Two years after the tragic death of rapper and record producer Mac Miller, fans still mourn and grieve through his music. On Jan. 17, Millers’ first posthumous album, “Circles,” was released. While the album delivers a beautiful homage to a talented artist in the wake of his passing, there are some ethical issues when it comes to producing music after the death of an artist.
The album opens with the song “Circles,” a mellow and melodic tune that compels you to listen to every second of the album. His voice is enchanting, making it almost impossible not to reminisce about Miller and his music. Miller then moves into “Good News,” one of the album’s standout tracks. In this particular song, he discusses the way that people always want to hear the good news, but for all the good, there’s also bad.
In this song alone, Miller harps on the idea that not everything in life will be comforting, but we must take that at face value and work through it. Throughout this album, Miller explores various topics, such as death, ownership, indulgence and remembrance. He uses multiple musical arrangements that explicitly complement his impactful lyricism and ultimately enriches the album and all of its greatness.
But should this really be considered a rap album? Why did they release this album posthumously? Where does the money go? Is this ethical?
The album definitely incorporates lyrics that flow in a manner that resembles rap, but it simply doesn’t match it to an exact extent. I would personally categorize this album as R&B, but it is honestly up to the listeners’ discretion.
The major controversy surrounding “Circles” is its release after Miller’s death. Similar accounts have happened with artists like Michael Jackson, Avicii, XXXTenatacion and many more. There’s a huge stigma behind posthumous albums; the release could be considered ingenuine and insensitive. The death of major artists can definitely affect large groups of people, and although we’d love to continue to have their music, it’s important to consider who is benefiting from this post-death exploitation.
For Jackson, his estate made loads of money off album sales after his death. For Avicii, the proceeds went to the Tim Bergling Foundation, named in his honor and created after his death to raise money for groups focusing on mental health and suicide prevention. In Miller’s case, his family made the choice to release the album, and it appears that some profits made from the album’s influence such as merch, will also be going to a namesake fund.
“This is a complicated process that has no right answer. No clear path. We simply know that it was important for the world to hear it,” Miller’s family said. The family released a statement on Miller’s Instagram account not only announcing the album, but informing the public that any information regarding the release of the album is available through @92tilinfinity on Instagram.
Despite the moral debate, Miller’s latest album ultimately made a lasting impact on the music world. He curated art, and did so in a way that smoothly penetrates our ears with soothing tunes and impactful knowledge through his lyrics. This album is another incredible archive in the memoir of Miller’s lasting legacy.
Chance Allen ‘22 is a journalism student at Mercer who has been working for The Cluster under various roles for the past three years. Allen is a multi-hyphenate but works primarily with photo and writing. He has been working with NBC Entertainment for the entirety of this year and since becoming a journalism student he has received multiple honors and awards from the Georgia Collegiate Press Association as well as DASHBOARD. Allen spends his free time writing, creating, and being.