Machine Gun Kelly feels like an AI gathered everything from the Myspace era of pop culture and turned it into a sentient being, so it’s surprising it took him this long to pen an ode to emo girls. But “Emo Girl,” featuring hair whipper-turned pop punker Willow Smith, is here and perhaps hell has frozen over, because it’s surprisingly pretty good.
So, why is The A.V. Club suddenly interested in a Machine Gun Kelly song? Because it’s catchy. Corny, yes—like the rest of Kelly’s material—but quite infectious, with the signature guitar chugging and a chorus that would’ve been shouted back at Warped Tour. It has the DNA of another 2000s pop punk classic, “Shake It” by Metro Station, but with a less grating melody.
Smith feels like just the person Kelly needed to make a song about an emo girl work. Her voice sounds a bit more detached than on her 2021 LP lately I feel EVERYTHING, but in this case it’s a strength. The cadence in her verses emulates Mark Hoppus’s on “Rock Show,” as she aptly sings about bleeding on the emo girl’s Blink tee.
She also makes her verses her own, featuring rewrites so they could feel more like her own voice. Emo has a history of being painfully white, so it’s a small yet important victory that Smith makes sure the emo girl she’s singing about is one who “puts eyeliner on her dark skin.”
Though Kelly and Smith are singing about being in love with different emo girls, the one
Kelly, who is so bonded with Fox that he jokingly said her engagement ring had thorns that wouldn’t allow Fox to take it off, sings about being enamored with Fox’s character. Beginning with a sample of Fox’s iconic quote from the tongue-burning scene, saying “I am a god,” the narrator doesn’t care that Jennifer would devour him in a heartbeat; if anything, he’s pretty into it. “She’s got makeup by the mirror in her bedroom / Thigh-high fishnets and some black boots / Nose pierced with the cigarette perfume / Half dead but she still looks so cute,” he sings, making reference to the outfit Fox wears when Jennifer transforms into a flesh-eating monster. Just be careful if she invites you to watch the movie about the girl who’s half-human, half-sushi.
The song will appear in Kelly’s forthcoming LP, Mainstream Sellout, out March 25.