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Singer, songwriter and actor, Machine Gun Kelly is one of the most controversial rock stars of our generation. A native Texan who got his start in the rap industry before finding his voice in punk and pop rock, Kelly’s ascent to fame has always been widely debated and criticized. His new documentary film “My Life in Pink” gets fans and critics alike to see the man behind the machine, and his ongoing efforts to achieve professional legitimacy in the face of online backlash.
The film is a portrait as Kelly sees it, following the last couple years of his life and the rise of his two back-to-back billboard number-one albums “Tickets to my downfall” and “Mainstream Sellout.” It also boasts the success of his 2019 album “Hotel Diablo,” which received over a billion streams and landed number five on the Billboard charts.
Along with a deep dive into his success, the film features Kelly grappling with the social media attention he receives一which teeters from legitimate criticism to antagonizing harassment of his personal life and aesthetic.
A social media super cut reveals random people declaring how much his music “sucks.” Another includes Kelly reading a Rolling Stone article that claims his aesthetic is the only reason for his ascent to fame. Perhaps the most tantalizing is MGK’s daughter, Casie Baker, revealing how she had to become her dad’s biggest defender in the face of online trolls.
This, as Kelly reveals, is a level of scrutinization that perpetuates substance abuse and the deterioration of his artistic image.
“Maybe I sabotage myself on purpose because I just feel not worthy of being loved,” said Kelly in the film.
As the film reveals, the media’s rejection wasn’t a new feeling for Kelly. If anything, it was a familiar taste of his upbringing, where he lived in a friend’s basement after his mom left and his father kicked him out of the house. He said his father had lots of unresolved trauma from his life, as well, which he ended up taking out on Kelly.
Recording became a survival tactic, as he shifted his focus toward drowning out his pain with music. Once he began recording music, he found acceptance among people who related to his words.
“Love is that importance,” said Kelly in the film. “Especially when you go your whole life feeling neglected of that feeling.”
Similar to “Justin Bieber: Our World” and “Charli XCX: Alone Together,” MGK’s film falls into the growing list of COVID prompted autobiographical documentaries. It isn’t new or particularly groundbreaking, but it does add context to Kelly’s growth as an artist and as a person struggling with addiction.
As Kelly attests, quarantine was a time he used to cope with his struggle to rekindle his love for music. After releasing some “quarantine sessions” featuring him strumming a guitar and singing on YouTube, Kelly released the single “I think I’m OKAY,” effectively bringing back the pop-punk genre in the process.
If anything, this is one of the most powerful parts of the film, showing why Kelly continues his pursuit for fame as he radiates pure joy and excitement while in the studio playing guitar and spitting out verses to his soon-to-be hit songs. Of course, his success is almost always undercut by intense criticism and even violence, but with the help of his daughter and his girlfriend, Megan Fox, the film reveals Kelly is in the process of healing from addiction and the media.
Kelly makes clear he values being a father over being an artist. He even dedicated a song to his daughter, “Twin Flame,” debatably his only love song in the album “Mainstream Sellout.”
Even if the execution of Kelly’s struggles can be heavy-handed, “Life in Pink” is an illuminating testament to his legitimacy as an artist and as a person.
“Those albums are kind of like a journal of the last two years, and a real, beautifully tragic time capsule,” said Kelly.