Album Review: Mac Miller’s “Circles”


Mac Miller

Mac Miller’s posthumous LP “Circles” released on Jan. 17 by producer Jon Brion.

by Ainsley Shaw, Reporter

“Well, this is what it look like/Right before you fall” Mac Miller sings on the opening track of his new posthumous LP. What a fall it was when the world lost Mac Miller. A visionary, phenomenal artist and like many others, gone too soon. Mac had shared the first pieces of Circles with well-established producer Jon Brion while they were simultaneously working on his 2018 album release of “Swimming”. He had visualized it to be the second part of a trilogy but died before he got the chance to show it to the world. Upon receiving permission from Mac’s family, Brion worked to add the finishing touches to the LP, keeping in mind the words and ideas they shared before he passed away. Two years following his death, Circles was released on Jan. 17 making Mac’s dream become a reality.

It’s quite an odd feeling to listen to someone’s new music that’s released after their death. However, this is obviously not something new as many artists have famously released music posthumously. Such as former Beatles, George Harrison and John Lennon, Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury, The Notorious B.I.G and Prince. Although it feels like a much-owed tribute to the artist, it can also feel like an invasion of privacy with a hint of spiritualism. 

Listening to Circles feels like I’m watching Mac pull back the curtain to reveal his deepest struggles and mental health issues and expose himself to the world. His head becomes sheer leaving the inner workings of his mind visible to the listeners. It takes a certain type of person with a significant amount of courage to serve yourself up on a silver platter and Mac was one of the few who could. It’s stripped down and includes only the necessary instruments, sounds and voice-overs. Overall, it’s a lyric focused album that unravels the layers to his mind and soul. He shies away from his comfort zone of full rap songs and dives deep into his subconscious to create new sounds that are similar to those on Swimming, yet they are not the same. Not surprisingly, two of the singles off of Circles are currently in the top ten of the top charts on Apple Music. “Good News” sits at number six with “Blue World” three spots behind it at number 9.

Heartfelt and soothing, “Hand Me Downs” contains some of my favorite lyrics on the LP: “You, despite being an only child/Say you need more of a family ‘round/Let’s turn these genes into hand me downs.” I genuinely became teary-eyed upon my first listen to this song. It prompts me to think of my family and how fortunate I am to have their warming support and presence surrounding me. Australian rapper and producer, Baro Sura features on this track and he beautifully enhances the listening experience.

The single, “Good News” is undoubtedly one of the best songs on the album and features many lines that divulge his negative feelings and red flags for depression. The chorus, “Good news, good news, good news, that’s all they wanna hear/No they don’t like it when I’m down” is Mac’s way of expressing that others always want him to say he’s “fine” instead of revealing how he truly feels. He skillfully relays a universal truth that almost everyone can relate to. Mac begins the hit single with the lyrics: “I spent the whole day in my head/Do a lil’ spring cleaning/I’m always too busy dreaming/Maybe I should wake up instead,” to convey how he can become trapped in his own mind and wrapped up in his negative thoughts, but still making an effort to sort through them. The lyrics, “Why can’t it just be easy?/Why does everybody need me to stay?/Oh, I hate the feeling when you’re high but you’re underneath the ceiling” flow in your ears but sit heavy in the mind. 

Pleas for clear skies and smoothly paved roads compile together to form “Complicated” where Mac sings “‘Fore I start to think about the future/First, can I please get through a day?/Without any complications”. A complex and tangled journey with a possible love interest makes an appearance on “Woods” on which he sings “When will you forget my past?/Got questions, ask, you know the stories” and “I put your face in a place where the space was/Nobody make you feel like you but (Do I?)” The drawn-out and haunting chorus, “Do I, do I, do I love?/Can I, can I, can I get enough?” lingers in the mind and perfectly closes out the song. 

In the single “Blue World”, the synth-based music shines bright and the chorus is extremely catchy. Overall, it’s a very well cultivated song. It sounds the most similar to those on 2018’s Swimming.

Even though Mac didn’t get the chance to fully complete Circles himself, it still deserves credit and the highest level of respect. Brion did what he thought would serve Mac justice and truly helped his fragments come together to form something that stayed true to Mac’s soul. All in all, I whole-heartedly admired the album and have been listening to it every day since it was released. Listen to the LP in its entirety on a rainy day by yourself to be fully immersed in his vision.