This is Mac Miller’s, Swimming
If you’re reading this, you fucked up. No judgment, because I fucked up too. Admittance and acceptance is step one, right? Coming to terms with the fact that you aren’t who, what, or where you want to be in life. The life you live vs. where you want to be is a struggle that all of us can relate to. It’s okay to be sad over your failures — it’s human nature— you can’t let them own you. No album illustrates this quite like Mac Miller’s Swimming.
Swimming marks a big departure from 2016’s The Divine Feminine. Where that album was centered on love and appreciation for women, this album is all about Mac Miller taking his first steps towards becoming a better man.
The album’s opening track, “Come Back to Earth” is a slow building conversation between Mac and whoever’s listening about better days being ahead, despite how trapped the moment makes you feel. It feels like a day off from school ruined by thunderstorms and homework—All you can do is look out of the window and wait for the sun to come back. The track is 2 minutes and 42 seconds of being trapped inside your head, isolated from your hopes and dreams. Those clouds are moving though. Mac gives us glimmers of sunlight rapping, “I was drowning now I’m swimming, through stressful waters to relief,” then assuring the listener, “they told me it only gets better”.
That sunlight gets a little stronger on the J. Cole-produced “Hurt Feelings” when Mac admits that he’s changed for the better. He comes to terms with his faults, admitting that sometimes he puts too much on his shoulders. “Used to be feelin’ depressed, now that I’m living and I’m a little obsessed.” On the Snoop Dogg-assisted “What’s The Use”, newfound self-worth is echoed in the chorus with Mac telling his ex and/or his vices that even if he isn’t ready to quit cold turkey he’s thinking about a life without ‘em.
Swimming creeps on into “Perfecto”. The ambiguity of “What’s The Use” follows here with Mac speaking on either the imperfection of himself or his relationship. This song paints Mac as in over his head despite treading water. The conflict exist between losing your mind internally and looking fine to the world around you. The song ends with Mac speaking to someone with gratitude (hey again Ariana) “She put me back together when I’m out of order, perfect”. It’s a heartwarming breakdown that we’ve all related to at one point or another.
“Self Care” is a reminder that sometimes you have to lose shit you care about to save yourself. For Mac, he publicly battled drug and alcohol use then watched the woman that he loved get engaged to another celebrity. For me, I’ve been working a job I hate, drinking too much, and chasing women without caring about alienating the ones that care about me or letting my work suffer. When Mac said “somebody save me from myself, they can take that bullshit elsewhere,” it resonated. There’s a certain beauty in failure that this song mails. Failing teaches you, failing tests you. When you’ve hit rock bottom you have no other choice but to look around and dig yourself out. The beat switch finds Mac retreating into himself, into an oblivion of numbness. Numbing the pain is easier than confronting the feeling.
“Wings” is starting the climb back. “I ain’t feeling broken no more”. This is the recovery and where this review started. This is where we all fucked up at but instead of ignoring it we’re addressing it.
“Ladders” feels like the ups and downs of recovery. The moments where you doubt yourself. The only difference now is, you can manage the good and bad a little bit better.
“I know it feels so good right now
But it all comes fallin’ down
When the night, meet the light
Turn to day”
True acceptance comes on “Small Worlds”. If we’re sticking to the swimming metaphor, the melancholy track feels like floating. Waves may crash and shift you but there’s a serenity to the moment.
“Conversation, Pt. 1” flips the script with Mac trying to be encouraging in the first verse before casting a cynical towards everybody that thinks they have it all figured out but are only seeing temporary success. It’s reminiscent of what J. Cole did on “1985” although way less direct.
“Dunno” is Mac taking a walk down memory lane to reminisce on times he shared with a girl–that’s probably Ariana Grande. In a vacuum it would be a beautiful song, but, the album’s themes of falling down and getting up mixed with knowing that his potential muse is engaged to another man makes the track feel bittersweet.
On “Jet Fuel” Mac continues accepting his fate, beginning the verse rapping about how his dreams of being a superhero transitioned into him feeling like the one that need saving. As he’s done for the duration of this album he keeps going.
“Well I’m going be he for a while longer than I did expect to, I was out of town getting lost till I was rescued.”
The album’s biggest exhale is “2009”. The lyrics are as content as anywhere else on the album, with Mac coming to terms with the idea that there’s a lot more life to live and good times to be had.
“Nowadays all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind”.
The album ends with “So It Goes,” a song that continues Mac’s acceptance of mistakes and acts of self-destructive manners, but sounding enlightened by those failures.
Releasing the same weekend as Travis Scott’s Astroworld, YG’s Stay Dangerous, and Moneybagg Yo’s Bet On Me – Mac Miller gave us a deeply personal project that felt months in the making. No slight to the other music released, but Swimming was the project I needed right now. Mac Miller’s journey to become a better person is the feel good story of the summer.