In the months before his untimely death, Mac Miller was working on Circles, his final project that was released posthumously two years after his passing. Miller struggled with relationships and drug addiction for years and heavily touches on these topics in the album, accepting that he has a problem and explaining the difficulty of feeling like you can not fix it. Mac Miller began using drugs to cope with his problems and, truthfully, just because he enjoyed them long before he began in the music scene, idolizing drug use in many of his early projects. Miller goes through a clear transition during his career from focusing on partying and doing drugs in early songs like “Donald Trump” and “Senior Skip Day” to rapping about love and recovery in his later work like “Soulmate” and “Good News”.
When Mac Miller was working on this album, he was much less in the spotlight than he was during 2011 and 2012, which likely contributed to his recovery and realization that he has a serious problem. It also seems that because of this, this album can be easily tied to Cvetkovich’s idea that depression is “a cultural and social phenomenon rather than a medical disease” as the social pressures of being a young popular rapper and being forced to uphold the “cool” persona of doing drugs, in my opinion, contributed to Miller’s depression and drug abuse more than anything else could have.
The first song on the album is appropriately titled “Circles” and clearly displays Miller’s hopelessness and grief about fixing his problems. The slow and repetitive beat symbolizes Miller falling into the same pattern no matter how hard he tries to fix himself and the depression he feels knowing he can not get out the hole he dug. This message comes out even more clearly in his lyrics, in the first verse alone saying “this is what it look like right before you fall” and “trust me I’ve tried, I just end up right at the start of the line.” These lines show that Miller is completely defeated, knowing that his life is coming to an end but not being able to stop it.
The next song, “Complicated,” has a much more upbeat sound but continues to touch on Miller’s struggles and how they affect his day to day life. In the chorus, Miller asks repeatedly “does it always gotta be so complicated?” and “can I please get through a day?” displaying that his problems are consuming his life so completely that he can’t even look to the future anymore and is too occupied by just hoping to make it through the day. He also touches slightly on his relationships, a topic that throughout the album arises as another struggle whether it’s feeling alone in the world or a dying romance.
He speaks more completely about these relationship problems in “Blue World,” one of the more popular songs on the album for the interesting beat and refreshing flow. While Miller sounds more alive in this track, the lyrics stay consistent with the album’s theme of depression and feeling alone with lines like “had the homies with me, all a sudden they split” and the hook, “it’s a blue world without you.” These two lines show very different but very real problems in Miller’s relationships, as he feels that not only is he losing what I assume is his girlfriend, but also that all of his friends have disappeared over the years as he continued to struggle with addiction, a problem that clearly not only hurt Miller but also those around him.
The other highlight of the album, “Good News,” in my opinion explains all of Miller’s problems he’s dealing with the best lyrically of any song on the album. As it is paired with a beat that lets your mind drift while still being able to clearly focus on the lyrics, it symbolizes the way Miller feels when he’s making music or doing drugs, the only two escapes he has left. This song describes how he lets himself fall back into drugs while also destroying all the relationships he had built over the years. Miller begins the song saying “I’m always too busy dreaming, maybe I should wake up instead” and “I hate the feeling when you’re high but you’re underneath the ceiling,” but then “maybe I’ll just lay down for a little instead of always trying to figure everything out” and “all I do is say sorry, half the time I don’t even know what I’m saying it about”. This shows how Miller lets himself fall back into the pattern of drug abuse when he knows it’s hurting him; when he’s high, he wants to fix himself, but when he sobers up, figuring everything out is too much stress and he lets himself “just lay down for a little”. He continues on to state “I wish that I could just get out my god damn way” and “I’m so tired of being so tired,” showing the balance Miller battles with being too exhausted to get through life sober but desperately not wanting to have to get high again, a never-ending cycle that unfortunately ended killing him. He goes on to implement Cvetkovich’s idea of social pressures influencing depression in the chorus, “good news that’s all they wanna hear, no they don’t like it when I’m down but when I’m flying, I always make ‘em so uncomfortable… what’s the difference?”, illustrating how the disappointment others express, whether it’s from doing drugs and being happy or being sober and depressed, is equally destructive to him, showing how the social and cultural pressures to quit contribute to both his depression and his urge to relapse.
In songs like “Woods” and “Hand Me Downs” he elaborates on how important relationships and the love from others are to his recovery, repeatedly citing the love of his girlfriend as the only thing that was keeping him sane. Miller expresses this through lyrics like “you remind me shit, I need to stay in line” and “all I ever needed was somebody with some reason who can keep me sane”, clearly showing how damaging it is to him losing those he loved, sending him back into a cycle of depression and drug abuse.
The rest of the album stays consistent and further explains the battle with using drugs and the loss of relationships because of it through apologetic lyrics paired with slow, sad beats that leave the listener feeling like he knew he didn’t have much time left. While he explains the obstacles he faces with during life, he also seems to accept death on this album, stating “I cannot be changed” and “there’s a whole lot waiting for me on the other side”, showing that while he wishes he could improve himself, he is aware that he’s killing himself and is actively choosing death over life, which I believe to be incredibly depressing but also beautiful in a certain way. Depressing for the obvious reason that such an amazing and influential artist is letting his life slip away but beautiful in that he knows his fate and rather than letting it take over his entire life, he’s still making music and isn’t going out scared; Telling his story, owning up to his mistakes, and leaving his stamp on this world while he still had the time to.