By Thomas Lange, Contributing Writer
Almost exactly a year after the release of his critical and commercial hit “GO:OD AM,” venerated rapper Mac Miller returns with his newest LP, “The Divine Feminine.” From both the title and the content of the songs, it’s easy to see what Mac’s focus is at the moment: love. Every song on the album is a love song in its own way, whether it’s a sensitive piece about a girl that keeps running away in “Cinderella,” or a passionate piece about the wonders of a particular woman’s body in “Skin.”
Right off the bat, it’s very apparent that Mac is doing the most to separate himself from his “frat rap” past, trading the party anthems that meant commercial success but critical disdain for a more tasteful, rich sound. We don’t even hear anything that can be identified as a beat until the second song, with Mac instead choosing to back himself with soft piano and strings on the opening song “Congratulations.”
The album as a whole feels somewhat conceptual, and seems to follow an arc: Mac finds a girl, loses her, tries to get her back and succeeds, then revels in his success. His production ranges from the funky instant-classic “Dang!” with a beautiful hook by Anderson Paak to the more subdued and soulful “We,” with CeeLo Green providing some ethereal backup vocals, to the heavy use of 808’s in “Planet God Damn,” featuring Njomza. Mac also dabbles in some Donnie-Trumpet, Social-Experiment-esque sounds with the heavy use of trumpets, female backup singers and diverse beats on “Stay,” creating something that Chance the Rapper would sound right at home rapping over.
Other notable features include a wonderful hook from Ty Dolla $ign on “Cinderella” that is fairly reminiscent of his “Real Friends” feature on The Life of Pablo, a jaw-dropping (as always) set of backup vocals and verse from Ariana Grande on “My Favorite Part” that once again showcases her incredible vocal range, and a hook from Kendrick Lamar on the 8-minute cut “God is Fair, Sexy Nasty” that closes out the album on a high note. While it’s slightly disappointing that this is the only place we see Kendrick, it’s appreciated nonetheless. The song closes out the album perfectly with an older woman (possibly Mac’s mother?) talking about her “love affair” with her husband, and how fulfilling the marriage is for her.
With a title like “The Divine Feminine,” it would seem like Mac would try and make some kind of feminist statement, but when it comes down to it, this album is really just about how incredible it is to love a woman.
Overall, “The Divine Feminine” is a beautiful project. It’s the kind of album that you can sit back with and let play in the background, or listen in closely and analyze. Mac has come so far since the “Donald Trump” days, and he continues to be a well-respected artist because he is constantly evolving, while still retaining his own unique sound. The quality of work he has been putting out over the past few years has been steadily increasing, with no ceiling in sight.
It’s unfortunate that so many people have written Mac off because of his initial releases; the Mac of today is completely separate from the Mac of 2011, and to even compare the two is almost impossible.