Mac Miller Album Showed There Was so Much More to Do


Released on Jan. 17 of this year, Mac Miller’s posthumous album, “Circles,” explores inner demons, love and hope.

Mac Miller was a man of many different identities. Split into three brilliant alter egos: Larry Fisherman, Larry Lovestein and Larry Dollaz, he was an illustrious rapper, songwriter, and record producer. Stripping away the stage names, he was simply Malcolm James McCormick. A young, white rapper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From his hit song “Blue Slide Park” (2011) to “Swimming” (2019), he continued to provide us songs to get us through our worst and best days.

Because of an accidental drug overdose in 2019, “Swimming” is the last album Miller produced while alive. “Swimming” was a new, raw and real sound. It was clear from the beginning that he was trying to create something different, something that was revolutionary.The first track, “Come Back to Earth,” conveyed a tentative sense of hope: “I was drowning, but now I’m swimming / Through stressful waters to relief.” A Little over a month later, he passed away.

His death was devastating—it didn’t seem fair. Miller was producing art with massive potential, and was at a new height for his career. There had to be more to his story.

In fact, there was more. Miller left behind a collection of unpublished songs with the intent to make a connection between the two albums: “Swimming” in “Circles”. With the help of Jon Brion, a composer famous for shaping the opulent textures of “Swimming,” the collection of unfinished tracks was completed and Miller’s final album, “Circles,” was debuted.

Posthumous albums tread tricky moral ground. There are more questions than answers when releasing music the artist won’t hear. His family posted a statement to Instagram making it clear they were handling the decision thoughtfully:

“This process has no right answer. We simply know that it was important to Malcolm for the world to hear it.”

Important might be an understatement, because it was paramount to his legacy. The decision to complete the final chapter gave long-time Mac Miller fans closure and captivated new fans with its comforting fusion of hip- hop, psychedelic folk, and funk.

While the style of each song is wildly different, the tone of the overall album stays consistent: somber, contemplative and genuine. Miller’s vocals range from staccato to mumbles to clear and angelic. “Circles” is a candid conversation about the survival mindset that Miller found himself in.

“Complicated” opens with an exposed synth melody and uses reverb to emphasize the Millers’ lazy drawl over the synth-pop beat. We get a glimpse of his thoughts on his confused headspace: “Inside my head is getting pretty cluttered / I try, but can’t clean up this mess I made / ‘Fore I start to think about the future / First, can I please get through a day?”

As he battled with addiction, he penned the lyrics on tracks like “Blue World”:“The devil on my doorstep bein’ so shady / Mmm, don’t trip / We don’t gotta let him in, don’t trip / yeah, yeah / I let it go, but I never go with it.”

We can only presume the devil he references is his own mental health and relationship with addiction, a common theme in his work. However, there is a danger in analyzing the lyrics of a dead artist.

In the end, there will never be a verdict from Miller himself on these speculations. One thing is for sure though: Miller’s lyrics are always emotionally charged and honest, while his distinct laid-back charm makes every song feel like home.

While Miller’s sound morphed over the years, the direction of his first to the last album has stayed consistent in their ability to make sense in times of confusion. He has songs for every emotional point of his life. You have the groovy irresistible beats of “Dang!” off the album “The Divine Feminine” (2016) making you want to dance around the kitchen and forget all your problems. Then you turn around and fall into a melancholy contemplating life and death during“Ascension,” from 2015’s “GO:OD AM.”

It is a tragedy to lose a staple artist at such a young age. From the prospects of the album “Swimming” and the albums “Circles”, he hd a lot more to offer for the future. He may never know how many lives he touched and will continue to with his music.

His songs helped plenty of people through some of their darkest days. In the words of Ariana Grande, “Wish I could say, ‘Thank you’ to Malcolm / ‘Cause he was an angel.”

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