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Machine Gun Kelly Channels Nirvana for ‘Papercuts’ Performance at 2021 VMAs

Machine Gun Kelly made his MTV Video Music Awards debut Sunday by performing his single “Papercuts” alongside Blink-182 drummer and frequent collaborator Travis Barker.

The performance seemingly paid homage to Nirvana, boasting spooky grunge trees and the flowers from the iconic “Heart-Shaped Box” video. Kelly started the performance emerging from a dirt grave with his face covered in red branches and ended the song by smashing his guitar and falling to the ground, much like Kurt Cobain used to do.

Before the show started, Machine Gun Kelly appeared to get into an altercation with MMA fighter Conor McGregor on the red carpet. The duo reportedly had to be separated, according to Page Six.

“MGK’s security overreacted and pushed Conor,” McGregor’s rep told IndieLand. A rep for Kelly did not reply to a request for comment.

At the 2021 VMAs, Machine Gun Kelly was up for Best Alternative Video for “My Ex’s Best Friend,” a track from his 2020 Barker-produced album Tickets to My Downfall.

The duo once again reunited in the studio for the singer/rapper’s upcoming album Born With Horns, which boasts “Papercuts” as its first single.

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“Travis showed me the art of not overthinking,” Kelly told IndieLand of working with Barker. “There were times I’d walk in, we would plug in instruments, and whatever came out while we were playing would be the song. But then he also showed me that you can completely scrap a whole song, right when you think it’s done, and do it over until it becomes everything it should be. He would answer the phone at 5 a.m. if I called. The studio sessions became cathartic. There was no censorship. He encouraged the raw emotion to come out.”

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