'What's with all the hoopla?' is a series where I do some quick analysis on albums old and new that I feel are conversation generators. The inspiration came from writing exercises where I take track-by-track notes on an album, summarize my thoughts in a journal entry and write a script meant for short voice tweets. The written portion below is the script. Use the link to go the Tweet. I'd love to hear your own thoughts and have a conversation about these albums I'll be thinking about critically!
This was a really difficult album to sit with for this exercise. When I was first introduced to Mac Miller, I felt as externally carefree and lighthearted as K.I.D.S. or Blue Slide Park but, as I grew older and life got a bit heavier, my troubles always found a parallel in the progression of Mac's music. When I say I grew up with Mac, I feel that in the most literal sense possible. When he passed, it somehow felt like loosing an outlet of my own self expression that I had turned to for a decade. That caused me to put a lot of weight on Circles. I didn't just want to hear Mac again, I needed closure. I needed him to say something that would make sense as an ending, even though my own growth isn't over. With that being said, I'm not sure how much of the album's sense of resolution comes from my desire for resolution and Jon Brion's post-mortem assembly of the project or from Mac's actual state of resolution.
Throughout Circles, Mac's reflections are steeped in the weight of an inescapable consciousness, but also an acceptance of the weight, not as a burden, but as pieces of what has made him the person he is — a person he loves through and through despite his ongoing flaws and the exhaustion that burden imposes.
On "Complicated" he recognizes that he carries a lot of troubles for one so young but, rather than pine after a life removed from these troubles, he expresses the maturity of adjusting his life to allow for them to coexist with his happiness. On "Good News" he raps about appearing outwardly satisfied to the benefit of the people that love him, and summons the energy to act on that compulsion. On "Everybody," he sings "Everybody's gotta live, I think you know the reason why," because even at the lowest points we still feel an unexplainable desire to keep going. On "That's On Me," he accepts that he has the power to help himself but understands how difficult it is to actually claim that power, so he doesn't self-criticize himself for not reaching that perfect state. In each example, he's resigned to stop fighting his inner turmoil but find healthy ways to live with it for the benefit of himself and his loved ones.
I think the reason that "Hand Me Downs" hits me the hardest out of any song on the album is because by this point Mac feels so, so tired. Although I don't read it as the same fatigue that comes with defeat, but the exhaustion of ending a journey. It sounds like he's found peacefulness a the end of life's great adventure, even though we're allowed to be sad that it's over.
If Circles is supposed to be some kind of patchwork window into the resolution of Mac's life then what do we see? He's finally happy with himself in imperfection. He took all of his troubles in as a part of himself and found the best way to live with them. He didn't lose any desire to keep going almost in spite of them. At least that's the resolution that that can continue to grow with me even if Mac's soundtrack stops here.
"Music is a beautiful thing."
- Malcom McCormick