Like the album art depicting red roses and thorns emerging from the rapper's hand, Machine Gun Kelly's third LP Bloom presents two sides of the artist. Compared to his previous two efforts, Bloom is a relatively toned-down affair. Half of the songs sound intentionally crafted to be radio hits, while the other half serve as reminders of MGK's aggressive roots. As a crossroads moment, Bloom isn't too clumsy, but could be potentially divisive for fans old and new. For those expecting more pop-rap jams like the hit single "Bad Things" with Camila Cabello, MGK recruited a handful of inspired guest appearances. Migos' main man Quavo, and Ty Dolla $ign create a trap power trio with MGK on "Trap Paris." British singer James Arthur infuses the motivational "Go for Broke" with his soulful croon, while Hailee Steinfeld brightens the angsty "At My Best," one of many introspective tracks on Bloom that finds MGK contemplating life with developing wisdom like "Life is about making mistakes/It's also about trying to be great." That searching mood weaves its way throughout Bloom as MGK rhymes about the highs and lows of his life. Drugs, drinking, and sex are his vices of choice, the internal conflict producing some of the deeper emotional moments on the LP, like "Kiss the Sky," "Let You Go," and "27." The latter finds MGK wondering whether joining the infamous 27 Club would be a good option for induction into "legend" status. The acoustic "Rehab" plays like a cry for help during a disappointing comedown after a sad night at a strip club. These are dour stretches that sometimes threaten to weigh the album down, but MGK injects enough variety to prevent a totally depressing experience. Standouts include "Moonwalkers," with rapper DubXX, which has the juiciest beat and best flow on Bloom, and "Can't Walk," a woozy electro-haze drug trip that hypnotizes with production by H*Money and EV. While Bloom isn't as thrilling as his debut Lace Up, fans of 2015's General Admission will appreciate the familiar blend of pop-savvy rap and the occasional guitar riff. Even though MGK assumes a dark and brooding energy for much of the album, the efforts toward introspective maturity are admirable.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung
feat: Camila Cabello