ALBUM: ‘The Divine Feminine’

Mac Miller’s latest album, “The Divine Feminine,” is a milestone for the Pittsburgh rapper. Despite his unimaginative 2011 debut album, “Blue Slide Park,” leading many people to write him off as generic and uninspired. Miller exceeded expectations with his psychedelic 2013 album, “Watching Movies with the Sound Off.” His sophomore project boasted a stellar feature list and improved lyricism. His follow-up 2015 album “GO:OD AM” was also strong and saw Miller touch on his past struggles with substance abuse and his newfound positivity.

Prior to the release of “The Divine Feminine,” Miller had already overcome his mediocre reputation through a period of devoted musical experimentation.  The only question remaining was where he would go from here. Few could have guessed that he would make a 10-song project about love, but Miller never fails to surprise.

“The Divine Feminine” is more cohesive and focused than Miller’s past efforts, each of which was several songs longer and thematically scattered.  The album’s opening track, “Congratulations,” sets the stage for what is to come as a female narrator proclaims, “The Divine Feminine, an album by Mac Miller.”  Miller begins his album rapping about his lover over a soft piano soundscape. A building string arrangement defines the song’s jubilant atmosphere as Miller gushes, “You too divine to just be mine.” The strings and lyrics may feel overdone at times, but the song prepares the listener for an album in which Miller does not hold back musically or emotionally.

Following is “Dang!”, a standout track featuring Anderson .Paak.  It features a minimalist, jazzy beat that invites head-bobbing. Horns enter later to add to the groovy feel.   .Paak sings, “I can’t keep on losing you over complications / Gone too soon,” leading Miller to express frustration and sadness over a girl leaving him.  However, Miller wisely acknowledges that much of his irritation is with his immaturity, singing of, “Knowing shit get old when I act so young.”  The song’s atmosphere is well-suited to allowing Miller to express his emotions without sounding over-the-top.

The next track, “Stay,” opens with a vibrant horn solo, exemplifying the album’s musical cohesion. The themes in “Dang!” are echoed in the subject matter. The hook is simple but catchy. Miller asks, “Will, you, stay, just a little while, babe?” as horns trill while he pauses after each word.

Miller’s avoidance of modern hip-hop beats in favor of piano, strings and horns gives the album a distinct, romantic vibe.  Its cohesion, in terms of both production and subject matter, show that his work has become more deliberate.

However, the album is not without its flaws. The message of most of the songs is neither subtle nor layered, and Miller’s verses are often peppered with sexual references that get old and repetitive or are not as clever as he thinks. For instance, in his fifth track, “Cinderella,” he raps,  “Okay your legs like a store, they open up.” Other lines are just plain corny. “I’m a Superman, you’ll be my Lois Lane,” he raps in the final track, “God is Fair, Sexy, Nasty”, featuring Kendrick Lamar.  Nevertheless, Miller is able to convey genuine emotion and the sincere affection he feels for his significant other despite these missteps.

Despite its lack of subtlety, “The Divine Feminine” is a cohesive, unique album that shows how Mac Miller has grown both musically and personally.  Those who buy this album expecting anything like Miller’s previous repertoire are going to be surprised but will not be disappointed. Miller has dramatically changed his sound before and, by now ,fans should learn to welcome it. As Miller makes music in the future, listeners have to wonder, and look forward to, what he has in store for them.

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