Good News by Mac Miller

Anybody who has been a long-time reader of my posts knows how much I care about Mac Miller and the musical legacy he left behind. Underappreciated during his time and recently discovered by many after his passing, there has always been more to him than people assumed. Even when I first started listening to his music and went to a concert on his Divine Feminine tour in 2016, I was under the impression that he was vulgar and overly explicit, and that his music left a lot to be desired. Looking back now, my first impression wasn’t entirely off, especially considering that The Divine Feminine is one of his raunchiest and most shallow albums. However, I eventually listened through his discography and found something strange; there was an innocence and relatability to Mac Miller, and a story that was more complicated than first realized. Eventually he released Swimming, his last album before passing, which was a somber and existential monument to his musical talent. Just recently his producer released the posthumous album Circles, which was well received by critics and fans alike. In my opinion, it didn’t encapsulate the personality of Mac Miller like Swimming did, but it gave the world his final gift: Good News. Released as a single before the album, Good News is by far the shining star, and is a tear-jerking farewell to the life of Mac Miller.

The simple, plucky instrumental that introduces the track is catchy and subtle, and is followed up by the gentle voice of Mac Miller himself. Immediately the tone of the song is set; it’s an intimate and vulnerable look into his emotional state, with a focus on his voice and lyricism. The words themselves are devastating:

Why can’t it just be easy?
Why does everybody need me to stay?

Good news, good news, good news
That’s all they wanna hear
No, they don’t like it when I’m down
But when I’m flying, oh, it make ’em so uncomfortable
So different, what’s the difference?

Well, so tired of being so tired

Mac so perfectly conveys how tired he is with his mental state, fighting his inner demons and the pressure of being in the public spotlight. It’s a feeling of giving up, which is even more tragic considering he was only 26 when he passed. On one hand, it seems as if he has finally resigned himself to his fate, and on the other hand there is a feeling of hope and nostalgia, a reason to keep living. One can’t even begin to imagine what he was struggling with, or how his life led him to this point of existential questioning. He used to be an outrageous and energetic performer who didn’t care about public opinion, but now it’s obvious that he was much more complex than he portrayed. These final few lines are some of the most gut-wrenching and self-aware in musical history:

If you know me, it ain’t anything new
Wake up to the moon, haven’t seen the sun in a while
But I heard that the skies still blue, yeah
Heard they don’t talk about me too much no more
And that’s a problem with a closed door

There’s a whole lot more for me waiting on the other side
I’m always wondering, if it feel like summer
I know maybe I’m too late, I could make it there some other time
Then I’ll finally discover

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the world cried listening to these final words. What a punch in the heart; how could he be so prophetic and aware of his fate, and yet welcome it with open arms. He finally stopped fighting himself so that he could be at peace. I would argue that these words leave no room for another album: these are the words of a man who has nothing left to say and has realized and come to terms with the meaning of his life. I have so much respect for him and everything that he made, especially at the end when it was clear that he was struggling. He managed to write his own eulogy, and in doing so left the world with his greatest gift, and for that I’ll always be thankful. Rest in peace Mac Miller.

Reviewing Music

I often write about new albums and songs, giving my subjective thoughts and opinions on the production, content, and presentation. When I write about a certain album, it’s because I have strong feelings about it that I can’t help but share, whether they’re extremely negative or positive. The result is a volatile review system, where it seems like I either love something or hate it, and more often than not it seems like I love everything, since I usually write best about the songs and albums that I love. I find myself overthinking this often, especially when I’m writing; I start to question whether or not the review is objective, and what makes a valuable review for the average reader. In examining these questions about music reviewing, I find myself turning to YouTube’s self-proclaimed “internet’s busiest music nerd” Anthony Fantano, who is notable for his frequent album reviews on his channel theneedledrop.

