Album Review: Mac Miller curates RnB inspired love songs on 'The Divine Feminine'
Sex. Love. Intimacy. It seems to me like Mac Miller must’ve had some life changing experiences to produce the heavenly album ‘The Divine Feminine’. This sweet, groovy, warm, death-by-mouthfuls-of-sexy-chocolate album seems to explain Mac’s adoration for the female form, mind and company, and this adoration is reflected in the title itself. It is also reflected in the very first sound of the album: a whisper, followed by supernatural harmonised vocals of Ariana Grande, almost Goddess like, and this exact voice (without the harmoniser) that introduces the album title, “The Divine Feminine, an album by Mac Miller.”
This first song, 'Congratulations' featuring Bilal introduces a piano motif and feel that we will find on the polar end of the album. It’s a piano-voice song of love; Mac professing his love to his other half, coupling together reveries of their relationship and his admiration for her physical form. The song interests me due to its mix of lush instrumentation when Bilal sings, and a cute awkwardness when Mac raps. This awkwardness is particularly notable just before he begins rapping, when he stumbles over his words, the same way a young boy stumbles while walking up to speak to his crush. I will never know whether this was a mistake, but if this was then, damn, Mac Miller you are a nitpicky genius. This transitions into an absolute banger: ‘Dang!’.
This bombastic, bright, soulful track is easily the most danceable; taking elements of house music and utilising the absolute energy driven voice of Anderson. Paak. The song entails a fighting relationship, from the perspective of the man, pleading to his woman to keep him in his life despite his idiocy. ‘Stay’, the third track, is one of those songs that gives me the ‘butterflies in your tummy feeling’. Again, a song of pleading, ‘will you stay, just a little while?’ a phrase that’s been on every boy’s mind; that thought, that feeling, which was so well articulated musically and lyrically. The song opens with a virtuosic trumpet phrase, which is almost like a spear to the ear, pulling you into the song finessing with two layers of vocal phrases layered on each other, ‘Will. You. Stay. Just a little while?” and “The way you walk into the room, oo oo, all I think about is what I wanna do to you,” which are both intensely honest lines. This ends up morphing into a compilation of sex noises. Which is extremely awkward to listen to with family (never again). This cacophony is then musically brought to life with a saxophone solo, a different kind of defiance compared to the likes of the trumpet in ‘Stay’, a defiance with a tinge of mystery which is the lead in into ‘Skin’.
‘Skin’ breaks away from the mental desires of the previous songs and jumps right into the physical nature of desire. Much like ‘Stay’, ‘Skin’ also contains a main brass riff, being the earlier virtuosic Saxophone. Here Mac unleashes the specifics of his sexual desires, and justifies them in his hook “it’s just the way that we are, you and me super freaks, yeah we are”. This piece of work is indefinitely kinky get-it-on music, and the yawning saxophone riff only goes to prove that: a cry for sexual passion. The next song is one of my favourites off the album: ‘Cinderella’ featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Now this song is pretty typical of a current Hip Hop chart topper, with influences of trap alongside your token autotuned rapper/singer, that I actually quite enjoy, and his feature in ‘Cinderella’ is the most enjoyable section of the song. A very wise choice by Mac Miller to have the Ty Dolla $ign feature included on the song. It then twists into a separate section, a very 70’S RnB inspired instrumental with Mac singing over it, and I must admit I too find myself singing with him.
After this we hit ‘Planet God Damn’. A melancholy keyboard whispers to me when I listen, but when the drums kick in, I’m vividly reminded of an entire relationship compiled as a comic strip, moving from one scenario to another to another to another. Production-wise, this track is fairly repetitive but not to an annoying extent, but very much seems to be a track that may have just made the cut for the album, being the shortest and least creative song. The next song contrasts ‘Planet God Damn’ quite heavily, and could probably pass for a dance piece, with its Flume-esque influence of the opening gooey-synth. This track, ‘Soulmate’ also includes a quote from Robin Williams from the film ‘Good Will Hunting’, a short monologue about finding a soulmate. Even though this song is extremely groovy, with a heavy use of melodic ‘squiggly’ synths, which is something I’d usually love to listen to, I find it too repetitive, and almost lacking soul. I feel like Mac could’ve done more vocally, and filled up more space in the song. But coming up from this is another one of my favourite songs on the track, ‘We’ featuring Cee Lo Green.
My favourite thing about this song is the hook recited by Mac Miller: ‘ ‘Cus we sound better than you and me, maybe you could be my..’. I took notice of this instantly when I tried to finish the phrase off with ‘we’. It made perfect sense to me to tie the phrase together with that word, but extremely smart of Mac to make me partake in the song. Another reason I could not stop myself from loving this song was all thanks to Cee Lo’s caressing voice. His harmonies truly do fill up the space of the instrumental, adding a real warmth and cosiness, the intimacy between two lovers. But towards the end of song I notice almost a more heaven-like backing vocal and from a theory perspective the cadences are very close together, much like a classical choral piece would, adding a sense of divinity to it.
The love birds finally collaborate properly on a song: ‘My Favourite Part’. I swear Ariana Grande must’ve done something very special to him for him to come out with an entire RnB album, and here we find her doing what she’s best at. This song is much more traditional RnB, using a 4-piece band set up, pushing groovy bass lines, catchy repetitive guitar lines and laid-back drums, all to allow the vocals to shine, which they did very well, making it one of the better shorter songs on the album. Lastly is my utmost favourite song on the album, ‘God is Fair, Sexy, Nasty’. The moment I heard it I knew it was something special. The jazz intro pulled me in, those sweet chords, followed by the vocal ‘drop’, commanding, “open your legs”, transitioning into an even smoother, weaving instrumental. Not to mention Kendrick Lamar’s feature vocal hook worked so perfectly on the song, contrasting the instrumental so well it's striking. And, even though Mac Miller wasn’t much of a lyrical beast, he added just the right amount of lyricism and melody to make the song even smoother. And to finesse and tie the album with grace and simplicity the piano motif we here at the very beginning is now found as an instrumental for an interview with an elderly lady. By far the cutest thing on the album was this elderly lady reminiscing her younger days with her young husband, discussing the qualities she loved and adored in him. The time she takes to explain her husband, and his qualities just so adorable, the ‘aww’ levels are too high. But this in and of itself ties in with the beginning of the album, Ariana Grande's youthful bright voice contrasting this lady pushing it in her age shows the cycle of love that Mac Miller and many others dream of: to fall in love and get old together. A beautiful warm ending with which the album began.
The first track I heard from this album was the very last, ‘God is Fair, Sexy, Nasty’, and I was hooked. When I had the money to spend I had to buy a copy of the album and I can barely say I regret it, but in my opinion one thing could have brought the album to another level: Deeper concept. I feel like this is a general problem with RnB; the depth to lyrics tend to be lacking, and exploring ideas of love and relationship on any level is gravely lacking, and I wish Mac Miller would have done that on this album. Alas, I still love this album and if there were a number I could place for it, I would most likely give it an 8/10. An amazing album, but not a perfect album, beautifully produced, but lyrically lacking. If you want good love songs to just jam too, to listen to while spending quality time with your completing half, then look no further than ‘The Divine Feminine’.