Photo courtesy of Hypebeast
Pittsburgh native Mac Miller broke through the rap scene in 2010 with the release of his mixtape K.I.D.S before later releasing his 2011 mixtape Best Day Ever, two projects that kickstarted his way onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts. His debut album, Blue Slide Park (2011), was followed by Watching Movies With The Sound Off (2013), GO:OD AM (2015), The Divine Feminine (2016), and Swimming (2018), his last project before his death on September 7th, 2018.
His music touched the hearts of listeners for its themes of relationship hardships, growing up, the reality of depression, and his struggle with substance abuse.
Prior to his death, Miller had already developed a large amount of content for his 6th album titled “Circles”. While it was believed that the project would never get finished, its release was announced for January 17th, 2020 and contains 12 tracks that had been completed by Miller’s producer, Jon Brion. Some of my favorite songs included “Circles”, “Complicated”, “Good News”, and “Woods”.
Although much of Miller’s work contains energetic lyrics and flashy beats, this album stands out with its continuous somber tone and a deep look into his personal conflicts. “I cannot be changed, no”, he sings on the title track “Circles”, describing his relapse into bad habits by saying “I’ve tried, I just end up right at the start of the line, drawing circles”. Miller was constantly battling his addictions and had been in and out of rehab due to his “hatred of being sober”. This first track sets the theme for the album by showing how Miller acknowledged his personal faults, as he raspily mumbles “Who am I to blame, though?” over the nonchalant tune.
The second track, “Complicated”, seems to go over how Miller dealt with the weight of his issues as he asks, “Fore I start to think about the future, first, can I please get through the day?”. He repeatedly mentions taking things one at a time, a wish that is no surprise considering the pressure of fame that he faced from a young age. In an interview with Larry King in 2015, the rapper confessed that fame was a major factor in his depression due to how warped the media could be, which led him to struggle with finding who he “really was”. Miller wonders how he can deal with so many problems at his age by repeating “I’m way too young to be getting old” on the song.
“Good News” is the fourth song on the album and continues Miller’s theme of mental health issues as he heartbreakingly sings “Why does everybody need me to say?”. Struggling with addiction and constantly being in the public eye, Millers issues took a serious toll on his life and weighed him down, as reflected by the lyrics “I’m running out of gas, hardly anything left… so tired of being so tired”. Miller expressed his disagreement with the popular belief that money and fame can bring happiness in the King interview, saying “It’s funny when you talk to people and they say ‘Oh what do you have to be depressed about? You have money’. ” With his life being magnified around the world, many people expected someone like Miller to be happy because of his success, a false idea that he tackles by singing “Good news, that’s all they wanna hear, no they don’t like it when I’m down”.
My personal favorite out of all 12 songs is “Woods”, where Miller gets introspective of his capabilities in a relationship by asking “Can I love?” over a mellow beat. Miller’s last relationship was with singer Ariana Grande for two years, but they came to an end after two years due to hardships caused by his addiction. Grande later went on to call the relationship “toxic” as Miller acknowledges his past issues by singing “When will you forget my past? Got questions, ask, you know the stories” on the song. He continues the topic of a rocky relationship throughout the almost 5-minute song with lyrics like “Heartbreak will have you bankrupt”.
Overall, what I liked the most about this album is how it didn’t seem rushed to be put out, with a couple of the songs being 4-5 minutes long. It was very personal, like many of his past albums, and gave listeners like myself a look into what he struggled with. It was an amazing gift for fans to be able to see what he was working on before his death, and I proudly give it 5/5 maroos.