Mac Miller was at the summit of his career when he put out his highly praised album, Swimming, in August 2019. No one foresaw the rapper’s tragic passing only weeks later at just 26 years old. It seemed the musician had only scratched the surface of his talent’s potential, and showed us just snippets of his musical prowess.
Little did fans know, Swimming wasn’t the going to be the final work they’d hear from Mac Miller: to their delight, its complementing album Circles was announced at the beginning of this month by the rapper’s family.
By now, Mac is well-known for his musical affinity with other genres. A notable example of this is his incorporation of jazz, funk, and soul in The Divine Feminine. In a similar vein, Circles certainly adopts a more melodic attitude in its songs when juxtaposed with Swimming. The styles of lo-fi beats and pop singer-songwriter seem to prevail in most songs, and Mac is heard mostly singing throughout the album. While his vocal mannerisms aren’t that of a professional, they most definitely suit the overall tone of the album: they are raw, sometimes unassertive, yet maintain a heartfelt charm.
Introspection as a reoccurring theme
The very first track and music video released from the album is “Good News”, which was out this January 9th. The song, like others on the album, is soul-searching and deals with the topic of mental health. Mac sings bittersweetly about trying to suppress his negative emotions, a recurrent theme throughout Circles.
Most of the songs on the album feel very conversational in the best way possible. They’re casually immersive as if Mac is singing to us intimately, as a friend. He acknowledges the hardships of his mental health journey without being overly lamenting. Think of “Hand Me Downs”, a song featuring rapper Baro, in which Mac sings about trying to find inner peace.
The sad truth is we will never be able to fully fathom how Circles would’ve sounded like if Mac lived to complete it; some parts of the album do feel demo-like and lyrically underdeveloped in comparison to his previous works. Fans know that it definitely isn’t a distinguishable manifestation of his musical progress. New listeners would also likely be more drawn to the music he made in his lifetime.
On the other hand, what can be appreciated is how cohesive the record sounds. Despite its limits in showing us what exactly Mac’s vision was, Circles achieves a distinctly somber and somnolent atmosphere; its songs are overall catchy, profound at times. While they do not necessarily embody the artistic growth we usually encounter with each of his new records, they do hint at his personal attempt at better understanding himself and looking at self-care under a new light.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.