Anton McConville
Digital Designer & Developer
Swimming With Mac Miller

A few weeks ago, my teenage son Toby asked if I’d help him use my Natural Language Processing, David Bowie lyrics personality analysis techniques on the artist Mac Miller.

I really didn’t know anything about Mac Miller. I learned that he struggled with substance abuse, which was often referenced in his lyrics. On September 7, 2018, Miller died from an accidental drug overdose at his home, at the age of 26.

So, I set to work, building up the lyrics data with Toby. You can explore the project here.

I realized that it is tricky to reuse any of the previous work I’ve been doing with my lyrics analysis, and Toby showed me that I needed to find a better way of scaling the idea for others to use if they want to.

A new web component based project

In the past when I’ve built these lyrics analysis for David Bowie, Coldplay, or Hamilton, I’ve worked to design a unique kind of web app for each. I’ve drawn sketches of the different eras of the artist’s careers, and then tried to design a storybook site around them.

I’ve realized that it doesn’t scale well, so during the past few months, I’ve been working on a standard, reusable way of presenting the data. It is still a work in progress, but there is now a evolving set of tools and web components to more quickly create new analysis. I’m going to write more about that on the IBM Developer Blog soon.

I’m really excited by the power of web components, expecially given how they are an open standard for modularizing web development. I’m also really excited to share some of the things that I’ve learned about using them, as well as my tools and library.

What did I learn about Mac?

I am no expert on Mac Miller, at all. To figure out his different eras, I relied on his Wikipedia entry. I took each of his six studio albums and then watched some videos of songs from them, to see how he looked visually.

I drew a sketch of him for each album using the Pantone Colors of Spring 2020 collection. Toby told me that Mac was 5’7” - so a little shorter than David Bowie and Chris Martin. I adjusted a bit.

What I noticed about his music is that it started out quite hard and heavy, but became more melodic and poppy as time sped on.

Lyrically he became progressively less open after his second album. In the last couple of albums he was also lyrically much more introverted.

His ‘Swimming’ album, Toby pointed out was the last one that he released before his overdose ( the ‘Circles’ album was released posthumously ). Toby noted that he wore the same suit as ‘The Great Gatsby’ on the cover of ‘Swimming’ ( and in my sketch ). Toby noted that they shared other similarities.

The emotional range in the tracks had been growing since his third album ‘GO:OD AM’ - where he had supposedly begun leading a less dependant lifestyle.

Maybe Toby is looking for more clues by using this lyrics analysis. It is interesting for me too, to learn more about this artist, that even President Obama has been listening to (‘Blue World’ from ‘Circles’). I’m still listening and learning more. Toby says another posthumous album is in the works too.