In what seems like a rebranding strategy or maybe just an artist’s evolution, Mac Miller is stepping away from his friendly, rebel-rousing and stoner sounds that he first introduced himself with in 2007. The Pittsburgh native recently debuted his fourth studio album, The Divine Feminine – a 10-track ode to his relationship with love and the female body. And while it’s sobering at first listen, what stems from jazz-infused instrumentals, sophisticated rhymes and a lot of singing, is Mac’s best album.
The album doesn’t nab the top rank for its lyrical content. Although there are hints of influence from his last major studio album, GOOD:AM, it isn’t his play on words or clever metaphors that stand out. Let’s be real: the love-oriented LP focuses more on admiring “p***y” than it does on the art of loving or the exchange of emotions between two lovers. Nevertheless, the success of Mac’s album has everything to do with its sonics.
The rapper’s collaboration with Bilal on the introductory track, “Congratulations,” sets the pace for a well-produced and passionate project. And while listeners may have gotten a kick out of Mac’s opening line, “And you too divine to just be mine/You remind me of the color blue/Girl I’m so in love you,” his vocals take a backseat to the enchanted melodies of the piano keys and the violin that builds in the background and carries the song through. In addition to leading with rhythmic instrumentals, Mac constructs a sort of funkadelic groove very early on. And speaking of groove, Anderson .Paak may have been the perfect feature to help flesh out the funk sounds. Their collaborated single, “Dang!” which was released earlier in the year, serves as that summer block party jam led by an electric guitar and Donnie Trumpet-inspired horns.
The horns only become more prevalent as the playlist rolls over into “Stay.” The song, which may be one of the rapper’s most romantic tracks on the album, is a crescendo of trumpets and saxophones, only softening on the hook when Mac pleads with his girl to bypass all of the arguing and meaningless fights and stick around. The rapper incorporates a woman’s drawn out groans and other sex noises over classic, 90s instrumentals as a transitioning tool to “Skin,” the sex-crazed anthem on the album. By contrast to the first three tracks, the up-tempo groove dissolves, taking listeners from the block party to a dim-lit underground lounge.
But Mac picks up momentum once again with “Cinderella” featuring Ty Dolla $ign on the hook. With Ty taking over for the vocals, the song sounds like a the modern-day fairytale – the rapper and his girl jump in bed with each other only to realize after the fact that there’s more than sexual tension. And that’s where “My Favorite Part” comes in. The collaborated single with recently confirmed girlfriend, Ariana Grande, is a soulful illustration of the best parts of being in a relationship. As expected, Ariana steals the show as she pours over the track with a series of soothing notes. But as she and Mac continue to harmonize over the soft plucking of guitar strings, the song definitely refocuses on the album’s central theme of love.
During a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, the rapper noted that outside of their romantic relationship, the two make magical records together. And it’s safe to say, he wasn’t wrong. Unless you’re Jay Z and Beyonce, a couple duo runs the risk of translating as corny and forced. But Mac and the pop princess do a great job of staying clear of call and response-type vocals. Kendrick Lamar also helps to defuse any lingering stench of lovey-dovey clichés on “God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty.” The seductive track leads with a ritzy, jazz-inspired intro, unravelling into K.Dot’s melodic chorus. “It sounds like being in the ocean, relaxing, calm, floating, and just like there and comfortable in your thoughts,” Mac said of the collaboration on Beats 1 Radio. While probably not the climax fans could have expected, the song’s “floating” nature is the perfect metaphor to the overall feeling of being engrossed in love.
The Divine Feminine is a project meant for the live stage. As seen during Mac and Anderson .Paak’s performance of “Dang!” on the Late Show or his performance of “We” with CeeLo Green on the DirecTV’s Audience Network, his tracks' sonic bridges and powerful instrumentals really captivate live audiences. In terms of content, Mac Miller probably still has some work to do when it comes to fleshing out his outlook on romantic love. But with only 24 years of age under his belt, that will mostly likely come with more experience.