Mac Miller's 'Circles': This is How to Do a Posthumous Album

Mac Miller's Good News music video

Circles, the final album from Malcom James McCormick, better known as Mac Miller, was posthumously released Friday, combining the artist’s iconic vocals with new, experimental sounds. Circles acts as a companion to Miller’s 2018 Swimming, an album showcasing the artist’s self-growth. The Pittsburgh-born rapper died of a drug overdose in September of 2018.

An Instagram post on Mac Miller’s official account describes the composition and the process of completing it. Miller was already in the process of recording the album when he passed. Jon Brion, a producer on some of his previous projects, was involved with the production of Circles and was determined to complete the record after Miller’s death. In the heartfelt note posted to his Instagram, his family wrote, “After his passing, Jon dedicated himself to finishing Circles based on his time and conversations with Malcolm.”

The album is significant for a number of reasons. Circles is a conclusion to his journey as a person and as an artist. Miller was known for his warm-hearted personality and incredible talent. His discography includes six studio albums as well as many singles and collaborations over the decade.

Miller’s posthumous album starts with a mellow, thoughtful track. The opener, titled "Circles," directly ties with the last song of "Swimming." "Circles" begins with the lyrics, “Well, this is what it look like right before you fall.” The whole album is very fitting with the rapper’s death.

Throughout the album, the style of the music varies. For example, tracks like “Blue World” are very upbeat with in-your-face instrumentals while others like “Good News” feature plucked strings and light drums. Songs like “Everybody” sound similar to the Beatles thanks to fast moving percussion and bright piano chords.

Beyond the instrumentation, Mac Miller’s gravelly vocals perform some beautiful melodies. The lyrics on the LP explore deep, sometimes gloomy, ideas. Tracks like “Woods” have a groovy feel but feature darker themes of heartbreak. On “I Can See,” Mac sings about dreaming and questioning reality on top of a flowy, pillowy sound.

Circles as an album marks the end of Miller’s exciting, ever-changing musical journey. Over the last 10 years, he has challenged the sound of rap and hip-hop as well as evolved his sound into more jazzy, soulful R&B as seen on this album. As music critic Anthony Fantano put it in his review, “His fans couldn’t have asked for a better musical send-off.”

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