Image from complex.com
This post was published on nerdyscoop.com.
Back in 2016, Mac Miller released a single that could only have been appropriate for the scorching Summer season of that year. The single Dang!, featuring Anderson .Paak, was a luscious, groovy anthem that brought along a lot of memories during that season. During the start of the Fall season of the same year, Miller released his full-length project featuring the infamous single. Although the album was a decent portrayal of his talents, the project sold a multitude of copies nonetheless.
With Miller’s commercial status reigning along with Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples, and his former partner Ariana Grande, it was strange that this project was not getting much of any preceding attention before it’s release. I had figured out about this album by the weekend it was released on nearly every streaming platform. In a basic notion, this album was an enhancement of the last album, The Divine Feminine, although kept its same formula, strengths, tripes, and flaws. The album is a deluge of sweet, melancholy, tumultuous and pretty sounds and concepts that Miller is known for.
Swimming could essentially personify Miller’s character. Miller’s artistic persona portrayed himself loosely as a hopeless romantic and a pure-hearted cynic. With The Divine Feminine, Miller’s character was the typical narrator that you’d expect from his eager personality, but the themes of love and lust were the main focus of the narrative. With songs like Stay, which allowed Miller’s lustrous rage to speak for him, the songs in the album acted mostly like a gathering of love letters.
These songs weren’t anything new or provocative, but the album had its moments of sweet harmony and celebratory sessions. On this album, the same concepts narrate the songs, but more coming from a sober and focused Miller. Compared to the likes of Sweatshirt and Staples, Miller is more laissez-faire with his music and more frivolous in his attitude. Over the years, Miller had been culling attention from the listening mass due to his care-free and seemingly benign personality.
Swimming appropriately portrays these characteristics of his. In the first track, Come Back To Earth, Miller seems to be sobering up from his relentless romanticism from the last album, by which the title could serve as the pseudonym for this approach to the maturing attitude. In actuality, Miller croons about his desire “for a way out” from the spiritless copulations with “strangers and potential neighbors.”
The first handful of tracks here are definitely a grand opening for the album itself. The next song, Hurt Feelings, is an airy, Trap-influenced banger. Although I wouldn’t really compare Miller’s lyricism to the likes of Kendrick or Jay-Z, I preferred how his prose fit well into this track. The portion where he poetically exclaimed about cruising through the city during the nighttime fits perfectly with the ethereal vibrations this song contains. The next song in the tracklist is my personal favorite. What’s the Use? follows the now-trending sound of Jazz and ethereal Dance music mired into Rap music, which Miller has been utilizing very well lately. This song was in part produced by the omnipotent talent from bassist and producer Thundercat.
From that point on, the album slows down from there. In terms of sound play, the tracks attempt to become more spacious and warping, but at some points, the succession can feel a little dull. The song Ladders picks it up a bit by following the catchy one-two step pattern that What’s the Use? held. Although with the slight dreariness of these beats, this is where Miller’s stories come into linear concentration. Conversation Pt. 1 speaks about a female character, or maybe a vague persona, of how Miller feels about his partners just sitting around and “getting faded.” In Jet Fuel, Miller momentarily strays away from the path of love into more introspective evocation. Although Miller doesn’t rap too much about the other aspects of his life recently, it doesn’t seem out of place for him to delve into sentimentality.
Especially in his earlier projects, Miller just seems like a good character to being a typical and self-assured character. This song acts as a homage to his more humble upbringing in the music scene before reaching superstardom. The track 2009 has a gorgeous orchestral opening going a minute in before Miller heads into his R&B prose, with the standard Soul snaps and piano chords that could be compared to the earlier music of Trey Songz or Akon. I would call this a dull move if it weren’t for my opinion of this being my favorite Miller lyrics in a while. Miller looks into his own hope and content with this track, and the production only enhances that sweet feeling. He can always act self-assured, but this song exposes him being in tune with the existential themes of being valuable versus being happy.
When it comes to the production and feel of the album, this isn’t far too different from The Divine Feminine. Just like that album, this had its bangers, soul tracks, dance rhythms, and onslaughts of love letters and cautious tales. Although this seems just some sort of construed replication, it doesn’t feel safe. It’s harder than it looks to tell a thoughtful story through clever wordplay while trying to find a different yet relatable sound to add onto it. You could tell when comparing the two albums that Miller used the same production elements and themes, but just slightly writhed and contorted. I don’t blame Mac Miller from taking this route, but I know from his previous projects, he could have done better.
That may be a vague statement into assessing how much different is Swimming from The Divine Feminine? It depends. Are you more of a hopeless or hopeful romantic?