“The Divine Feminine” is gentle, chock-full of erotic choral arrangements, and ultimately unique to Mac Miller’s previous works. Here Miller is experimenting with muse as inspiration for creative expression, and this project follows the tender vein of love to genuinely display poignancy. The final half of “God is Fair” finds Miller’s grandmother describing her marriage and love for her husband. This interview draws stark contrast to the prior 50 minutes of the album. Miller’s grandmother says that the key to love is respect and understanding one another’s feelings. This doctrine is hard to swallow after hearing Miller define love through the lens of sexual pleasure.
It isn’t that Mac Miller can’t sing, but he’s no Anderson .Paak, which is perhaps why he enlisted the aforementioned’s talent. He has a relatively unique voice, and he appeals to the love-stricken market without sacrificing his lyrical sharpness. It’s just that Miller’s beat production has evolved to outpace his vocal ability. Many tracks I found myself thinking that I’d rather just hear the instrumental. During many tracks, Miller is a true artist, and the painstaking degree of work he puts into developing and maintaining a certain sound is apparent. It’s very easy to dislike his sound. At only 24 years old, he has already had one of the more interesting career arcs of our generation. What I take from this project is his desire to expand his sound. The project comes off as monochromatic, but it’s a shade Miller has not before used, which is artistically commendable.
As with “Watching Movies With The Sound Off,” Mac Miller has cinematic influences, with the first lines of “Congratulations” announcing the album title like some white-block-lettered Warner Brothers overture. His orchestrations aspire to Kanye’s “Dark Fantasy” with synthed-up vocals that later fade into minimalistic piano and strings. The piano riff that accompanies Miller’s first verse is eerily reminiscent of J. Cole’s “Sideline Story.” The singing itself is on key and imperfect but aided greatly by Bilal.
One of the grooviest cuts on the album is “Dang!” Anderson .Paak lends his exquisitely soulful vocals to a chorus over which brass and baseline intertwine smoothly. Miller jumps in with a cogent verse that strikes playful notes but depressingly belies a notion of emotional helplessness.
The track “Stay” sounds like it came straight off “Surf.” While Donnie Trumpet rips off stellar licks over ID Labs production, lyrics like “You so complicated, I swear that pussy Grammy-nominated” hinder the laidback vibe Miller intends to exude. The song ends with a female faking an orgasm, bearing resemblance to Lamar’s “These Walls” or Biggie’s “Ready to Die” interlude. Miller’s definition of love sure seems interchangeable with sexual pleasure.
In “The Divine Feminine,” the background singers often overshadow Miller, which is not a discredit of his voice as much a credit to the album’s lush production. “Cinderella” is ambitiously eight minutes long. A minute-long guitar solo transitions into vibraphones and violins with Miller claiming that his “only way out is the way in.” The album is full of saxophone riffs stylistically akin to J. Cole.
My favorite track on the album is by far “Planet God Damn.” The beat breaks seamlessly into scattered 808s. The production is right up Aubrey “Drake” Graham’s alley with its unintelligible vocals and sharp bass. Ironically, Miller raps over a Drake-type instrumental after claiming on an earlier project that he “did it [achieved stardom] without a Drake feature.” Even so, Miller comes through with some of his deepest lines (“I think I’m stuck inside nostalgia”) as he pens another conflicted love letter.
“Soulmate” begins with a quote from “Good Will Hunting” defining the word from which the song draws inspiration. Laden with futuristic synths and clever lines concerning immortality, the song is unabashedly lusty. Miller compares his love to a deity, an impenetrably beautiful soul and experiencing the high of a drug.
Miller has always wanted to be a rockstar, and during his “Blue Slide Park” days, videos of him surfaced covering Oasis’s “Wonderwall.” The most striking line from this track is “Time will tell if I’m alive and well / cuz when I’m by myself” denotes an ignominious self-consciousness which recedes slowly into a drug-induced haziness.
“My Favorite Part” has a great instrumentation which fits the overall idea, hopeful, infatuated, lackadaisical. The track is produced by Larry Fisherman, a pseudonym under which Miller has been producing beats since 2013. The lyrics echo a strained, trite sentiment, with Grande’s poppy vocals overpowering Miller’s, leaving him sounding like he’s humming along to a top-40 radio tune.
Equipped with a King Kendrick chorus and a boatload of sexual imagery, Miller concludes his album with the sultry “God is Fair, Sexy Nasty.” One can never be too effusive when describing the genius that is Kendrick Lamar, but suffice to say his 12-bar chorus is the most interesting snippet of the track. Miller delivers on his verses, displaying a coherence of thought some of his earlier projects have lacked.
In November 2012, Miller released the album “You” under the pseudonym Larry Lovestein. “You” is a foray into jazz, and a good deal of the sound with which Miller experimented made the final cut of “The Divine Feminine.”
Overall, notwithstanding its repetitive sound, “The Divine Feminine” is an enjoyable listen. It’s hard to believe this is the same man who put out “Best Day Ever” or “K.I.D.S.” but if there’s one thing common among good artists, it’s adaptability. With his fourth album, Miller has provided listeners with a first-person view of his malleable doctrine on love. Miller is a talented workaholic, and this album shows improvement in cohesion if not ability. He is five years younger than both Graham and Lamar, and I look forward to seeing what he’ll produce in the next five years.