A full circle to an unfinished end

Mac Miller’s posthumous album, “Circles,” was released Jan. 17, 2020, almost two years after the rapper’s death in Sept. 2018. Created as a continuation from Miller’s last album “Swimming,” “Circles” dives into the lyrical and genre defying talent of Mac Miller.


by Aspen Cherrito, Multimedia Editor

Mac Miller’s album “Swimming” came out in the midst of my obsession with Mac Miller. I solely listened to him and with the influx of new music — my obsession grew even larger. When his unexpected death came on Sept. 7, 2018, I was left in shambles. I ate, slept and lived in my “92 till infinity” hoodie, a concept Mac’s family came up with to have his legacy live on, as 92 was his birth year. He was my most listened to artist of 2018; I can still recite all his lyrics. He was one of those artists who I knew would always have an impact on me.

Mac’s social media went active for the first time since his death in Sept. 2018, with an announcement from his family of a posthumous album titled “Circles.” A few unreleased tracks have leaked since Mac’s death, but a new album release was something I never thought would happen.

“Good News,” the first single released from the album, was met with a surplus of positive support. From the musical video to the lyrics, it gave me a sense of peace, almost as if he was still here. “Good News” paints an image of Mac’s mind before his death, that he was attempting to escape his self-doubt and pity. It felt as if after the success of “Swimming” he saw the light, that he knew “there’s a whole lot for me waiting,” as he says in the song.

Before “Circles” dropped, I relistened to “Swimming,” and saw various hints to the concept of a continuation album I’ve never really noticed before. In “So It Goes,” the last song on “Swimming,” Mac closes with the lyrics “Just like a circle, I go back to where I’m from.” It gave me a bit of an eerie feeling knowing that he was already a few months into recording “Circles” before his death but was never able to fully finish it. It made the album even more personal knowing how long he had this idea in mind.

My overall favorite songs from the album would have to be “Circles” and “Hand Me Downs.” Being the first song off the album, “Circles” starts off lyrically right where “So It Goes” ends, alluding to the circle concept — “I just end up right at the start of the line, drawing circles.” The song feels raw and almost unfinished but intentional. With a basic instrumental, heartfelt lyrics and Mac’s voice stripped down, it’s the most personal song on “Circles” in my opinion.

“Hand Me Downs” gives a more soulful tone. With Mac’s raspy vocals and lack of rapping, it doesn’t feel like a song from a rap artist, rather something you would hear in a late night coffee shop. A feature from artist Baro Sura, an artist who Mac spoke about wanting to collaborate with, adds a smoothness to Mac’s raspy voice. “Hand Me Downs” gives a similar vibe to various other songs on the album such as “Surf.” In contrast, songs such as “Blue World” and “I Can See,” bring me back to “The Divine Feminine” era of Mac, with a more laid back type of vibe.

In an odd way, it feels as if Mac knew this was going to be his last album. In lyrics such as “Some people say they want to live forever, I just want to live through the day without any complications” in ”Complications,”his death becomes a bittersweet moment. Although he is gone, we know he is in a better place. Mac did something I feel a lot of artists fail to do in an authentic manner — turn depression into music. Although listening to the album knowing he is gone is painful, in a way it’s bittersweet. It feels like a goodbye letter from an old friend letting you know that they are doing alright.

Overall, I’d rate the album 5/5. Since it was posthumous, it felt different than past Mac projects. It wasn’t perfect, but it was raw and real. “Circles” was a few months from being finished, so it was still in the early stages. Jon Brion, the producer who was working on the album with Mac before he died, finished the album by incorporating Mac’s pure emotion and a glimpse inside his dreamlike mind that was forever changing.

While doing research for this review, I stumbled across a comment on Mac’s song “Everybody.” The commenter wrote, “Mac didn’t die, he became music,” and I can’t agree more. There is no doubt that Mac Miller was talented. I was never a huge fan of rap before him, but he opened up a door into producing and lyrical writing I don’t think I would have ever grown to love as much as I have. Although the project wasn’t finished before Mac died, it still felt authentically like him. From the visuals to the production, it felt like he was living through his music and will always be “Swimming in Circles,” thanks to his last two albums.