for purchase somewhere, I assume. Buy one for someone you hate, I guess.

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