Let’s start with a trick question: What’s the difference in feeling between a manic episode and a depressive one?
When you’re flying higher than you were ever meant to soar, and when you’re taking off without warning, you feel sick and disoriented. When you’re so low your vision fogs and the darkest moments feel like the most natural, you feel just as nauseous and undone. And then there’s the feeling of being a burden. That’s how depression manifests for me. So when Mac Miller sings, “Good news, good news, good news, that’s all they wanna hear,” I feel him in my heart.
I carry this tremendous fear paired with a pang of equally sizable guilt for being alive. Sometimes, when the Bipolar II really kicks in, I can reason a whole theory wherein I was meant to die during my brain surgery. Meaning, I’ve broken the timeline. Meaning, I’m so miserable because there’s no place for me here. Meaning, I’m in the way—everyone’s way. Meaning, it’s time for me to go.
But who wants to hear all that? All people want is good news, good news. All they want is to know you’re doing better. People are down for your journey so long as recovery is linear, but no one heals on a simple straight line.
When Mac says, “Oh, I hate the feeling, when you high but you underneath the ceiling,” I hear him in my spirit. That’s the sickness of a manic episode, of knowing you can’t come down, you can’t break free, of knowing you cannot go anywhere. But no one wants to hear about that. People want to hear how you sprung up and wrote 15 articles in two weeks, in a tizzy. They want to hear about your great accomplishments at impossible rates. They want to look up to you while you’re busy straining against the ceiling. “Can I get a break?” Mac laments, and I realize he’s speaking directly to me.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mac Miller’s “Good News,” the first single off his first posthumous release, Circles, releasing January 17, 2020, is five glorious minutes of gentle and tender singing and songwriting. Malcolm’s spoken voice tiptoes around the light pluckings of a guitar. When he’s not speaking to us, his voice slips into a horizontal melody, one that lulls and coos. Since 2016 and the start of Mac’s third creative renaissance, singing has become a trademark of Malcolm’s. When he slips into his achy vocal, we know he is as sincere as humanly possible. He is giving over as much of himself as he can muster.
“Good News” unfolds several times over—with the first arc of the song pattering up and up, higher and higher, as Mac says, “I spent the whole day in my head.” It’s not a far cry from 2018’s Swimming opener “Come Back to Earth” (“I just need a way out of my head”). He tries to play his pain off. He’s just doing a little spring cleaning up there.
As with “Come Back to Earth,” Mac laments his time—not in his head, but on earth itself. “Why does everybody need me, to stay?” he asks. I hear his question and realize I’ve asked myself the same thing hundreds of times. It’s incredible how suicidal ideation can seize you in broad daylight. It’s much more romantic to think of the tragic writer sitting at their desk with a bottle of whiskey, cigarette butts littered about, and a body, on its final breaths, splayed over the desk. But that’s not how life works. The thought of suicide, of ridding myself of myself to ease the burden, comes at the most mundane times. But no one wants to hear about that.
So when Mac sings, “Maybe I’ll lay down for a little / Instead of always trying to figure everything out,” I know what he means. This “save yourself” business. This “overcoming” business. This “living” business… It’s all perpetually tiresome to an incomprehensible degree. Every little thing you do for yourself results in three more little things to do until your entire life becomes rife with little things. Sure, you’re making yourself better, but who has the energy for constant self-improvement? Don’t we all deserve to just lay down for a while?
That’s what suicidal ideation looks like to me, too. It’s not this tremendous depressive swell threatening to take me under. It’s the wish for some peace of mind for a prolonged period, maybe forever. When I think of taking my life, I think of a long-awaited and long-term slumber. It’s nothing grand and ceremonious. There are no tears or fantasies about funerals. It’s nothing but a slow slipping into a deep and finally restful sleep. Do I wake up eventually? For sure, why not? Mac wakes up, eventually, too.
But “Good news, good news, good news, that’s all they wanna hear / No, they don’t like it when I’m down / But when I’m flying, oh, I make ‘em so uncomfortable.” That’s the trick question of this article. When I feel my best, my visible and accessible best, I’m usually seconds away from a manic romp. It looks like ten articles in a week and pitches galore, but it feels like holding your breath for hours. When I am at my worst, no one knows what to say or how to help me. And can I blame them? At my lowest, I am wholly inconsolable. It feels like being encased in tar.
“It ain’t that bad, it could always be worse / I’m running out of gas / Hardly anything left / Hope I make it home from work,” Mac continues on the hook of “Good News.” There’s something about your art and your work becoming one, and people thinking you’re okay because you’re producing. My obsession with words and creating is a fruitful byproduct of my illness, but it comes at a cost. When Mac says that he hopes he makes it home from work, what I hear is a plea. I imagine myself in the wee hours of the night or morning, writing, hoping I make it to the other side of the piece with my sanity.
I intended for this piece to be a lyrical break down of a superb song by my favorite artist. I’ve intended for a lot of things in my life. I sat down to write, and instead of breaking down Mac’s meanings, I felt overwhelmed by the way Mac has, yet again, wormed his way into my psyche and brought me to understand myself. I had to write about “Good News” honestly. Yes, it’s a beautiful song. Yes, it’s worthy of critique and analysis. But I can’t break this song down without telling you all that it means to me to hear Mac’s voice in 2020, to listen to his voice and know he’ll never stop being there for us MacHeads.
It’s a new year, Circles is coming, and life is still so precious, but my goodness… Life is exhausting. “So tired of being so tired,” Mac agrees. There’s a whole lot more for us, waiting. “It ain’t that bad / It ain’t so bad.”
True to his word, with Mac, things are better together. Right on time, like he always does, Malcolm hears me out and puts our communion on wax. “Good News” is breathtaking. It’s packed with heavy, heady, and honest quotables, lines that will likely strike every wanting fan in their heart. My personal “Good News” story is but one of millions sure to surface. That’s Mac Miller’s magic—a magic that will never dry up.