Kennedy London, Associate Arts & Entertainment Editor
Malcolm McCormick should still be here with us. He was as pure of a soul as hip-hop and humanity, in general, had in a long time. His vulnerability and introspective nature allowed legions of fans to peek inside his mind and make them feel what he felt. Whether it was pain, happiness, hope, or otherwise, we always felt like we were close to Mac.
Now over a year after his untimely passing, we are left with Circles, his first posthumous album after 2018’s Swimming. With his family’s blessing and the finishing touches from musician and collaborator on the project Jon Brion, we can finally listen to the musical sendoff for Mac Miller.
And what a beautiful and poignant sendoff this is.
A companion piece to Swimming, Circles continues on the same path with Mac reflecting his mental state, his state of being, love, his mortality and voicing the various tribulations that he faced in his life. However, he goes a level deeper on this project as he peels back more layers to his soul and ponders how he will be remembered. The pain in his voice throughout the album makes the listen even more somber as it seems that Mac was at a crossroads regarding his view of the world.
On tracks like “I Can See” where he says, “And now I know if life is but a dream then so are we” alongside “Complicated” and “Everybody”, it seems as Mac has come to a place of acceptance. While he hasn’t figured out life and how to fully deal with the battle scars that come with it, he had an idea what his starting point was. It’s not a place of solace, but a place of readiness.
The production by Miller and Jon Brion is perfectly emotional and puts you in the appropriate mood as you go on the journey of exploring Mac Miller one last time. Whether it’s the guitar tune on “Circles”, the piano leading the charge on “Everybody”, or the vibrant energy of “Blue World”, the production always maintains a sense of self-reflection. Coupled with Mac’s reflective lyrics and absorbing choruses, the themes of the albums are always clear and perfectly illustrated.
Circles has such an inviting exterior which leads the listeners to experience the warm and emotional interior that Mac creates. Like Swimming, Circles is a one-man show as Mac is the voice and conscious that is front and center. Its success rests on how effective Mac is in conveying his thoughts and emotions, and effective he certainly is.
Circles may be the finale of Mac Miller musically, but it is the continuation of remembering Mac’s legacy and his ability to touch people’s hearts. While hearing his voice brings a heavy sense of melancholy, he still gives off such infectious energy that often you can’t help but smile.
As far as ranking Circles among Mac’s albums, it is ultimately unnecessary as we were lucky to even hear the album see the light of day. It’s a perfect companion to Swimming, a great album that stands on its own, and a beautiful sendoff to one of the most personal artists in recent Hip-Hop memory. Rest easy, Mac, we miss you.