REVIEW: Mac Miller’s ‘Circles’ highlights his inner struggles in appropriate, heart wrenching way

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Courtesy Macmillerwebsite.com

Social Media Editor Cecelia Cappello writes that rapper Mac Miller's posthumous album 'Circles' showcases his inner struggles in a beautiful, yet tragic way.

Cecelia Cappello, Social Media Editor

A posthumous album, music that is released after the artist’s death, is a difficult task to carry. Is there a right time? The artist who devoted their remaining time on this earth isn’t able to make that decision, and it’s in the hands of someone else to decide what is right. 

In September of 2018, Mac Miller unexpectedly died at the age of 26 from an accidental drug overdose. His death shocked the world; Millions of people who didn’t know him personally were mourning his loss. The drugs Miller took were laced with fentanyl, leading to three arrests, yet that wasn’t enough for the fans mourning him. Ultimately, the album “Circles” allowed his audience to hear his final thoughts and the last of his music.

Before his death, Miller had released his second to last album “Swimming”.  At the time, he was also working on “Circles” which would act as a companion piece to “Swimming.” “Swimming in Circles” was the idea: a constant battle with his inner voice and mind, which many people face. Throughout his music, Miller was vulnerable and open about his depression which, I think, allowed his audience to connect with him and his music on a much deeper level.

On Jan. 17, Mac Miller’s family released the posthumous album “Circles.” I listened to each song in the sequence that it was presented. “Circles” was the opening song, Millers soft vocals with intimate instrumentals make the song feel even more personal. In the last song of the album Swimming, the song “So It Goes” ends by Miller referencing never ending cycles and feeling directionless, which is how he opens “Circles.”

“Good News” was released as a single before the album’s release, introducing the wavelength that Miller was on. He begins the song by saying, “I spent the whole day in my head, Do a little spring cleaning”, telling us he’s been working on himself and taking care of his head space. He explains the pressures he’s dealing with, trying to support the people around him, while he tries to keep himself together. 

The album “Circles” was produced by Eric Dan and had a heavy influence from Jon Brion who is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. The jazz and electric instrumentals are usually always present in Mac Miller’s music, but in this album they are specific to each song and provide a more intimate experience for fans. From guitar tones in “Surf” to the piano ballads that are featured in “Everybody”, Mac Miller continued to blur the lines that separate rock, rap and pop.

The songs that left me with chills were “Hand Me Downs,” “Blue World” and “Once A Day.” “Hand Me Downs” featured Baro Sura, which is the only song that includes a feature. In this song, Miller refers to genetics as “Hand Me Downs,” mentioning that he wanted more of a family and that he wanted a child. That left me uneasy, even though he was struggling, who knows what a child could have opened up for him. “Blue World” was automatically one of my favorites with its motivating story. Mac said “Don’t trip we’ll get through it together” and referenced to his inner voice as the “devil,” showcasing the battles he was trying to fight. 

Last was “Once A Day.” Originally the song was played during the “Mac Miller: A celebration of life” concert after his death. The track was an unreleased song that Miller recorded while playing the piano. In the beginning, it seems like he’s talking about love, but the story is that once a day he wakes up and he goes to bed with the struggles in his head. It’s really personal, but the ending is abrupt, like the ending to his own life.

If he was given the time, there would definitely be more for Mac Miller to offer and he was only scratching the surface. His family grieved his loss and then they shared what they had left of him with the world. Personally, I think the release of this album was necessary for a couple of reasons. “Circles” showcases how individual Mac Miller was. He didn’t belong to one genre and you could never put him in a box. “Swimming in Circles” is a phrase that will remind his audience that they are not the only ones battling their inner voice; and his music will make their battles feel valid. Depression is real and Mac Miller shines the light on how heavy and hopeless it can feel.