I only started watching Fantano’s reviews a few years ago, and hesitantly at first; I didn’t believe that music could truly be judged, since it is inherently subjective, and I often disagreed with his reviews of my favorite albums. However, there was something fascinating about his approach to reviewing, specifically the vast amount of musical knowledge and terminology he used when examining albums. He is able to fill a ten minute video entirely with thoughtful musical opinions, grounded in absolute reasoning. He certainly has biases (easily seen by genres he prefers), and always reminds his viewers that he is just sharing his opinion, but he always approaches new music and genres with an open mind. I still disagree with some of his final ratings (especially the 3/10 he gave Mac Miller’s Swimming), but I find it hard to argue with him; nothing he says is factually wrong, and at the end of the day it just comes down to a different taste in music. For example, he says that Mac Miller’s singing is off-key and mediocre, with a weak presentation, but I hear the same thing and find it intimate and endearing. It just comes down to a subjective interpretation of objective musical facts, and I find that relationship so fascinating in reviewing music.

After thinking about what makes Anthony Fantano such a fair and interesting critic, I narrowed down great music reviews to two important things: understanding and discussing music objectively, and being passionate about the review. With only objective facts you have a boring and generic review, and with nothing but passion you have an intellectually shallow review that offers no value to the reader’s understanding of the music. With these two thoughts in mind, I look forward to writing more music reviews in the future; thankfully there is no shortage of new and interesting music.

The Ultimate TikTok Playlist

Never would I have thought that I would ever be publishing an arts and culture post about TikTok, but yes, it has come to this (Please don’t hate me). I have been sucked in the the addicting world of TikTok somewhat regrettably, but it’s okay–I now have a new bevy of absolute BOPS. Not only does TikTok constantly inundate you with bangers, it serves as a platform for lesser known artists to grow as well!

Alas, check out this TikTok-inspired playlist curated by yours truly. Perhaps they’ll make a good addition to your next Zoom party. (NSFW)

  1. Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa
  2. The Box – Roddy Rich
  3. Say So – Doja Cat
  4. Blueberry Faygo – Lil Mosey
  5. Life is Good – Future ft. Drake
  6. Roses Imanbek Remix – Saint JHN and Imanbek
  7. ROXANNE – Arizona Zervas
  8. Savage – Megan Thee Stallion
  9. Supalonely – BENEE and Gus Dapperton
  10. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo

Unlocked: Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats

Denzel Curry is a versatile musical artist with a distinct style that breaks genre boundaries, and Kenny Beats is one of the biggest up-and-coming music producers in the industry, working with a wide variety of artists such as Vince Staples, JID, and Ed Sheeran. Although an unlikely pair, the duo recently released a short music project titled UNLOCKED, only 8 tracks long with a run-time of under 20 minutes. However, it makes the most of every minute: it’s gritty and experimental, combining the aggressive and powerful style of Denzel and the innovative and off-kilter production of Kenny into a thrill ride of an album.

UNLOCKED by Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats

There is no unifying concept to the album (although there’s a great accompanying music video about the two having to recovered the leaked track files in an animated, cartoon-style universe), but the album cover gives a great idea of the overall aesthetic. The art is brutal and objectively cool, with an over-the-top presentation and self-aware attitude that lends itself perfectly to the music. My favorite tracks are Take_it_Back_v2, Lay_Up.m4a, and DIET_; each one is a great representation of what makes the duo so great, featuring clever wordplay and dynamic production. I’m always left speechless when I pay special attention to either Denzel or Kenny; when I focus on Denzel, I’m blown away by his energy and clever lyricism, and when I listen to Kenny’s production, I always find new depths to the instrumentation and sampling. It’s honestly incredible how well the two styles complement each other, and I think a lot of the credit goes to Kenny. He seems to perfectly understand the aesthetic Denzel is working to achieve and makes it a reality.

Although the project is short and lacks a unifying concept, I think it works as an amazing example of the experimental power of this musical duo. Each song packs its own unique punch, and even after listening to the album at least 30 times, I’m still constantly surprised by its style and production. Considering this was only a small project, and that Denzel is known for releasing few full albums, I’m really hoping that he takes this style and runs with it, and maybe even works with Kenny Beats again for his next project.