Review: Mac Miller’s ‘Circles’ gives closure to music career

Hailey Grubich, Feature Editor

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In the months leading up to his death from an accidental overdose in September 2018, Mac Miller was working on his sixth studio album, Circles. Composer-producer and former collaborator Jon Brionn took over the project after his passing, releasing the astounding album Jan. 17 on behalf of Miller. 

Miller imagined this album as a companion piece to his August 2018 post-heartbreak release, Swimming, as a play on the phrase ‘swimming in circles’. The albums paired together reflect on how struggling with depression can feel as if one is stuck in a continuous loop. Swimming takes on the heavier side of mental illness while Circles encapsulates a more optimistic tone.

Although it is unclear how much of the album Miller completed before his death, every song contains his unique brilliance. This album fully deviates from his past frat hip-hop style, bringing light to his melancholy low-fi beat, singer-songwriter side.

The plucked single “Good News” expresses how Miller couldn’t show his negative feelings around others close to him. The heavy chorus along with the ending lines, “There’s a whole lot more for me waiting on the other side/I’m always wondering if it feels like summer,” is devastating to listen to after his passing.

Well/This is what it looks like right before you fall,” begins the title track, “Circles”. This song bares instruments, featuring only bass, faint guitars, and subtle embellishments. This minimalistic style stays constant throughout the record, giving Miller’s message more power.

Circles serves as a gentle reminder that emotional pain doesn’t evaporate overnight. “You’re running low on regret, no tears that’s keeping you wet/I think you getting it now,” he reassures himself on the intimate “Once a Day”. He asks himself on “Complicated”, “For I start to think about the future/First can I please get through a day?”.  Each track exists as a form of therapy for Miller and his listeners, spreading hope that anyone can break the cycle. 

My personal favorites are “Blue World” and “Everybody”. A tiny hesitating sample serves as the backbone for “Blue World”, making the song addicting to listen to. “Blue World” relates to his earlier pop-rap style pieces with its catchy lyrics and repetitive chorus, but it still holds maturity. “Everybody” has a special place in my heart because of the chorus, “Everybody’s gotta live/And everybody’s gonna die.” This helps me come to terms with Miller’s passing as well as other hardships in my life. 

When an artist dies too soon, listeners analyze their work to find a deeper meaning. With Circles, you don’t have to look too closely–he lays all his emotions out for his listeners.

At the end of the day, fans simply hope that the album respects Miller and his family’s wishes. 

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