ALBUM REVIEW: Mac Miller- Swimming
Writer: Kyle Wheelock
Ladies and gentlemen, easy Mac with the cheesy raps is back with his 5th studio album, Swimming. Full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Mac Miller, I personally believe that from 2012-15, he had an unbelievable run of projects where he felt untouchable. Macadellic, WMWTSO, Faces, Delusional Thomas, and Stolen Youth with Vince Staples were all amazing bodies of work, and to me they established Mac Miller as a gifted musician. However, all this being said, I wasn’t the biggest fan of his most recent album, The Divine Feminine. I get why he made it, and I know it’s his highest charting album to date (at the time of writing anyway), I get the appeal to songs like, “Dang!,” and, “Cinderella,” which are good, but considering his past discography, I walked away kind of unimpressed.
I don’t have a problem with the subject matter on that album at all, but it just didn’t feel like he went as in depth with any of it as he really could’ve. Combined with the fact that I personally felt like Mac was trying too often to sing outside of his range, and what I got was ten tracks of missed opportunities, which in itself was disappointing as Mac had JUST come out with GO:OD AM exactly 363 days before.
So, with all of that in mind, when Mac broke up with Ariana Grande (which I only mention because it absolutely influenced this album) I was curious as to how dark this album would sound; would it be drug induced and at times depressing like WMWTSO was? The answer: kind of, but not really. Mac was at a really dark point in his life and not as mature as he is now when he released that album, so that sound won’t really show up anywhere again but honestly that’s ok, because the sound we get on Swimming is probably his best since GO:OD AM, maybe even since Faces.
On May 30th of this year, Mac spontaneously released three singles, “Small Worlds,” “Buttons,” and, “Programs,” the former of which ended up on Swimming. “Small Worlds,” and, “Buttons,” are both familiar, smooth and jazzy tracks with more introspective raps that show Mac’s continued growth not only as a musician, but as a person as well. They’re both very mellow, and the singing Mac tries to do on them is very minimal and within his range, opposite of The Divine Feminine, which got my hopes up again for what this next album would sound like.
And wouldn’t you know it, that’s more or less exactly what we got, thirteen tracks of Mac basically apologizing, admitting his faults, and pulling himself up by his bootstraps. The opening song, aptly titled, “Come back to Earth,” starts with the lines, “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn't send.” Yeah, it’s one of those albums. This song, as well as the following track, “Hurt Feelings,” establish the themes of both Mac’s life at the moment, and this album: self-love, healing, and growth. The third song, “What’s the Use?” despite its title, is (musically) one of the more livelier moments on the album, it has a very groovy and kind of funky rhythm to it that reminds me a lot of, “Dang.”
The track, “Perfecto,” further lets us as listeners in on Mac’s mindset as he pulls himself together after this breakup, this theme of swimming in his issues and his voices, instead of drowning in them. Lyrically, this album is already on par with GO:OD AM, with Mac back in his pocket and doing what he does best, which is just rap is real life and what’s really going on around him. However, by this point, I had started to notice that a) there aren’t really any features, neither singing or rapping and (b) all the tracks, production wise, feel very samey; with the exception of the aforementioned, “ What’s the Use,” and the seventh track, “Ladders,” a lot of these songs are stripped back, mellow, and jazzy, there aren’t any bangers, no 808’s in your face, no fast tempos.
I’ll be honest, as I got closer and closer to the end of this album, I started comparing the production to J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only, which also had the same at times sleepy production on it, which a lot people outside of Cole’s fanbase hated. So be warned, this album doesn’t really have a break from the admittedly at times dull beats which can get monotonous over the course of roughly 60 minutes of music. Granted, I think the lyrics on Swimming are maybe more relatable and less, “woke,” than Cole was on 4YEO, which might help keep listeners invested in what Mac has to say, but I can’t say it’ll save the entire album for you if that’s not your thing.
As I said earlier, I’m a Mac Miller fan, I’m always going to tune into what he has to say, and even at his worst, his music will still get at least a few plays from me. But, if you’ve never listened to a Mac Miller project, or if you have and just don’t see the appeal, then proceed with caution, because lyrically Mac is as personal and clever with his rhymes as ever, but the subject matter and production are still very one dimensional.
I feel bad reducing the album down to just two paragraphs like that, because while it can lose your attention at times, it really is a solid album from Mac Miller that shows he still has the creativity that was present on his earlier work like WMWTSO and Faces, and that he isn’t afraid to lay everything out in the open like he did on those two albums. There aren’t any moments outside of maybe, “Ladders,” where Mac is just spitting bar after bar after bar like I’m used to, but there are signs of growth and maturity. I don’t rate albums by what they intended to do, but how the executed on their intentions, and Swimming (at least to me) executed flawlessly. I got what Mac was going for, and listening to the thirteen tracks here had me rooting for the guy like this was a Rocky montage.
TL;DR I like it, it can get repetitive, but otherwise still pretty good
Highlights: “What’s the Use,” “Self Care,” “Ladders,” “Small World,” and, “2009,”