“Yeah, I know what's behind that door” —Mac Miller, “2009”
This is the one I just wasn’t sure how to write about, not for fear of what it might make me feel, but because I am worried that I won’t be able to do “2009” justice; it is, after all, Mac Miller’s most resolved song. “2009” is also Mac's most soothed and promising track, his most optimistic and arrived. When you listen to “2009,” a firm sense of place and calm permeates the record. We’ve made it. As I love to say: we lived. It is more than a promise that we will survive, it exists as living proof you can feel through anything and make it over the horizon to clearer skies.
The operative question when you’re stuck writing something is: why do I need to write this? So, I need this piece and I need this song because I need to accept that life simply is, and so many times it is simply good. We spend so much of our energy worrying about the past, we forget to be present for the good of the present. And for good reason, the past is familiar; it houses our last bouts of joy, but also our pain. Yet, we do not need to invite struggle into our lives, we are allowed to move on. There is no need to pine after the past when the future is bright—happiness may be fleeting, but so is sadness. This may well be one of the most difficult things to accept.
“Yeah, okay you gotta jump in to swim / Well, the light was dim in this life of sin / Now every day I wake up and breathe / I don't have it all but that's alright with me” —Mac Miller, “2009”
In that vein, “2009” makes the temporary less scary. By way of blooming keys and enveloping strings, life feels less so random and unfulfilling and more so like a fluid thing we drift through. When Mac says we must jump in to swim, he’s telling us the only way out is through, and it will be okay once we get to the other side. It always is. We have to survive, and we will. He certainly did: “Now when it gets hard / I don't panic, I don't sound the alarm.” Change is not by default negative, and we are invited to bring positivity into our worldview. Mac Miller is not sullen when he admits it’s no longer 2009; he sounds grateful. His tone is matured, and he projects fresh wisdom unto the track.
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Wisdom, in particular, feeds the hook. His gentle and declarative “Yeah, I know what's behind that door” leaves us with the sense Mac is no longer scared of the future. He’s lived through enough, and perhaps he now knows there is always good to be had. The anxieties of a young man about to stumble into fame are multiple, but having lived through the highs and lows, we come away with more highs than we realize. The humanity of the track, then, is how Mac does not shy away from the lows. Singing of demons filling his mansion and materialism failing to fill his heart, we do not receive resolve without conflict. “2009” paints the necessity of conflict not as a boogeyman, but as a pitstop. Not once during the song do we feel as though happiness is out of reach; we’re already there.
“Yeah, they ask me what I'm smilin' for / Well, because I've never been this high before / It's like I never felt alive before / Mhmm, I'd rather have me peace of mind than war” —Mac Miller, “2009”
At once, “2009” is about accepting that the good times have to end, but only so better times can come to pass. The song is bittersweet in the purest sense of the word. The ease of the early years must give way for the excitement of the future; lows be damned. The magic of “2009” comes from how assured Mac sounds that things truly are better now. The nostalgia factor almost melts away, because he is not lusting after his past despite how carefree it felt. He is content in his present, a fighter who has come home to bask in the glory of appreciating the day. It’s a becoming moment for Mac Miller, who spends most of Swimming telling us about his battle to stay alive and live in earnest.
All of this is why “2009” is the crux of Swimming; it teaches us the lesson of forward motion and hope. Most of Swimming is spent doing battle with regret and attempting to grow through the ache of loss; to overcome the defeatist feeling and come away inspired by life. We can love it or leave it, as on “What’s The Use?” but we have to live through it nonetheless. Mac’s propensity to chase after life—his natural-born joy that he spread to everyone he worked with and his fans—sums up on “2009.” It's a reminder that we must believe in our present and our future and ourselves. Darkness comes into play but does not cloud the track, just like Mac refused to let darkness cloud his life. The song exists as if to say: there is always going to be something better, even when it’s good. Even when it’s bad. There is always going to be a better chapter.
All of this is why I needed to write about “2009,” to teach myself a lesson on moving forward and allowing myself happiness. We live and die by ourselves, which means we must be our own mentors, and so this is my promise to myself: I am worthy of goodness. This is the ultimate promise of “2009”: after everything, we can be happy now. Closing out Swimming, this is the song that rewards us for keeping the faith and pressing forward.
As with the rest of his discography, Mac took an important journey with us. and together, we can begin a new chapter. “See me and you, we ain't that different,” he sings directly at us. By this stage of his career, he must know what he means to his fans, and thus, we can have this personal connection free of pomp and pretension. We simply are together in this. We are one in our humanness by the end of the cut, and he’s got us, like always. Mac Miller’s grand overcoming is our overcoming; we don’t have to cry no more.
“An angel’s supposed to fly,” he sings, and he is, and he does.