Watching Movies with the Sound Off: Two Years After Mac Miller's Tragic Death

Grace Krieger


Two years removed from his death to the day, there has been few as ingenious and tangled as Mac Miller. His growth as an artist and a man are well-documented through his discography's metamorphosis. As I sit here and listen to "REMember" from his 2013 album Watching Movies with the Sound Off, I am reminded of the demons Miller struggled with and how they perpetually made his music special. Such as the toxic and complicated relationship Miller had with drugs, I find my own toxicity in the way I appreciate, even need, how he let his demons weave their way into his playful yet somber melodies that pepper Watching Movies.

To revisit this album is to understand that while his more recent albums (including the posthumous release of the incredibly raw Circles) show a different side to the once frat- rapper Miller, Watching Movies encompasses his explicit ability to expand beyond any box that is attempted upon him. The album is a departure from college-party anthems into an exploration of his inner-sadness mixed with his take on the zeitgeist sound of hip-hop at the time.

In hindsight, the tracks are a dark delve into how heavy Miller's reality (fame, finding his music footing, substance abuse, women) weighed on him -- especially at such a formative age. His soul-searching on his ego flips between songs, from the line "if God was a human He'd be yours truly" on "Star Room" to the striking counterpart "I'm no God" on "S.D.S". This also plays into his examination of his conflicting feelings about money and how others treat him; Miller is relentlessly mulling over whether or not his newfound wealth is too influential on his relationships. The lovably confident Mac Miller we love -- solidified in the 2015 release of GO:OD AM -- does not fail to make it to the party with his classic hip-hop production on songs such as "Bird Call" and "Watching Movies". Yet even those tracks cannot escape Miller's murky introspection in their eerie melodies and thrown-in dark catches. Moreover, tracks such as "Youforia" noticeably define the album, feeling like the treasure of an underwater shipwreck: dreamy, distant, and brilliant.

A testament to his issues and how he is navigating them, Watching Movies this far removed from its release reveals a reflection on his transitions in his production at the time (trance-inducing, explorative, smoky, skilled) and his inevitably fatal demons (substance abuse, money, fame). Despite the weight the album now holds in reference to its' dark and ruminative lyrics, it doesn't lose its Mac Miller-esque wonder. Poignant in his line in the adoringly familiar, and frankly dirty feature with Tyler the Creator "O.K", "Album filled with all sad songs/But this the one that I can laugh on" is his playfulness that keeps him afloat, and his confusion with how it fits into the dichotomous yet charming mix that is his track list.

While it would be in his next album that he seems to find solid footing in who he is, this album is an important and commanding note to the journey that we all got to live in through his album progression. It is a reminder of the levels of production Miller achieved and the fluidity of his talent throughout his life. Miller sought out to understand himself with and through his music and we were fortunate enough to reap the benefits. Revisiting Watching Movies (a must-listen) is a testament to his genius even in (possibly, especially) his most confusing times.