Mac Miller’s posthumous release, Circles, is bittersweet. I had not realized that at the time of his passing, he was also working on music and enough so that it could be pulled together into a full album. So, I did not think “Circles” would ever really be something. When his family announced that they were going to give the world this last work of art from a man taken too early, it was a in the same moment a reminder of his absence and celebration of his creativity. I’ve been listening to Miller for a few years now and had the fantastic opportunity to see him in Salt Lake City during his Divine Feminine tour. There is a grand transformation from early rebellious songs like “Donald Trump” in 2011 to the melancholy expression of “Circles” nearly ten years later. Still, Miller’s gravel voice remains the same, creating a thread through his entire collection of music.
Miller’s music has always been a window into his life. “Well, this is what it look like right before you fall” is changed by his passing into a tragic heartwrenching opener to his final album. It is a mellow companion in comparison to more impassioned songs on Swimming like “Self Care”: “Tell them they can take that bullshit elsewhere (Yeah) / Self-care, I’m treatin’ me right, yeah / Hell yeah, we gonna be alright.” Instead, a gentle guitar and drum beat move the introduction forward with funky, groovy vibes before adding in Mac Miller’s gravely voice. “It goes around like the hands that keep countin’ the time /Drawin’ circles.” He has refined his music to be almost perfect combinations of lyrics and instrumentals. He shows this with “Circles” as an even more explorative song because it does diverge towards acoustic over upbeat rap.
Similarly, “Good News” is another melancholy song that exhibits his life experiences. “Good news, good news, good news / That’s all they wanna hear / No, they don’t like it when I’m down / But when I’m flying, oh / It make ’em so uncomfortable / So different, what’s the difference?” Mac Miller had been open with his drug use, singing about many encounters across his entire collection of songs. His songs have always been public proclamations of his heart and soul. From the Divine Feminine as an artistic expression of his relationship with Ariana Grande to Swimming and Circles reflecting some of his struggles afterward, he makes it easy to connect because his music evokes those feelings so perfectly.
Everybody” continues in that somber and honest theme: “Everybody’s gotta live, / And everybody’s gonna die.” It is another tender song from Mac Miller; acoustic guitar, methodic drum beat, gentle emotional singing. It explores the wild ups and downs of life and love with lyrics like “Yeah, sometimes the going gets so good, yeah / But then again it gets pretty rough, yeah.” This song is probably my favorite on the album because it uses soft, almost acoustic sounds to describe such heartfelt emotional lyrics. It’s reflective and truthful, similar to much of his later life’s work.
Miller has reached a pinnacle of creative genius with these songs and many others on the album. It’s hard not to be deeply saddened by this album as it is going to be the last of its kind in an artistic life. It’s also easy to be genuinely grateful to get a beautiful set of fantastic songs that explore so many themes of life and love. Circles is an album to cherish, love, and listen to over and over again.