Not many artists are invited to play on Saturday Night Live. Even fewer are asked on the show before their debut album is even out. Maggie Rogers is one of those few.
Maggie Rogers performed on SNL in November, stunning the audience with a vocally breathtaking performance of her song “Fallingwater.” She also performed her song “Light On” which just hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs Chart.
But it was neither of these tracks that put her in the place to be performing on the SNL stage. That was all thanks to “Alaska.” In June 2016, just weeks after she graduated New York University, Roger’s track “Alaska” went viral after a video of Pharrell reacting to the track at a masterclass started spreading online.
In the time since she was introduced to the world, Rogers has been touring the world and getting used to her new job. On her debut album, “Heard It in a Past Life,” she lays bare the highs and lows she’s experienced.
The album outlines her journey over the past couple of years. “Alaska” and “On + Off” signify the beginning of her ride with the release of her EP. “Light On” describes how distraught she became trying to navigate the industry and how she was ready to give it all up. On “Burning,” Rogers comes around to the bright side. The song radiates appreciation for who she has become and what she has gained from this new life.
She also manages to give herself a fresh introduction to the listening public. The album opens with the track “Give A Little.” The track bubbles with various vocal samples and synths, but yearns for compromise. On the track, Maggie Rogers sings: “You don’t know me / and I don’t know you /If we give a little, get a little / maybe we could get to know each other.” She’s making it clear that on this album, she wants to begin again. She’s here to re-introduce herself and tell her story.
So who is she? Maggie Rogers is a pop singer that grew up in rural Maryland playing banjo. She is a graduate of NYU who found a new passion for dance music during her time in college in the big city. She is a nature lover who combines these genres with samples she’s collected on hikes and walks over the years.
The music Rogers produces is a nuanced form of pop that can’t quite draw a linear comparison to anything else. There’s hints of artists like Kate Bush, James Blake, Imogen Heap and Phil Collins. It is vulnerable and powerful in a gutteral way that the current wave of mainstream sad pop has yet to match. The track “Fallingwater” served as an early thesis for this approach. The song is a battle cry for giving your all to a situation.
“Overnight” is another one of these tracks. The verses chronicle anxieties and struggles that she faced after finding herself in the spotlight overnight sung over stuttering synth production. In the chorus, the production smooths out as she realizes that she is fine.
“The Knife” is ready to be added to all living room dance party playlists. The slick bass line combined with the insistent beat are irresistibly groovy. “Say It” is a spacey song about a crush your not quite ready to admit you have.
Though the unique production is what makes Maggie Rogers standout among her contemporaries, the stripped back moment on the album adds to her impressive body of work. “Past Life” is just her voice and acoustic piano, but the vocal performance and lyricism are so expressive that it still feels uniquely hers.
“Heard It in a Past Life” is an honest debut album from an artist we’ve come to expect nothing less. Maggie Rogers is a truly unique voice in the industry right now, one that is able to make the major label system let her be exactly who she is. Though authenticity has become a cringey buzzword in the industry, this album proves to everyone that Rogers is truly an authentic artist.