Mac Miller’s Circles Comes Full Circle

Miller’s Last Album Circles Is a Fitting Finale to the Icon’s Unexpected Passing

Bobby Sweeney and Ben Vastola

Mac Miller’s latest album Circles is a fitting finale to the icon’s unexpected passing, offering the listener a window into his mind and mental state. 

Miller’s posthumous album Circles was released on January 17, by Warner Records. The album was nearly completed by Miller before he passed in September 2018 of an accidental drug overdose, and was completed by Miller’s friend and producer Jon Brion. 

The album was previewed by a heartfelt social media post from the rapper’s family and Brion, announcing the album’s release. Soon after the album’s announcement, “Good News” was released as a single. A melancholy track with plucking strings and dreamy guitars, “Good News” served as a perfect introduction to Miller’s introspective lyrics that discuss his bad habits, the pressures of stardom, and expectations he faced from his fans and the media.

In the years prior to his death, the Pittsburgh rapper transformed the music industry as his music developed from anthems of youth to deep and thoughtful creations. The Divine Feminine (2016) and Swimming (2018) were the last albums he released before his death. Swimming was an intimate album  that clued many of his fans in to Miller’s struggles with mental health.

Many of the lyrics found on Swimming focus on his road to redemption while looking at past regrets. The result of these touching lyrics, which focus on subjects spanning from the feeling of being used during a crumbling relationship on tracks such as “Dunno” to liberating anthems that celebrate the feeling of looking forward towards the future such as “Jet Fuel,” is a haunting feeling of Miller turning towards recovery right before his untimely death.

Circles serves as a companion piece to his last album Swimming, seemingly continuing themes of feeling lost, mental health, and Miller’s search for closure and tranquility.

Circles borrow similar themes from Swimming, as the listener looks through the lens of Miller’s untimely passing. The lyrics suggest that Miller was growing closer to finding peace with himself before his death. Miller is on the edge of finding comfort with himself but not without instances of depression, regret, and the pressures of stardom. Themes focus on the long journey to closure and acceptance of oneself along with themes of falling back into bad habits and tripping over past mistakes, running in circles.

On Circles, bouncy, braggadocious anthems come in short supply. Instead, the album favors more dreamy, synth-led introspective tracks. Minimal musician features cause the album to feel more personal and close. Some tracks in the album go so far as to only include Miller rapping over an acoustic guitar, and these more personal songs to sound more like an experimental indie rock ballad than a rap song.  

Circles displays the internal struggles that followed Miller towards the end of his life. 

The album ends a great musician’s discography with a melancholic, reflective final album, cementing his role as an icon in experimental rap.