Heard it in a Past Life: Maggie Rogers big debut

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"Heard it in a Past Life" album artwork

Sidney Norman, North Staff Photographer

While studying at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch school of the arts in 2016 Maryland born folk artist Maggie Rogers  had the opportunity to play her song “Alaska”, which at the time was only a class project in the works, for the Grammy Award winning producer Pharrell Williams. The video clip and the song went viral resulting in a record deal upon her graduation in addition to newfound fame. On Jan. 18 Rogers released her debut album “Heard it in a Past Life” following her 2016 EP “Now that the Light is Fading”. The album differs from her previous music in almost every way, except lyrically.

Under the production of Pharrell Williams, Rogers signature stripped folk sound shifted to a chilled R&B alternative, similar to that of London Grammar, leaving fans feeling both confused  and refreshed. Although there’s a major sound difference, this doesn’t make or break the music for me. As an artist, it’s evidently clear the talent is still there despite the overproduction. The music is still unlike anything else being released in 2019 and the individuality in her voice is one which stands in the presence of many others.

In 12 tracks Rogers gives us insight to her life and the changes she’s experienced in the last few years transitioning from studying at one of the most prestigious music schools in the country to performing on SNL. At a superficial first glance the album presents itself in a down to earth way with upbeat synth-pop tracks, but the lyrics bring in an underlying raw element of emotional depth, connecting the singer to her audience through feelings of change, lostness, loneliness and dejection.

On track two “Overnight” Rogers sings “Cause people change overnight. Things get strange, I’m alright. I’m still here,” placing emphasis on a lack of control and possible feelings of identity loss. The vulnerability in the lyrics on “Light On” when Rogers sings “crying in the bathroom had to figure it out / With everyone around me saying ‘You must be so happy now’ pinpoint how success does not always equal happiness and brings light to an often unspoken side of fame. The singer’s internal conflict is further highlighted on track six entitled “Past Life”. In this heart-wrenching, stripped down ballad Rogers compares change to a personified form of darkness who is “masquerading like it was a friend of mine, wrapping all its arms in mine”. She uses this metaphor to show how inevitable change is and how it’s closing in on her in an almost daunting way, feeding an instinctual fear of the unknown.

While it is her first full-length album, Maggie Rogers is bringing fresh, raw tracks which fall under their own category of folk/pop/electronic. She’s currently touring with Melanie Faye and is set to perform at Coachella this April. To listen to “Heard it in a Past Life” and see upcoming tour dates click here.

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