Mac Miller’s “So It Goes” & Accepting Endings

“Just like a circle, I go back to where I’m from.”
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Allow me to start by being honest: I don’t want Year of Mac to end, either. Week in and week out, this series has been my rock. It’s done wonders for my mental health. It’s brought me so much closer to Malcolm’s music, his close friends, his family, and to the Machead community. Year of Mac has been a dream begat from a nightmare. The stories I’ve been able to unearth and tell, the connections I’ve been able to make within Mac’s work, and the legacy I’ve been lucky enough to help establish are all incredible. Year of Mac may be ending on paper, but if there’s one thing the series has taught us Macheads, it’s that Mac’s legacy is everlasting.

To commemorate the series, I thought it would be wise to look at Mac’s final song, “So It Goes.” The song, among other things, is about the beauty of finality. On the opening hook, there’s an absolute sense to the piece: “You could have the world in the palm of your hands / You still might drop it.” It’s Malcolm's awareness of the end that’s staggering. He spends “So It Goes” warning us the end is coming, but he does not sound afraid nor resigned. Instead, he sounds accepting. Mac Miller has come into his station in life, and he’s imparting the wisdom of blithe acceptance unto us.

Keeping in that vein, “So It Goes”’s first verse begins with Mac perched atop the kingdom he built with his own two hands: “There was nothin' in my wallet, just a lot o' dreamin' / I built a crib on top o’ the Promised Land, we'll call it even.” Counting money and recounting his woes, there’s a sly despondence to the piece. Mac sounds tired but contented. His delivery is a touch slurred, but there’s a bubbling power to his words. Truly, Mac sounds like he’s over success (“Please leave me to my studies”) and wants to retire to his work. As Kehlani told us, Mac was never one to pursue fame. He was in it for the art.

His dedication to craft above all else illuminates a line like “This narcissism, more like narcotics,” where Mac notes the high of notoriety, but paints it in a negative light. Moreover, the whole of the hook following the first verse feels like a plea from Malcolm to the listener. He urges us to accept finality’s truth before our respective endings come to pass. It almost sounds as if it’s better that way—things coming to a close. It almost seems as if Malcolm is pleased with things having their natural conclusions, for they are just that: Natural. The wobble and warp of the beat as Mac tells us to “gather ‘round” alludes to as much. Mac addresses his audience directly, and from this, we can gather he’s looking to dole out one final lesson, on the final song, on his final album. It’s cosmic, but it makes sense.

Well, this is a special delivery, comin’ to you live with the / Endless artillery, always down to ride / My eyes on the enterprise / Nine lives, never die, fuck a heaven, Im still gettin’ high / Never mind, did I mention Im fine”—Mac Miller, “So It Goes”

With the second verse, Mac establishes his energy as undeniable. He is as endless as the circles he finds himself so obsessed with both on the song and the Circles EP preamble. When he notes his “eyes on the enterprise,” we return to the themes of the first verse and Mac’s existing above success as a true artist. Now we’re playing with layers. The hook is all about prospective endings, but the verses seem to be all about the endless qualities of Mac Miller. How do we reconcile the two? By understanding, Mac’s acceptance of the end made him eternal. He was able to move without fear and become a perfect circle himself because he ran from nothing. He fed into himself. His endings were beginnings. With that, our understanding of endings hinges on “Just like a circle, I go back to where I'm from.”

Just look at his career for a prime example of Mac Miller as a perfect circle. Every era and iteration of Mac Miller fed into itself. When the “frat rap” days of K.I.D.S. to Blue Slide Park came to an end, the musicality and introspective bars rose in their wake on Macadelic all the way to GO:OD AM. When tapping into the very essence of rhyming was not enough to capture Mac’s creativity, we stumbled into gorgeous jazz and love songs on The Divine Feminine. And when the love songs failed to house all Mac had lived through, we were gifted Swimming.

Mac doesn’t die at the end of Swimming; he returns to himself. He is at the center of every era he creates. He is his own shelter. The circle line also reminds us that Malcolm was pure, and he would always return to his roots. No matter the success he achieved, the fame or infamy, no matter what external circumstances plagued his life, he would always return to the music. Every song he released was better for this very reason. Ultimately, this line reminds us that Mac Miller was everlasting in every sense of the word. As he established on GO:OD AM, Mac Miller’s energy can never truly die.

We get this sense from the immediately following lines, “Well, everybody gather 'round/I’m still standing, sit down,” where Mac makes it known he is not going anywhere. “So It Goes” may be his final song, but it is not his final breath. Mac Miller breathes across his music, and he breathes endlessly. He breathes through every fan who finds light in his work, through every life he’s touched. His heart cannot be denied. We accept his death only because we wish to celebrate his life. One cannot exist without the other. There is no love without loss, and boy, do I have a lot of love to give.

Over this past year, I’ve been touched by the reaction to Year of Mac. I’ve been touched by the personal stories with which people have entrusted me. I’ve been moved by the way Malcolm moved people. He had the world in the palm of his hands. He had so much life to hold and to give out. Mac Miller’s essence extends beyond my known vocabulary. He saved me, he saved all of us, and he taught us how to save ourselves. “So It Goes” is about the beauty that comes at the end of something arduous. I’ve poured my heart into Year of Mac, as Mac has poured his soul into his work, as fans have poured themselves into his art. We make a perfect circle, too.

As Mac ascends into heaven at the close of “So It Goes,” so, too, does Year of Mac end. We’ve spent a year grieving and communing together, and now we can all be free to spread the very light Mac spread unto us. 

Thank you, Mac Miller. Thank you, everyone. We’re all we got.

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