Album Review: "Swimming" by Mac Miller

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Two years ago, Mac Miller released an album titled “The Divine Feminine”. The album was believed to be inspired by his relationship with his then girlfriend, Ariana Grande. Her vocals were heard throughout the project and she was featured on the song “My Favorite Part”. This album was bright, upbeat and had an overall happy vibe. Fast forward to summer 2018. Miller’s relationship with Grande has ended and he has been in trouble with the law. Then drops “Swimming”, the album we all expected. (Sort of)

I don’t know about the rest of the hip-hop world, but as for myself, I was very interested in what Mac Miller’s album would sound like considering the drama surrounding him over the past year. I predicted that he would release a very sad/somber project compared to his previous one. I was essentially correct. After the first listen, I was quick to compare this project to J. Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only”. I say this because Mac Miller spent about 60 to 70 percent of the album singing as opposed to rapping. Cole did the same in his 2016 release and it was certainly a point of controversy. Both albums are on the sad side and are full of emotions. 

Just by glancing at the tracklist and seeing song titles such as “Hurt Feelings”, “What’s the Use?” and “Dunno”, it was quite clear what the tone of the album was going to be. On the other hand, the project wasn’t the “Woe is me” sobbing and sighing in the corner type of project I expected. The album has more of a hopeful feel to it. It’s as if Miller is saying yes I am sad and I’ve gone through a lot, but things are going to improve and tomorrow is a new day. 

Miller opens the album with the song “Come Back to Earth” as he sings “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send. And I got neighbors, they’re more like strangers we could be friends. I just need a way out of my head. I’ll do anything for a way out of my head.” This evokes the feeling of struggle and pain with no foreseeable way out. He ends the album with the song “So it Goes” as he sings “Well everybody gather round. I’m still standin, sit down. I know I’ve been out. Now I’m back in town.” This evokes hopefulness and the feeling that Miller will continue to stay strong and move forward despite the bad times. 

Miller isn’t afraid to get personal and vulnerable on the album such as in the songs “Self Care” and “2009”. In “Self Care”, Miller sings “I’m treatin me right”, showing that although he’s alone (perhaps he means single because of his breakup or maybe lonely in an even broader sense) he’s still able to find some happiness and focus on just taking care of himself. In the song “2009”, it is believed that Miller is rapping about the time in his life before he reached fame. He sings about being unsure about a lot during this time. Now that he has found success, that unsureness is gone.

While the album is filled with singing, it also has the same solid rapping and lyricism that we are accustomed to from Miller. This along with the myriad of instruments that are included throughout the album make for a well put together piece of work. Because of the sad tone, it will be hard to convince most that this project is better than “The Divine Feminine”; however, the argument can and will certainly be had. 

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