Review: ‘The Divine Feminine’ – Mac Miller
It would appear that Mac Miller is not keen on plateauing anytime soon. The former frat rap star has continued his dramatic artistic evolution with The Divine Feminine, a tightly wound concept album centered around the endlessly fascinating topic of love.
Miller’s last LP, GO:OD AM, came out less than a year ago, but Miller’s well known for his prolific output, so a quick follow up album is not all that surprising. What is surprising is the remarkable bump in quality. This is not a knock on GO:OD AM, by any means. That album was chock full of terrific tracks and wonderful lyrics from Miller.
But The Divine Feminine has placed Miller among the conversation for best hip-hop albums of 2016 in a year where we’ve seen releases from Kanye West, Chance The Rapper, YG, Vince Staples, Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar and more. This is perhaps most easily attributed to the album’s cohesion. Miller has stated that he set out to make an album rather than a loosely formed collection of songs around some standout singles. This approach shows, as The Divine Feminine ebbs and flows with ease, demanding full-listens when possible.
The album just sounds sexy. Miller’s production chops have developed enormously over the past several years and he has never crafted better sounding music than right here. The orchestration on album opener ‘Congratulations’ makes for one of the year’s most beautiful musical moments.
The Divine Feminine also draws a number of notable and incredibly well deployed features, namely .Paak’s turn on ‘Dang!’, Lamar on ‘God Is Fair, Sexy, Nasty’ and CeeLo Green on ‘We.’ Miller is more than capable of carrying the album’s sexy songs with his combination of stellar wordplay and occasional lounge singer croon, but the best tracks here feature wonderful interplay between Miller and his friends.
But it’s the meditations on love and sex that carry the album. Just as Miller has allowed his internal contradictions on drug use to fuel several albums worth of content, he expresses the many countering ideals he has on romance without hesitation. Imagine if Tyler, The Creator’s song ‘IFHY’ were to be stretched out to album-length form and was done with a lot more tenderness. That’s a pretty good approximation for what Miller delivers here.
Songs like ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Stay’ and ‘My Favorite Part’ bring together Miller’s burgeoning love for jazz, smooth and silky rhythms, and fascinating insights about young love. What Miller does so effortlessly is make being a youngster in love not seem silly, but instead deathly seriously.
It has taken a good while for most people take Mac Miller seriously and it is hard to blame them. His early output was commercially successful, but was generally lacking in true artistic merit. In other words, he did not seem to have a lot to say.
At 24 years of age, Miller has made it clear that he does in fact have important stories to share. The Divine Feminine is proof of this. Love is an endless spring of musical inspiration, almost to the point of tedium. But by projecting his contradictory nature against the Technicolor musical backdrop he has cultivated, Miller has proven that his voice is important, his sound is fresh and The Divine Feminine needs to be heard.