Mac Miller’s posthumous “Circles” sets a high bar for 2020


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Collin Maguire

Mac Miller’s posthumous release “Circles” acts as a companion to Miller’s 2018 release “Swimming.” However, the two projects contain different styles. It’s apparent Miller poured his heart into this one.

Miller died of an accidental drug overdose in September 2018, creating ripples in the realm of hip-hop and the music industry as a whole. Miller and his team were in the process of creating the project at the time of his passing, but his vision was never lost.

His family left a post on his Instagram stating, “This is a complicated process that has no right answer. No clear path. We simply know that it was important to Malcolm for the world to hear it.”

“Circles” carries a different sound in comparison to the rest of Miller’s discography. Miller burst into the scene as a charismatic rapper from Pittsburgh and began to gain some traction with his mixtape “K.I.D.S.” This tape was home to some fan favorites like “Nikes On My Feet” and “Knock Knock.”

With this final release, Miller’s career has finally come full circle. As he became a larger entity in hip-hop, his own artistic flare began to develop. As Miller grew, he began to write about topics many artists would struggle to put to paper. In today’s music lens, it’s clear he always possessed a strong share of versatility.

Living a free-spirited life was always something Miller preached to his fans. Despite his demons, his smile remained true, and he led a lot of his listeners out of darkness. “Circles” was the perfect bit of closure for him and his fanbase.

Miller worked closely with producer Jon Brion throughout the process of “Swimming.” Brion acted as the figure to carry out Miller’s vision with “Circles.” Brion has worked with artists of the likes of Missy Elliott, Kanye West, Beyoncé and many more. 

The slow-paced title track gets the ball rolling on the album. In this track, we hear Miller sing about being stuck in cycles everyday of his life. This sets the stage for him to tackle subjects surrounding his cluttered mind.  

Throughout his career, Miller blossomed in terms of lyricism, but his singing voice wasn’t fully established until this final turn of his career. “Circles” is the perfect intro track as Miller fills the room—or headphones—with his voice.

“Blue World” is an immediately gripping track with a cool little sample of The Four Freshmen’s,“It’s a Blue World.” But a trippy sample switch-up, courtesy of Disclosure’s Guy Lawrence, ties everything together as the first hook ensues. 

As the most hip-hop oriented song on the track, Miller’s artistry never seemed blurred. Themes regarding the ups and downs of life were heavily involved. Miller reminisces about the good times listening to music with his ex-girlfriend, pop star Ariana Grande.

This track displays a high production level and how Miller could really walk hand-in-hand with any sound his team threw at him.

“Good News” was dropped as the standalone single for the album, accompanied by the announcement of this final album’s release.

In this track, we hear Miller alluding to depression, a common topic in his last release, “Swimming.” The song begins with Miller following a light instrumental by saying, “I spent the whole day in my head.”

Miller was always a free-spirited character, and in this track, some of that energy seeps right through. Another line in the first verse reads, “Got the cards in my hand, I hate dealing, yeah,” alluding to Miller wishing he could just live a simple life rather than being an important figure and meaning so much to others.

Miller excelled vocally and lyrically in this track regarding past relationships. He sings on a delicate beat produced by Eric Dan and DAVID x ELI.  

This track is among the most unique tracks on the record. It’s clear the producers took working with Miller very seriously, as “Woods” makes up one of the many beautiful songs on “Circles.”

“Surf” was produced by Miller and Brion and acts as a perspective into the artist’s mental state. Miller discusses how he views himself and the self-esteem issues that clouded his judgement each day. 

Miller’s laid-back yet appealing singing voice compliments some beautiful sections filled with guitar playing. “Surf” stands out as one of the top performances on the project and acts as a great lead into the concluding track “Once A Day.”

This track was originally leaked in October at the “Mac Miller: A Celebration of Life” concert. The song acts as a wonderful conclusion and is the shortest track on “Circles,” less than three minutes in duration.  

Miller begins the final verse by saying, “Don’t keep it all in your head,” again, another allusion to mental health struggles. But this reference acts as a direct message to the listener, encouraging them to open up and talk about their struggles. 

Malcom McCormick displayed his dynamic talent through personal introspection in his music, and “Circles” was the perfect way to close out the legacy. Thank you for all you’ve done; rest up.

Final Verdict: 9/10