“Circles”: Mac Miller’s Final Installment


Courtesy of Shot by Drew (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Putting his all into his music, Mac Miller performs on a stage in Toronto, Canada in 2012 after the release of his mix-tape "Macadelic". Mac Miller released five studio albums before his death on Sept. 7, 2018. "Circles" was released after his death on Jan. 17, 2020.

Toni Elton, Editor In Chief

A legacy that continues to permeate even after the loss of one of this generation’s most talented artists, “Circles” is the sixth studio album produced by Mac Miller and released posthumously in January of this year. Producer Jon Brion, after having worked with Mac Miller for several years, was approached by Miller’s family with the idea of releasing the album he’d been planning to release after “Swimming”. Brion took on the task with Miller and his family in mind. He had heard Miller play some of the songs for him while they were working on “Swimming”, but others were new to his ears. Brion worked with the vocals and foundations of the music that Miller had produced, then adjusted certain chords and added instrumentation along with the help of other performers, just as he would have done if he was alive now. In an interview with Vulture Magazine Brion stated:  I didn’t do a hell of a lot except make sure that, sonically, it was like the stuff we talked about.” In that same interview, Biron voiced, “The only thing I care about is people getting to hear it. The people who are affected by it have the benefit of being affected by his insight and his articulation. Everything else doesn’t matter.” He hit the nail on the head with that one. After Mac’s passing, I was devastated. Having been a fan since the release of “Blue Slide Park” in 2011 (or maybe even before then in 2010 with the release of “Kids”) I couldn’t grasp the reality of his death and the dejection that consumed me. To me, Mac Miller was not just a talented musician and performer, but an inspirational and gifted writer to whom I looked up to. His progression as an artist was inspiring to me and many others, and the release of “Circles” allowed for the closure that many fans needed.

The album all together is not only an impressive contribution to the music industry but also a true piece of art that displays the total progression of Mac Miller’s career and artistic maturity. Miller experimented with his vocals and produced lyrics that were simultaneously relatable and deeply personal. Miller’s lyrics have always been a look into his personal life and emotional struggles, and with “Circles” it allowed listeners to understand the headspace he was in before his death, which made each song like a double-sided sword: reassuring yet melancholic. The jazz and funk-influenced rhythms of the songs pair perfectly with the lyrics in order to truly convey Miller’s inner emotions and mental state of a dream-like world hindered by complications with reality. “I ain’t comin’ down, why would I need to? So much of this world is above us, baby, They might tell you that I went crazy” (Surf). Miller poetically conveys his desire to escape along with his struggles to overcome the emotions that occupied his mind. “Well, maybe I should wake up instead, A lot of things I regret, but I just say I forget” (Good News).

With “K.I.D.S” and “Blue Slide Park” Miller exemplified his youthful eagerness as an aspiring artist. Once he gained popularity in the music scene, the mix-tape “Macadelic” sent him on tour and immersed him into the public eye. “Watching Movies with the Sound Off” in 2013 evoked his drug-induced state, with dark lyrics and unhinged beats and vocal experimentation. “GO:OD AM” was Miller getting back to his roots, rapping from the heart and connecting through collaborations with various artists. “The Divine Feminine” bridges Miller from his party going, drug-abusing persona to a more sensitive and introspective artist. Then comes “Swimming”. With this album, Miller displays his total transition from a naive and ambitious rapper to a fully formed and talented artist that infuses various genres while staying dedicated to his style in order to craft a tone that is carried out through the entire album. With “Circles” Miller continues to craft a certain tone that allows listeners to be welcomed into his own head space-a place where he goes to escape and unravel the aspects of life that add weight to his back. “Inside my head is gettin’ pretty cluttered (cluttered, cluttered), I tried but can’t clean up this mess I made, ‘Fore I start to think about the future, First, can I please get through a day?”

I deeply respect everything that this album is and Miller’s career as an artist and producer in its entirety. With each album he has produced, his fans have been able to see him grow into the admirable writer, musician, and producer that he’ll forever be remembered as. “Circles” is the final installment of the Miller franchise and it is one that holds up as a commendable album that blends genres and blurs the lines between mind and reality, present and future, realism and escapism. Mac was a talented artist with the potential to do even greater things with his music. “Circles” is truly a gift to those that looked up to him and will forever be treasured as the last mark of the rapper that influenced an entire generation. Rest in peace Malcolm McCormick, Easy Mac, The Kid Mac Miller, Macadellic, Mac Miller. Your life will forever be remembered through the impact of your music.