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Album Review: Mac Miller ‘Swimming’

2018 has been a year of top notch musical releases thus far. Albums from hip hop heavyweights such as Nipsey Hussle, J. Cole, Drake, Migos, Kanye West, and so many more, make it that much harder to stick around. High music consumption playing a huge factor in being blindly swept under the rug after the first week or two of release. Mac Miller does his best sink or swim rendition in the form of Swimming. The highly anticipated follow up to 2016’s The Divine Feminine (a highly underrated gem); Mac once again diaries the life of a man open and unafraid no matter the consequence.

Setting the table for listeners, somber woes best describe Swimmings’ opening track “Come Back to Earth”.  

“My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send … I just need a way out, I’ll do anything for a way out”.

No holds barred, the MC subtly addresses his turbulent year over soft strings and synth likening his mishaps to drowning. Pure soul barring becoming a welcomed means of healing for Miller. Swimming isn’t nearly as fun as earlier releases from the Pittsburgh native, yet he manages to crack a ugly truth bearing smile on jazzy cuts “What’s The Use” and “Ladders”.  

No stranger to the no feature clause, Mac taps J.Cole for production on “Hurt Feelings”. Beginning his KOD-esq 13 step program, he somewhat convincingly comes to grips with his self inflicted anguish while embracing change — “It’s only just begun”.  Constantly talking himself off the ledge, he serves as his own voice of reasoning toying with decisive vocal inflections to do so.

photo via Reddit
photo via Rap Favorites

With his severed relationship to pop star Ariana Grande being the undeniable elephant in the room, his resurrection plays as a hour long therapy session.  Treading water, Mac courageously shines through indifference aided by a striped down beat switch on “Perfecto”. Mournful violins soon setting the lonely mood, the once “Cinderella” story turns sour — “Tell me you love me, spin me around, pretty please pick me up in the air don’t put me down / Seen it all unfold, sat back and watched, knowing time don’t give a f*** about clocks until they stop … ”.  

Outright battling depression, Mac develops a detectable defense mechanism by way of advance and retreat.  Picking up the broken pieces, “Self Care” & “Wings” become melodic confessionals vowing to treat himself right through triumphant yodels.  When things seem to get better, misery rears back its ugly head via “Small Worlds”; scornful blues once again creating an egotistical masterpiece.  Basking in the darkness, self absorbed lines of : “Nobody knows me oh well, hard to complain in this five star hotel”, raise eyebrows when he contemplates death — “Don’t wanna grow old so I smoke just in case”.  Condemning his selfish ways when adopting the extended song pattern; Mac’s dual perspectives take you on a rollercoaster ride of thoughts and emotion — “Yeah nine times out of ten I get it wrong, that’s why I wrote this song / Told myself hold on …”.

Reminiscent of the past, “Dunno” is a unrequited love song, while “Jet Fuel” snatches him back to his sedated pompous reality.  Coming to a beautiful end, “2009” & “So It Goes” are distinguishable final additions to Swimming. Level headedly venturing off, he comes to mandatory terms with his sealed fate singing: “Now all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind / She don’t even cry no more, she tell me that I get her high cause an angel’s s’posed to fly and I ain’t asking why no more … It ain’t 2009 no more, Yeah I know what’s behind that door. ”.  What resembles his weakness drives his superpower.

Narcissism and humility both necessary, Mac’s truthful yet fallible nature lifts Swimming to potential Album of the Year conversations.  Even while ditching the raps and boom bap beats for painstaking singy blues over peaceful symphonies, he does so with vocal certainty. Doing his ultimate best to convince himself that he’ll surely be okay.  Effortlessly inking it his most introspective album to date.

Darnell Schoolfield | contributor

Nell is an established writer with years of experience contributing to the building of brands through journalism, web building, brand management, and artistry. Follow him on Twitter.

August 10, 2018

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