From the opening bass line of the track, “Circles” to the abrupt ending of the closing track, “Once a Day,” Mac Miller takes us on an intimate journey into the deepest parts of his mind. Circles is Mac Miller’s sixth studio album.
It’s hard to get into the mindset of reviewing this album as just a body of work because of Miller’s untimely passing on Sept. 7, 2018, but I’m going to do my best.
After listening to his previous album Swimming, you could tell that Mac was going through some stuff, especially because of the events leading up to the release of the album. Miller was charged with a DUI following a car crash during May of 2018.
“It was the best thing that could have happened…I needed that,” Miller said during an interview with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 in July of 2018. Miller goes on to say that up until that point he had gone through life feeling invincible.
He said that he had been living life with no consequences.
Circles begins with the track under the same name, and immediately the bass line invites you to join in on the journey. Miller uses the opening line to talk directly to you as if you were one of his close friends standing with him taking in a moment together. “Well, this is what looks like right before you fall. Stumblin’ around, you been guessing your direction. Next step you can’t see at all.”
The song is constructed with a constant bass line and soft percussion in the background accompanied by some soft synth sounds. The production of the track really entices the listener to sit down and relax; to take it all in.
With the line in the second verse, “Don’t put any more stress on yourself, it’s one day at a time,” you wonder if Mac is writing that line to someone or if it is directed at himself. Was he trying to get himself through a difficult time in his life?
There are so many lyrics that strike a chord with me on different levels from every song on the album. One of those moments occurs on the second track, “Complicated.”
“Some people say they want to live forever. That’s way too long, I’ll just get through today.”
This line is relatable on many levels. I know I have been on both sides of that lyric. I’ve been the guy who wants to make a difference and live forever, and there have been days where all I’ve wanted to do is make it through a tough day, crawl back to bed and go to sleep.
“Good News,” was the only song released prior to the album’s release, and once again Miller uses an inviting, peaceful bass line and other strum-like sounds to set the dream-like tone.
His soft tone of voice throughout gives the impression of defeat. Mac sounds defeated while delivering each line throughout the song. Toward the end of the track, he delivers what might be the toughest lines to ingest throughout the entire album.
“There’s a whole lot more for me waiting on the other side. I’m always wondering, if it feels like summer. I know maybe I’m too late, I could make it there some other time. Then I’ll finally discover. That there’s a whole lot more for me waiting.”
Another one of these crushing lyrics comes during the track, “Woods.” Once again, Miller and the production team begin the song with atmospheric tones. Allowing you to get lost in the scene, bringing you deeper and deeper into the mind and feelings of the artist himself.
Then, the first words are delivered with the same gentle, confident tone you grow accustomed to hearing throughout the album.
“Yeah, things like this ain’t built to last. I might just fade like those before me.”
The closing track, “Once a Day” holds a very basic, dream-like beat that takes you away for one last ride. Once again, he uses his lyrics to bring home the theme of the album. With lines like, “I wonder what they know. I wonder if they ever even cared at all. I wonder, do they see their own reflection in the rain and look away?”
Circles is a tough listen, especially if you were a fan of the direction Mac was heading in as an artist. To me, this was the best project he ever put out there, and it’s devastating knowing that he won’t have the opportunity to progress any further.
Miller was one of many who dealt with problems on their own. As he said during the title track, “I cannot be changed, I cannot be changed, no. Trust me I’ve tried. I just end up right at the start of the line. Drawing circles.”