Mac Miller’s Circles, as of today, is the last album we will see from the deceased artist. Started before his death, this posthumous piece was co-produced by Jon Brion, a well-known name in music and production and friend of the late Miller. Brion had worked with Miller on his last album, an introspective collection named Swimming to much acclaim.
This 12-song album demonstrates Miller’s struggles with mental illness, while also representing an optimistic outlook on life itself. Miller’s sudden death in 2018 shocked many fans, and the music industry, as his impact on music was not expected to cease so suddenly.
Swimming, the album released shortly before Miller’s passing, has a familiar theme with Circles. Swimming demonstrated many symbols of dealing with mental illness, as well as coming to terms with one’s internal self. The album definitely showed Miller’s self-growth and discovery, while Circles can be seen as the cyclical end to Miller’s life and discography. The first song on the album, “Circles“, conveys Miller’s understanding of life’s circular nature, while also feeling as though his life is in a cycle in which he cannot escape. This can also be alluded back to Miller’s track “So it Goes” on Swimming, where he sings, “My God, it go on and on, Just like a circle, I go back to where I’m from”.
The second song on the album, “Complications“, delves into the complications of his life; he believes he is too young to be feeling as though life is so “complicated,”. He alludes to his “cluttered” brain, and how he wants life to be less complicated. The synthetic beat is an interesting switch from the last song, which comprised of a more soft instrumental sound. The following track on the album, “Blue World”, is personally one of our favorites. It was produced by Guy Lawrence, which explains the more synthetic sound the song has. The song pays tribute to his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, which is the first song on this album where we see Mac’s acknowledgements from former relationships. Miller talks about the daily stresses of life and how it has affected him. One of our favorite parts of the song is the beginning, where a chorus sings “It’s a blue world without you”, in this 40-50’s-esque style, and then it quickly switches to a synthetic beat where Miller begins his impactful lyrics.
The first single released from this album was “Good News”. The song truly symbolizes Miller’s attempt to better his mental state, as a form of spring cleaning, as he alludes to in the lyrics. Overall, and namely at this point, we see a much more upbeat and positive Mac Miller than we did with Swimming. But we also see a big change up from Miller’s roots. The synthesized sounds we hear from these early tracks are a pretty big departure from Miller’s usual sound, which tends to go towards jazzy, live instrumentation. This, however, is done to no small effect on Circles. While these songs feel new for Miller, they also feel right. We felt some elements were unusual for a Mac Miller album, such as the heavy electronic influence in the first half of the album, but the songs as a cohesive piece all scream Mac Miller.
The album starts to bring back a sound reminiscent of Swimming on the next cut, another personal favorite of ours, “Hand Me Downs”. This is the only song on the album with a feature, which is Baro Sura. This song demonstrates how Mac copes with all of the stress and chaos occurring inside his mental space. It features a more instrumental feel, with a softer beat. Its’ melodic tone is similar to other songs on the album, including the song “That’s On Me”. “That’s On Me” is lyrically impactful, as Mac talks about his feelings of guilt and accountability when it comes to his rocky mental health. This relatable track shows Miller’s vulnerable side, expressing his emotions and struggles with mental illness through his strong lyrics.
Surf alludes to his past relationships, while also demonstrating his perceived “craziness” to his listeners – Miller sings “So much of this world is above us, baby They might tell you that I went crazy” (Surf, Circles, 2020). This song also points to Miller’s attempts and desire to grow as a person, as well as showing how much he has grown over the years. This song, including many others, is heartbreaking to listen to because of Miller’s sudden overdose in 2018; his inability to be present for the production of this album, a tribute to his self-discovery, is crushing to many fans, new and old alike.
Circles overall as an album is a beautiful, instrumental piece with diverse tones mixed in; Brion’s production conveyed the familiarity of a Mac Miller album. The album’s cyclical nature and how it portrays Miller’s acceptance of himself as an artist and individual is an exceptional finale to Miller’s discography.
Fav Tracks: Hand Me Downs, Blue World, Good News
Written by Dasha Kvyatkovsky & Seyi Aladejobi