Music Review: Swimming is a chronicle of the late Mac Miller’s struggles with depression and addiction

Ryan Martino
Oxford Stories

Since the release of his album The Divine Feminine in 2016, the late Mac Miller, 26, went through great personal turmoil in the public eye stemming from a drug addiction that eventually led to the end of his relationship with famous pop singer, Arianna Grande, and his DUI arrest last May.

In his 5th album Swimming, the Pittsburg native tackled these lingering issues head on. The cathartic album shows Miller’s growth from 16-year-old party song rapper to 26-year-old man facing the reality of his issues.

The somber album opens with “Come Back to Earth” with soft guitar strings putting the song in a dreamlike state. Miller sings over the beat with a dull tone explaining his struggle with depression.

“I just need a way out of my head/I’ll do anything for a way out of my head/ And I was drowning, but now I’m swimmin’/Through stressful waters, to relief.”

“Hurt feelings” continues the theme of self –release with relaxing beats as Miller vents about addiction issues and the constant conflict to stay sober.

The third song provides a nice change of pace with the same underlying message. “What’s the Use” has a lively, funky beat, and Miller expands the variety of flow to show a more emotional tone.

While the style of this song is a upbeat, Miller stuck to the darker theme of the album by rapping about drug addiction and the fear of what will happen to him without it rapping:

“What if I don’t need it?/ There’s something about it/ And it just freaks me out.”

Miller placed the three following songs in a specific order to show the process of him maturing.

In “Perfecto,” he gives listeners more insight about the pain he feels during some of his worst days dealing with depression. The listener can deduce he has come to terms that he will die at any moment, and he accepts it. At the end of the song, Miller addresses the pain he feels about the loss of his girlfriend and his dependence on her to be there for him saying:

“She put me back together when I’m out of order.”

Showing his rock bottom, we transition into “Self-care,” which can be broken into two parts.

In Part 1, Miller sings about his loneliness and how he began to loose his mind as a result. You can hear his confusion. Miller’s rhythm and flow is as if he is stumbling drunk, wandering on the beat, singing in a nasally dull voice. within all that noise, he is beginning to realize what is happening to him…

“I’ve been readin’ them signs/ I’ve been loosing my mind.”

The chorus also symbolizes that he is starting to have confidence in his ability to care for himself again…

“Self care/ I’m treating me right, yeah/ Hell yeah/ We gonna be alright.”

At the midpoint of the song, the beat changes abruptly into a melodic and pensive act in which Miller is in “oblivion,” and he can finally see what he needed to fix in his life

“Well, I didn’t know what I was missin’/ Now I see a little different/ I was thinking too much,”  he sings.

While he knows he needs change in his life, he knows change won’t come quickly, and he must find comfort in being lost sometimes:

“I got all the time in the world/ so for now I’m just chillin.”

We understand Miller has realized the issues happening in his life, and he must be patient to find the right answers.

The final song in the sequence is “wings.” With a relaxing beat and a calm, almost Zen-like, feel, Miller self reflects on his life and progress.

“Wondered who the f*** I’m supposed to be/ I a’int worried now until I leave,” he raps.

He also explains that now that he has his freedom, he hopes he won’t be trapped:

“The sun is shinning, I can look at the horizon/ The walls keep getting wider, I just hope I never find ‘em, oh no.”

Through the rest of the album, other common themes are addressed, retouching on his relationship issues in more depth through the relaxing melody of “Dunno,” to a more in-depth self reflection about how far he has come in “2009.”

The closing song is “So it Goes” with a gloomy and almost haunting aura. Miller expresses frustration with himself for being so irresponsible, and the search for inner peace begins to take a toll on him as he becomes irritated with his life:

“My god, it goes on and on/ just like a circle, I go back to where I am from.”

The song shows an exhausted Miller who is frustrated at the process of inner peace and would, at times, rather give up and get high.

Swimming did a great job of showing the highs and lows of depression and addiction that Miller and millions of people around the world struggle with everyday.

This was Miller’s deepest album, and it shows how much he had matured in his music and as a man. It’s unfortunate we can’t see the bright future ahead of him because of his tragic passing last September.

However the end may have played out for Mac Miller, the story of his struggles and his drive to want to better himself will forever be remembered.

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