Mac Miller overstayed his welcome in the best of ways as the overnight pop-rap sensation. As he’s grown out of being the kid who rapped “Donald Trump,” every aspect of Miller’s musicianship and artistry has grown with him. While his increasingly creative choices have cost him some mainstream popularity over the years, they’ve led to some of the most interesting hip-hop projects this decade has seen, such as his 2013 LP “Watching Movies with the Sound Off.”
His newest album, “The Divine Feminine,” ambitiously abandons the vast majority of Miller’s prior sound in exchange for the jazzy, neo-soul vibe that is popular at the moment. While this does lead to a bit more sonic following than leading, the sound lends itself well to the album’s concept: exploring the ins-and-outs of love from Miller’s own perspective.
The album kicks off with “Congratulations,” featuring a mix of Miller’s laid-back rapping and cigarette-soaked crooning, carries us through a sleepy landscape of piano and strings. The vibe quickly amplifies as we transition into “Dang!” the hit lead single that features an oh-so-smooth hook from Anderson Paak. However, it can be hard to shake the feeling that “Dang!” sounds like it could be a throwaway track from a Paak project, with the smoothness of the song sounding almost stereotypical.
“Stay,” a definite highlight, comes through with a perfect mix of a simple-but-fantastic chorus and thoughtful-but-exciting verses, all set to a funky beat. “Skin,” which clocks in at five minutes, flirts with some interesting sounds, but lacks any kind of punch that would elevate it from being a snoozer of a track. Luckily, “Cinderella” quickly gets things cracking again. We’re immediately hit with the hottest hook on the album, courtesy of Ty Dolla $ign, followed by some great verses that perfectly ride the guitar-driven instrumental. Even though the song is a whopping eight minutes long, the time flies by.
“Planet God Damn,” featuring Njomza, is a chill, if not forgettable, track that has its moments, but it simultaneously shows that “The Divine Feminine” has somewhat of a monotonous streak running through it. “Soulmate” injects a bit of electronic influence into the mix, livening things up a bit, while still leaving a bit to be desired in the vocal department.
Entering the final stretch of the album, we’re presented with “We,” featuring CeeLo Green. This is arguably the standout track of the entire album, with a near-perfect spacy atmosphere composed of an ethereal blend of reverberated backing vocals, guitars and keys. On top of that, Miller brings some of his most insightful and witty lyrics yet with strong verses and an intriguingly ambiguous hook.
On “My Favorite Part,” Miller’s saccharine stab at a true pop tune falls mostly flat, with less-than-intriguing melodies and an overly shiny guest spot from Ariana Grande that comes across as jarring next to Miller’s own imperfect singing. Finally, “God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty” takes us out on a note that’s not exactly high and not exactly low, but really just kind of “eh,” as the hope stemming form seeing Kendrick Lamar’s name on the track quickly turns to disappointment in the wake of a mediocre contribution to the song.
There’s no doubt that loads of heart and hard work was poured into “The Divine Feminine.” Miller’s vision is apparent, and his willingness to take risks, such as giving singing a shot and maintaining a specific vibe throughout the album, is admirable, but not always successful. The truth is that this album can get boring at times. There are certainly moments, both lyrically and vocally, where Miller is just not at his best. That being said, there are more than enough great moments to be found on this record to undoubtedly save it from being a dud and, for that reason, “The Divine Feminine” gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.