New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
The rapper's brutally honest fifth album is a stellar - if somewhat overlong - artistic statement In 2011, Mac Miller was breaking records. After releasing a handful of critically and commercially beloved mixtapes, he dropped his debut album ‘Blue Slide Park’, which became the first independently-distributed debut album to top the Billboard charts since 1995, and spawned a string of outrageously catchy bops (including blistering ‘Frick Park Market’). After that came several more albums and another flurry of mixtapes.
When Ariana Grande left Mac Miller this spring, he lost a relationship, a collaborator, and muse. Miller's 2016 effort The Divine Feminine was recorded closely with Grande and doubled as a love letter to the woman he'd hitched his star to. He's gone from "you and me against the world" to just "me against the world," and as much as he tries to convince himself that's almost as good on his warm but wounded fifth album, Swimming, he knows it's not.
Forget any talk about the long-buzzed Mac Miller finally arriving as a fully formed MC on his latest album, Swimming. Aside from more finely honed bars, the Pittsburgh artist also appears to be poised for pop stardom on songs like "Ladders," and "What's the Use?," both of which sport funky neon-bright instrumentals (think Pharrell's work with Daft Punk or on his own "Happy"). Both tracks are helmed by rapidly rising Vancouver producer Pomo, though Pharrell lends his writing talents to the darker, murky synth drenched "Hurt Feelings," which was ….
Like 2016's The Divine Feminine, Mac Miller's fifth album, Swimming, is influenced by the presence of the rapper's ex-girlfriend, Ariana Grande. The pop singer was featured on the previous album's single “My Favorite Part,” and Miller conjures her ghost here: “Time we don't waste much, fuck when we wake up/Then have her sing just like Celine Dion,” he quips on “What's the Use?” Together, The Divine Feminine and Swimming are an affecting tribute to love: The former is a lustful ode to romantic love, while the latter is an openhearted meditation on self-love in the wake of heartbreak. That self-love makes it easier for Miller to dress his wounds with humor and optimism throughout the album.
Following 2016's ode to love The Divine Feminine, Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller avoids treading water and continues his artistic maturation on his fifth full-length, Swimming. As flowing as the title suggests, Swimming undulates with laid-back slacker soul and hypnotic production, like a lava lamp bobbing along calm waves. Inspired by events preceding the album's release, Miller's moody and introspective lyrics hint at the post-breakup black cloud hovering above his head, while also addressing his struggles with maintaining sobriety.