They always felt unnatural. Released, in theory, without an artist’s permission, post-humous albums tend to transmit a mix of greed from both the undetected capitalism of the music industry, and an unrivalled clinginess of music stans. Once an artist dies, that’s it, we have the legacy they created and that’s all we get.
Mac Millers Circles was released on the January 17th 2020, roughly 16 months after his death from an accidental overdose. Announced by Miller’s family, they stated how Circles was a well-developed companion to Mac’s prior album Swimming. Swimming in Circles. Both albums had been solely produced by himself and Jon Brion. Brion finished the project and, with the blessing of the family, Circles was released.
The album is comprised of twelve, all of which delve into Mac’s big-picture perspectives on life. Mac speaks about the never-ending trials and tribulations of life on songs such as Complicated. He tells us to take things "one day at a time" in the song 'Circles'. He covers Arthurs Lee’s 1972 ballad ‘Everybody’s Gotta Loose’, a vessel for Miller to discuss the fluctuation of success and happiness.
Astonishing genre-bending capabilities aren’t anything new to Miller. Jazz influenced hip-hop felt like Mac’s forte. In Circles, we witness his approach to other genres, creating less of a hip-hop album and more of a singer/songwriter collective. Waltz infusion in ‘That’s On Me’ shows Millers ability to consistently diversify his range. Barbershop Quartets guide us through ‘Blue World’ as well. Miller’s voice paired with just a guitar, Surf reminds us why mac miller transcends the label ‘rapper’ and instead has become an unceasing artist, soaring even when stripping back to minimalist production.
Knowing that Miller’s family felt it was a "process with no right answer" but that Malcolm would have "wanted the world to see it", felt reassuring. I can’t help but wonder how I would have listened to Circles if it wasn’t for Miller’s untimely death. Sometimes harrowing, but always beautiful, Circles the goodbye we all needed.