For someone so convinced and vocal about the idea he was stuck in perpetuity, Mac Miller has defined himself through his capacity for redefinition. Salient in self-awareness and rawness, Circles is a testament to Miller’s honesty with himself and with his audience.
Circles is a masterful and technical mix of the vibes of old-school hip hop with contemporary motifs. Dynamic and moving, Miller takes us through the inner workings of his mind — anxieties, wishes, wants, dreams, and fears. Circles is coloured by a dreamlike and ambient tonality, textured by stereophonics. Miller implores listeners to consider everything between the hopeful and the helpless.
In the single “Good News”, Miller expresses that “Maybe I’ll lay down for a little, yeah / ‘Stead of always trying to figure everything out / And all I do is say, “Sorry” / Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m sayin’ it about.” Miller was unambiguous throughout his career and throughout Circles about how overwhelming life can feel in every and all directions. This feeling is one that resonates staunchly with young people in 2020, and this relatability is what opens up Miller’s music from diary entries to music you and I can feel and understand for ourselves. The world is spinning and it isn’t going to stop; it can be tough, as Miller articulates, but in relating to him, you feel a little less overwhelmed knowing you aren’t alone.
Miller also departs from the melancholic, especially evident in “Blue World.” Miller declares that he knows “Hey, one of these days we’ll all get by / Don’t be afraid, don’t fall in line”. Even in his worries and anxieties, Miller shines a light on the possibilities for the future in Circles — he even tells a girl that “Say you need more of a family ’round / Let’s turn these genes into hand me downs” in “Hand Me Downs”.
I’ve seen others characterize Circles as an epilogue to Miller’s discography and career. Let me make it abundantly clear that I disagree. Circles is a new chapter in Miller’s lasting impact on hip hop — an impact that won’t have an end date.