I had to take a break from J. Cole for a while. I know that I don’t like his album, but I can’t yet verbalize why. So I jumped into another album by a guy who doesn’t always seem to care about topics and staying on them, Mac Miller. I heard the single, S.D.S., and even though I was impressed I still didn’t expect a whole lot from this album. In fact I expected to hate it, for a couple of reasons. Number one, he’s from Pittsburgh and I’m from Cleveland so there’s that pointless football rivalry that only Cleveland heads still care about. Number two, he’s clearly a pothead and I’ve never been into drug rappers. I have no problem with the fact that some people use but I’ve no interest in constantly hearing about it.
But Watching Movies With the Sound Off is a very pleasant surprise.
Far from being a drug rapper, Mac is much more conventional than I figured. The intro is appropriately spacey for a druggie, but instead of talking about drugs, Mac seems to be rapping about any and everything he can think of, as if he’s speaking from a high mind-state. This I can dig, because while some of it’s kind of dumb (“as time’s a-wastin, I’m freebasin with Freemasons”), it all at least sounds cool (check the multiple and multisyllabic rhymes in that last quote)’ and there’s some compelling parts too:
I’m from a city that you hear and think a bunch of steel
So a hundred mills wouldn’t make me sign a fucking deal
Money kills, that’s the truth, it’s called the route of evil
But I want that Rolls Royce that the homie Lennon drove
In general, there’s two types of songs on this album: somber, reflective songs, and really fun songs about…having fun. The albums teeters back and forth between the two moods, like a person who started off sad, partied to escape the pain, then when the party wound down they realized the pain was still there so they repeat the cycle. This sequence of songs makes the unbalanced ratio of one song type to the other easier to deal with, but there’s still too many emo songs here. I end up skipping about 4 of them without fail. My first conclusion was that maybe the album is just too long at 16 tracks. But more likely, the problem is just that Mac isn’t yet skilled enough to pull off so many emotional topics. But the successes are great so I’m glad he tried.
For example, Objects in the Mirror is one of my favorite songs on this album. Mac sings the whole thing (wait, give it a chance!) to a girl that he likes but who has been hurt so much she can’t trust anyone and is thinking about about ending her own life. The melodrama works well for me, the grounded lyrics don’t try to be too poetic, and his singing voice works well enough with the simple melody and the “end of summer at the beach” instrumental.
My opinions about Youforia, however, are much more negative. The stark beat sounds like a generic sound engineered to induce crying. Mac tries to make a sad anthem and his voice fails him on every note, but especially on the terrible verses where he attempts to hold notes every four bars. The lyrics try too hard so I have no idea what the verses are about, and I ended up hating the hook, where he simply yells “Youforia” over and over.
Remember is another by the numbers sad song about a friend who died. It’s got the sparse beat, the sung hook that fails at being heart-wrenching, and even ends with a guitar solo.
These are some serious missteps that would be unforgivable on their own but can be forgotten while playing the plethora of cool dumb songs and the couple good emo ones. Bird Call, Matches, Gees, and even Watching Movies with its throwaway 2 Chainz backdrop succeed at delivering mindless fun, and The Star Room and Objects in the Mirror do their moody topics justice. Oh, and pretty much all the features are good too. Mac keeps the verses on the emo songs for himself, a wise choice, and saves people like Ab-Soul for simple songs that are perfect for his silly rhymes. Mac didn’t drop a perfect album but he showed that he can entertain and evoke emotions so I look forward to hearing more from him.