Mac Miller seems like he’s in a good place—at least in a better state of mind than what was evident on the Macadelic–Faces era of his career. Last year’s GO:OD AM was the first sign of Miller trending away from his dark, dissociative, drug-addled music of late, but even with the change of pace, Miller was solidifying a run of his most consistent music ever. It’s been fascinating following the evolution of Miller’s career since the beginning of the decade, watching him grow from an unassuming stoner, to the protagonist from Asher Roth’s “I Love College,” to the rap game Jessie Pinkman, to a young adult trying to make the most of the growing pains that have caught up to him over the past few years. The Divine Feminine is new territory for Miller, as he takes an unabashed attempt at conceptualizing unconditional, romantic love.
Although Miller’s youthful energy and sincere introspection are intact, The Divine Feminine is a rather narrow-minded perspective of love, riddled with monotonous songs that doesn’t represent Miller at his best, even if he is at his happiest. Miller isn’t telling specific love stories, he isn’t philosophizing about love, he isn’t describing love in any new way, and he is using the lady part p-word as often as the typical, horrendous Lil Wayne verse these days. The Divine Feminine is neither as graphic sexually as Young Thug’s Jeffery nor as sweet nor thoughtful as Mick Jenkin’s The Healing Component, leaving Miller’s lyrics feeling pretty undercooked in terms of expressing physical and emotional intimacy.
When Miller is on, he is one of the most creative lyricists in hip hop. Unfortunately, The Divine Feminine is stripped clean of the wicked humor and gripping pathos that makes Miller’s music so enthralling. There’s no one else in hip hop who could’ve written the tragic short story of post-fame Stuart Little on the second verse of Faces highlight “Angel Dust–” (“Found a twenty laying by the sewer rats / You know little Stuart hasn’t been in any movies lately / He’s spent his paycheck on cocaine and latex / His agent working hard to try to book him a commercial”)—other than Mac Miller. On Divine Feminine’s eight-minute misfire “Cinderella,” Miller delivers some dud lines like (“Okay your legs like a store they open up”) and (“I do you like a chore”). Out of context, these lines might seem funny, but Miller is serious, and at least trying to be somewhat sexy.
Other than the consistently insipid lyricism, Miller doesn’t exactly make up for it with his singing. Miller has never been a great singer, but he can carry a tune well enough to get by on most of his hooks and occasionally even full songs (“Colors and Shapes”). When put up against crooners like Bilal, Ariana Grande, and CeeLo Green, it’s clear that Miller just can’t keep up. Miller is not an R&B singer and The Divine Feminine wants to be an R&B album.
Even though Miller is for the most part subpar on this entire album, his production is not. “Congratulations” has a gorgeous instrumental that is all piano and strings. “Planet God Damn,” my favorite track on the album, is the smoothest and most seductive song on the album, also thanks to a great feature from Njomza. “Soulmate” has a really quirky, funk instrumental. Other than the prolonged female moaning sample at the end of “Stay” and beginning of “Skin” (which rappers/producers should just stop using in songs altogether), there really is fresh production throughout the album.
Miller has the charisma to rap about love. He is capable of putting out decent love songs as he has in the past with “The Mourning After,” “Clarity,” “Wedding,” and even with more unpolished songs like “Wear My Hat,” “Got a Clue,” and “Missed Calls.” “ROS,” a song off of GO:OD AM that is better than anything on The Divine Feminine, is the best recent example of a really good love song from Miller, where instead of wooing a girl with the potential of oral sex, he suggest to his sweetheart, (“Let’s eat some mushrooms and go to the circus”), which is genuinely a romantic line that avoids clichés. Miller’s best bar on The Divine Feminine might be off of “Dang!” when Miller says, (“Know my s**t get old when I act so young”). It’s an apologetic line that I’m sure resonates with a lot of people who take a moment to admit their faults in relationships.
The Divine Feminine isn’t terrible by any stretch, but it is a step back from everything Miller has put out since Blue Slide Park. If you’re looking for an upbeat album with a strong love theme, listen to Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment’s Surf instead. I would not recommend this album to anyone who isn’t already a big Mac Miller fan. But still, I commend Miller for doing what he always does—something conceptually, lyrically, and thematically different from whatever album came before. Hopefully on his next album, he’ll create something that will sound more original to his listeners.