Mac Miller amazed everyone with his growth in rapping, producing, and singing. He was a cognitive yet naïve young white rapper trying to make it in the rural suburbs of Pittsburgh. Playing the part of a rapper you would normally think of, Mac was covered from head to toe with tattoos. It is to Mac’s great credit that he became more compelling and understanding the further his career progressed in highly detailing every lyric and beat. Miller dedicated his entire life to creating his artistic vision as rapper, producer, and most well-known, singer. I am a big fan of Mac Miller, listening and hearing the growth to his lyrics and beats are very fascinating, which has turned him into a phenomenon. Mac Miller suffered from tremendous amounts of anxiety and depression. This gave him a lot of different material to write about and show his fans what he is feeling inside. Unfortunately, all the stress and depression were too much for Mac Miller to take. Mac Miller was discovered dead in his Studio City home on September 7th, 2018. He died from fentanyl and cocaine overdose at the age of 26.
On January 17, 2020, Warner Records released Mac Miller’s final album Circles. With the help of close friend and production manager of Mac Miller’s past albums, Jon Brion helped create this posthumous masterpiece. Circles is Mac Miller’s first album since his 2018 album, Swimming. In the eyes of pop culture, the album Swimming is considered his most admired and financially rewarding album. Swimming is about the bitterness and sweetness of his trying to come to terms with depression and heartbreak. This album followed his recent breakup with Ariana Grande, which churned his depression even more. Swimming is slowly placed with communicable specks of rap, funk, hip-hop, and most importantly Mac’s emotional clarity with life and being single. On Swimming there is very little optimism and hope. This same dynamic is presented on his new album.
Circles is a direct companion piece for Swimming. Both albums were fueled from the same emotion. It’s not a fresh chapter that gestures towards Miller’s untold future, but rather a genuine companion piece, a time capsule to be placed alongside Swimming. The songwriting is lackadaisical and often carries the feeling of a dream. A primary example of this is in the song “Circles.” As a listener, you hear the light strumming of the electric guitar blending with a light melody of a flute sound. Combine those sounds with a beautiful up and down flow of Miller’s pitch makes you feel like you’re floating. Miller constantly retreats into his head to think and rethink different ways on how to nurse his battered spirit. One moment he’s falling in a deep depression, the next he’s flying high on top of the world, just like his pitch in the song “Circles.” Since Circles is a companion piece to Swimming, Mac Miller is swimming in circles. Miller creates the appearance that he is flowing through the natural world, but in reality, he is stuck in an endless loop he cannot escape. The single and most popular song of the album, “Good News.” You hear the guitar strings prick and splash like drops of pattering rain. This gives the listening a sense of relaxation yet confusion. He is lost in an endless loop and can’t escape the hurt and depression.
Sadly, we see this endless loop happening with racial injustice throughout the world. Minorities in the United States have been treated with despair and neglect. For example, the black community has been doing everything in its power to try to find the right answer to have equality for all. Unfortunately, since the beginning of time, we are left with the same endless loop that has minorities all around the world with less fortunate opportunities. Mac Miller could not escape his endless loop of mental illness and made a decision that can never be changed. I am hopeful that all minorities in the world will break the loop in a positive way to have the same opportunities as everyone else.
Circles is an album that came out after the death of Mac Miller. Most of the lyrics and tones you hear on the album describe his overall feeling about himself and life. There are many different lyrics that stand out and make me very emotional. After hearing about his death, all his lyrics make sense and leave me feeling like I could have done something to help him before he made this terrible mistake. In the song “I Can See,” Miller says, “I need somebody to save me before I drive myself crazy.” This song is about the ups and downs of life. Miller is also figuring out what’s real and fake in his mind of depression and lust. In this song you see Miller contemplate calling for help, but then coming to the realization that life is really just a dream and doesn’t matter entirely. He uses different sounds and techniques to create a sound and tone that puts you in a fuzzy dream state. By deploying delicate indie rock drums, lo-fi piano, hypnotic guitar strumming, he and fellow music producer/friend, Brion recreated sounds and feelings like Randy Newman “Everybody”, and Jack Johnson “Surf”. Miller and Brion created sounds and lyrics to fulfill Miller’s intention of being in a “dream state.”
Mac Miller does an exceptional job at sharing his mindset. He’s not afraid to tell people he has mental issues. He is trying to find obscure sounds and lyrics to show that he has no understand of the world and his mind. Miller is lost in an endless loop or circle that he can’t escape. Miller is just a man trying to learn how to cope with all his emotions. During the process of writing this album before his death, Miller was close to burning out. He was striving for something else in his life to help him escape his ruthless circle. All he wants is some Good News. As I stated before, Miller’s single is “Good News.” Mac Miller ponders life and existence trying to find the “Good News” in life. Unfortunately, he is struggling and states in the song, “Maybe I’ll lay down a little. Instead of always trying to figure everything out.” Mac Miller is directly speaking out asking for help. He can’t find good news and wants to give up. The lyrics in the album are very touching as he states multiple times of wanting to shut down and not help himself.
This song as well as the whole album has to do with depression and how Mac Miller is suffering and dealing with his depression. This directly relates to one of our readings in class on Depression: A Public Feeling by Ann Cvetkovich. She states, “Thus, although this book is about depression, it’s also about hope and even happiness, about how to live a better life by embracing rather than glossing over bad feelings.” (pg.3). Miller is stuck in his endless loop glossing over bad feeling like his breakup from Ariana Grande. Unfortunately, he wasn’t about to embrace the bad and more to find happiness. I believe Mac Miller suffers from a mental illness of depression that is heightened to an extreme amount due to his life always being in the spotlight from a young age. I also believe that his breakup from Ariana Grande was very detrimental to his health. Being famous and also being judged and looked by millions of people is very worrying especially when you already suffer from depression.
Circles will forever be known as a cry for help as a relation to mental health and depression. This last album has defined Mac Miller in many ways: he is strong loving and compassionate, but at the same time ignorant, foolish, and unknowledgeable in mental health. As I am personally suffering from depression I can somewhat relate to the pressures and anxiety. It’s hard to find the positive out of everything and unfortunately, Mac couldn’t. He will forever be remembered as an artist that used his lyrics and beats to create this dramatic yet lackadaisical floating feel in his songs. This is something I personally will always admire about his music and think it is one of a kind.