Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine marked a huge step forward in his career. While his previous albums hovered in the 15 to 20 song range, this one was capped off at 10. GO:OD AM – released just a year before – was a strong statement that he was clear-headed and back in the game after a period in which he seemed to be slipping. However, it was a 17-track jumble of varying moods and sounds. There’s value and beauty in a project that captures a sprawling spectrum of experience, but it seems Mac was struck by a desire to advance his artistry through brevity.
The Divine Feminine was birthed out of Mac assigning himself the project of crafting an album about love. When you listen to it, the intention shines through with a sharp lucidity. While all of TDF‘s tracks feel whole and it would be hard to argue that the album would be better off without any of them, most of them are rather long. “Stay” clocks in at 5:26, “Cinderella” at 8:00 and “God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty” at 8:21. The four minute and thirty-two second “Soulmate” does what it needs to do and then makes an elegant exit.
It starts off with over a minute of throbbing and entrancing synths and it feels essential. A hushed Robin Williams monologue from Good Will Hunting floats in halfway through the intro, thematically discussing soulmates. In the sound bite, Williams chides Matt Damon’s character for his debilitating fear of intimacy. Listening now, it calls to mind a line from the message Ariana Grande shared when breaking her silence on Mac’s passing. She described him as “the kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved.” In retrospect – after hearing endless testimonies from Mac’s friends about the light he always radiated – so much of his music can sound like an attempt to shower someone, or everyone, in as much love as he possible could, even when he didn’t have enough to keep for himself.
When Mac’s voice interrupts Williams’, he showcases a swagger and control that was unprecedented for him. He surfed the groovy Dam-Funk production as if he had been making music of this genre for his entire career. Really, this lane was new to Mac and, after seeing how casually he could cruise down it, he enlisted Dam-Funk again for “What’s The Use?” on his next project – a tune that’s just as crisp and deft as “Soulmate”. The Divine Feminine proved Mac’s strength as a vocalist and songwriter, and ushered in another immaculately complete project, Swimming.
No matter what, one day everyone dies
You think you a God ’til you run out of time
Yeah, when you’re gone, what will you leave behind?
Yeah, do I belong sometime soon, where goes my mind?