Mac Miller’s posthumous album is an upbeat heartbreaker

The new release is a window into Miller’s thoughts before his 2018 death.

%22Circles%22+reveals+Mac+Miller%27s+thoughts+on+the+world%2C+himself+and+the+meaning+of+life%2C+before+his+death.+

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"Circles" reveals Mac Miller's thoughts on the world, himself and the meaning of life, before his death.

Emily Coffey, Staff Writer

An eerie and somewhat unexpected release, Mac Miller’s new album, “Circles,” is a driven and distantly melancholic work of musical genius. The project is a window into his mind during the moments before his death—his last thoughts and ideas about the world, himself and the meaning of life. If Miller were alive, the album would easily continue the larger picture of his discography. However, in light of his death, the gravity of the album increases dramatically. 

Circles begins hopelessly and encompasses the meaning of the project. A slow burn, the namesake song is bass-driven and eerily content, featuring Miller’s hoarse vocals as the music fades into it. 

 “I just end up right at the start of the line/ drawing circles,” Miller sings in the last line of the song.  

PROGRESSION OF MUSIC

After “Circles,” the album drops quickly into backyard party-ready bop “Complicated.” The layering is deep, including more interludes than the previous song and a heavy, driving downbeat. This trend continues throughout “Blue World,” which is upbeat, save for the 14-second intro that samples The Four Freshman’s “It’s a Blue World.” It is lush, vibrant, bold and fun—but still has an aftertaste of discontentment. 

“This mad world made me crazy/ … The devil on the doorstep bein’ so shady,” Miller sings in the chorus. 

This leads straight into the saddest song, “Good News,” which is now Miller’s top-streaming song with over 30.4 million streams on Spotify alone. The track scuttles along, with a hint of what sounds like violin staccato and some John Mayer-esque riffs toward the end. In the beginning, the song sounds like what it feels like to be on edge. However, as it develops, it turns into an acceptance of the disparity between what Miller wants and what he’s experiencing.  

The album continues with a golden and trap-driven approach. “I Can See” is reminiscent of Tyler the Creator. The next song sounds like a Billy Joel cover, yet blends well with the rest of the tracks. The driving beat is the consistent factor. It carries the album through the varying color palettes of sound—warmer when he talks about connection and colder when he talks about the surrounding world and his mind. 

DEEPER MEANING

Throughout the album, Miller’s expression of contentment is tied to what seems like a significant other, especially in “Blue World.” A few songs later, “Hand Me Downs” featuring Baro continues this idea. 

 “All I ever needed was somebody with some reason to keep me sane,” Miller sings in the song’s pre-chorus. 

It’s clear this “somebody” is the last thread holding his unraveling mind to reality. He later talks about his “screws” going missing, presumably exploring a struggle with mental health that becomes less noticeable when he’s with the person he loves. But what happens when that person leaves? 

The album ends with “Once a Day,” where Miller’s sadness creeps out of his melody and lyrics. It leaves the listener to steep in his depression, hopefully questioning their own awareness of others’ well-being. 

In the constant bustle of the modern world, Miller used drugs to distract him from his struggles with loneliness. 

“Everybody keep rushin’/ Why can’t we take our time? / Every now and again, baby, I get high.” Miller sings in the refrain.

 MELANCHOLY ENDING  

The album, from a distance, is easy listening.  In some instances, it sounds like a driving on a warm Sunday afternoon with the windows down. In other songs, it sounds like driving through a white-out snow storm. With tracks for every pastime, the album will likely remain relevant for the musicality and Miller’s name alone. 

When listened to closely, “Circles” details Miller’s heartbreaking struggle with depression, loss and addiction. The album’s impact is deep—it is a memoir of what it means to be hopeless and discontent in a world driven in circles. 

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