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Mac Miller – Swimming, staying afloat

Mac Miller’s Swimming is his fifth studio album that was released on August 3, 2018. Earlier on in the summer he released 3 singles: Buttons, Programs, and Small Worlds. Small Worlds is the only one that appears on the album however. This album is by far the most vulnerable Mac Miller has ever been in his music, following his breakup with long-time girlfriend Ariana Grande. While the message is different, Swimming does have some commonalities with the Divine Feminine, his fourth studio work released in 2016. The Divine Feminine was a soulful love album, much of which was devoted to Ariana Grande. So clearly Swimming has a different theme, but both albums deal with self growth and shows a young artist maturing and falling in and out of love much like the rest of us. 

The title Swimming is an interesting choice. One way to view swimming in water as actively not drowning, or actively not dying by staying afloat. This is a good snapshot into what he has gone through since his breakup and how he is staying afloat and trying to achieve personal growth and trudging through the healing process. 

            Swimming thrives on its soulful production and funk influences, including production help from Flying Lotus, Dâm-Funk, and J. Cole, amongst others. There are no features on the album but there is some vocal help and writing from Thundercat, Syd, and J.I.D. to name a few. These contributors attribute their own funk styles to Mac Miller’s work. One of the most impressive things that Miller does on the album is let the music tell the story. He doesn’t rush out his lyrics hastily, he’s patient. Instead of loading up the album with lyrics he lets the instrumentals and production play out and speak for him. He is fully aware of the impact of the instrumentals and the feelings that they evoke, so he simply lets it breath and flourish. For example, tracks 2009, Jet Fuel, and Wings are great about letting the beat play.  

            Some notable songs are What’s the Use?, Wings, and Ladders, just to choose a few. What’s the Use? Is a funky song with help from Syd, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat. This track isn’t so much about his lost love but about his struggles with alcohol and drug use over the years. With the end of the chorus being “Never superficial you don’t know it when it hit you, Get a little sentimental when I’m off the juice” Juice would most likely refer to alcohol, considering he was also arrested for DUI earlier this year. It’s important to note that the DUI occurred in May, which is around the same time him and Ariana Grande broke up.  Wings is a track about his recovery from losing love and how he has pushed through. Now, he has his wings and the only way is up. Ladders is all about “what goes up, must come down.” No matter how high you climb, the drop only gets bigger and bigger. It’s scary to climb, but you still have to. In the refrain, Miller sings, “I wouldn’t wait forever, just shoot your shot, we don’t need no more, no extras, we all we got” Miller is saying that there’s no reason to be afraid, and that you miss every shot you don’t take.

            While Miller’s new project is a solid synth and soul powerhouse, it’s safe to assume many older fans of his may be ostracized by his maturation. He’s much tamer and more thoughtful than his older works. Many fans may be a bit disappointed as he has moved away from his previous, more brash rap albums. 

New TunesZach McSwain