Mac Miller — The Divine Feminine ANALYSIS & REVIEW
When discussing the melodic intrigue of hip-hop music, rhythm plays a much more important role than most other genres. Hip-hop melodies are successfully built either through a unique, catchy bass line pattern or through a dominant speaking voice. Both heavily use melodic rhythm over melodic pitch to find its intrigue. Eminem has consistently been one of the best hip-hop musicians at finding melodic intrigue with either of these two tactics. Whether his melodies are in his voice or in the texture of electronic instruments, they are well-crafted and excitable. This is all due to his rhythmic genius. As if we needed a reminder from this album, Mac Miller is no Eminem.
The Divine Feminine leaves a lot to be desired from Miller’s overall plain delivery of lyrics and lack of interesting line from most every background texture. In his few songs on this album where rhythmic experimentation was evident, only “Planet God Damn” kept a successful rhythm and nice flow throughout (and that may just be due to the quality of Miller’s featured musician Njomza). Other songs such as “Dang!”, “Stay”, and “God Is Fair, Sexy Nasty” had neat choruses due to the unique melodic rhythm but couldn’t continue the momentum through the rest of the song. The other songs, especially “Cinderella”, were very much lacking in any strength from a single line, which caused the music to sound too directionless. “Planet God Damn” was also the only song that I felt was the appropriate length.
Due to the repetition of uninspiring melodies from many of the tracks, the songs overstayed its welcome and went on for too long. I would not have felt that way had the repetitive melody been engaging, but throughout this album there was nothing much to engage with musically. What saves The Divine Feminine from getting an utterly terrible score in melodic intrigue is the fact that nothing was tacky or “sell-out” sounding. The melodies were original and fresh with a flavor that only Mac Miller uses. I certainly respect that; for many songs, that was the biggest difference from being scored around the low 20’s as opposed to a single digit score. While there was hardly a melody that gave a sense of purpose or importance in this album, they were also well thought out and stayed true to Miller’s intentions. That gives off a bit of intrigue to me, which is why my score here isn’t horrible, despite it being the worst category of the album.
The Divine Feminine contains a mix of solid, formulaic chord progressions that heighten the given mood and bizarre chord progressions that fail to work with the rest of the music. At least this shows an effort in experimentation and the knowledge that harmony cannot be taken for granted (which can seem like the case in many instances of hip-hop). Unfortunately, it was the songs that contained the more risky and intricate harmonies, like “Stay” and “Soulmate”, which ended up being too disjointed from the music. They gave off a nice sense of the chill mood, but that was basically it.
Songs such as “Skin” and “We” weren’t so intricate in their harmony yet gave better feeling and groove to the music. After listening to the first track of the album, “Congratulations”, I was excited to hear that songs in this type of genre were actually using some weighty harmonies with added chord tones to provide nice color. I was hoping to hear that level of creativity throughout the album, but sadly that was not the case. The only songs that came close to it were those that essentially copied the same formula for obtaining color that “Congratulations” had, but did it to a lesser degree. Overall, the harmony was hit and miss with providing good contributions. Although this album didn’t necessarily show it, I feel as though continuing harmonic experimentation from Miller will equal more hits in the future.
Perhaps the most compelling and noteworthy element of this album is its timbre. I fully enjoyed the inclusion of saxophone and piano that gave the music a jazz lounge feel underneath the fire of hip-hop. For the most part, the sounds used on this album were very effective in portraying a singular, chill mood that I know many people enjoy. While that mood was certainly a positive aspect, the complacent and monotonous showing of the timbre by the end turned out to be a downfall. The album started out wonderfully in terms of timbre, with a lot of unique surprises and additions to the texture that enhanced the mood very well. By “Cinderella”, the variety was lost as was a sense of form or direction. The sounds themselves were still cool and supportive, but its energy from the beginning turned plain by the end. The few surprises that came out in the last couple of songs, especially “We”, ended up sounding too odd and off-putting.
Speaking of off-putting, the subject of this album was completely off target. The lyrics were very disappointing and in fact rather stupid. While it does have its market, this surely was not the album that those serious in the music world wanted from Miller. Titling his album The Divine Feminine, he had a chance to wash out the awful depictions of women in hip-hop (and in the general media) by possibly showing an air of respect, thankfulness, or honor to the women in his life. Instead, what comes across is his arrogance, lust, and simpleton view of women that offers no intellectual discourse whatsoever. This album is not a profound statement in any sense; it is ten songs talking about how much one man wants to have sex. Because of this, the anecdotal voice-over at the end of the album was quite pathetic. For music to reach anything beyond good, more maturity is needed. This album is proof to me that Miller lacks maturity, both musically and thematically, which ultimately dooms this album. Due to the effectiveness of the instrumentation and quality mood setting, The Divine Feminine is okay at best.
This is only the fourth studio album by Mac Miller, and it’s bound to have good sales with a wide audience. There are many people that absolutely love the nuances that Miller has brought to the hip-hop stage, and I can see why. He is indeed creative, and he gives new meaning to simple themes while providing a sound that is both surprising and enjoying. However, I would only buy this album if I were a die-hard Mac Miller fan from his beginning that needs a testament of his growth overtime. This album is good for background music when under the covers, but there’s plenty of that out there already, and it doesn’t provide much else for the average listener. I don’t foresee this sticking around for a long time. If hip-hop artists are looking to be influenced, they’ll gravitate toward the likes of Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, or Notorious B.I.G. before this Mac Miller album; especially since its subject material was a complete failure.