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After Going Viral in a Video With Pharrell Williams, Maggie Rogers’ #1 Album “Heard It in a Past Life” Mixes Smash Hits With Sincerity

Rogers’ rise to stardom illustrates how popularity builds from an online presence in the 21st century, but her artistry is singular and genuine

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After Going Viral in a Video With Pharrell Williams, Maggie Rogers’ #1 Album “Heard It in a Past Life” Mixes Smash Hits With Sincerity

Rogers's debut studio album 

Rogers's debut studio album "Heard It In A Past Life" featuring "Alaska" and "Light On" has topped Billboard's Alternative Albums and Top Album Sales charts.

Samantha Kar

Rogers's debut studio album "Heard It In A Past Life" featuring "Alaska" and "Light On" has topped Billboard's Alternative Albums and Top Album Sales charts.

Samantha Kar

Samantha Kar

Rogers's debut studio album "Heard It In A Past Life" featuring "Alaska" and "Light On" has topped Billboard's Alternative Albums and Top Album Sales charts.

Samantha Kar, Editor in Chief

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It all started with a March 2016 YouTube video, which now has over 3.3 million views, where Pharrell Williams was left stunned and had “zero notes” for Maggie Rogers’ song “Alaska.”

Now, the 24-year-old producer/songwriter/performer has become an indie and alternative pop sensation who vibrantly dances on stage, rocks glittery eyelids, and whose poignant lyrics force you to sway back and forth in a trance.

Rogers’ debut studio album Heard It In A Past Life was released on Jan. 18, and has soared atop Billboard’s Alternative Albums and Top Album Sales charts. Heard It In A Past Life also came in at No. 2 of the Billboard 200 chart, which measures streaming numbers and track sales in addition to album sales.

A fairly new artist, Rogers hails from the town of Easton on the eastern shore of Maryland. She first picked up the banjo while attending the St. Andrews boarding school in Middletown, Del. The summer before her senior year, Rogers won the songwriting contest of the five-week intensive at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. This spurred her to write folk music.

During senior year, Rogers self-released ten folk-heavy songs on The Echo, which then got her accepted into the competitive Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music program of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The institute was named one of Billboard’s 2018 Top Music Business Schools.

Rogers backpacked for a month in Alaska after her freshman year of college (which inspired her hit song), and in the next year, she released Blood Ballet, another solo folk record.

Then, the fame hit senior year when Williams heard and reacted to “Alaska.”

As the guest instructor at a masterclass workshop, Williams is seen hearing and giving feedback to three different artists’ songs in the YouTube video. As “Alaska” starts playing (at 20:34), Williams raises his eyebrows, widens his eyes, nods his head in disbelief, and taps his feet. When the song ends, Williams simply admits, “wow,” followed by, “I have zero, zero, zero notes for that” because Rogers is “doing [her] own thing.”

Like many others, I first encountered Rogers while watching the video, and what stood out for me was that “Alaska” was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Rogers seemed to not care to follow a certain style or emulate any artist but herself. The song is catchy, and the “drop” in the chorus infects you with the urge to nod your head up and down crazily.

In February of the following year, along with “Alaska,” Rogers released four other songs on her debut EP Now That The Light Is Fading. She performed on TV and at many music festivals around the world throughout the year.

Leading up to the release of her first studio album Heard It In A Past Life, one of the singles called “Light On” peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart, Rogers’ first #1 song on any Billboard chart.

In an interview with Billboard following that accomplishment, Rogers said her “favorite kind of music is when you can both dance and cry to it.”

She nails just that with Heard It In A Past Life.

The twelve-track album’s success on the charts depicts just how good it really is. I’d consider nine of the songs upbeat and contagious; they immediately make you move to the beat. One song, “Past Life,” is the slowest and only full piano ballad. The other two songs, “Back In My Body” and “Fallingwater,” lie somewhere in between fast and slow.

Nowadays, I find it harder and harder to discover music that is lyrically meaningful, but not too slow or boring to listen to.

When listening to Heard It In A Past Life chronologically, you are following Rogers’ journey of success, dealing with success, and where to go from there to further develop as an artist.

In the first track “Give A Little,” Rogers says, “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same.” She realizes her changing self as a result of growing popularity. The lines “‘Cause people change overnight / Things get strange, but I’m alright” in the second song “Overnight” highlight how quickly change happened for Rogers. She describes the shift in her life in the middle track “Past Life” singing, “Oh, I could feel the change a’coming / Coming right for me.” The album ends on a positive note with “Back In My Body” where Rogers strives to overcome the struggles brought by fame and stick to her originality, concluding with, “This time I know I’m fighting / This time I know I’m back in my body.”

Though the album is completely vulnerable and raw, Rogers has created anthems out of her messages. Her creations are fully capable of both standing out on the radio as an indie/alternative pop hit and being someone’s go-to on their “feels” playlist.

A standout track is “On + Off,” which appears near the middle of the album. At this point, Rogers continues to struggle with the “madness” that comes with being a breakout artist. Her silky-smooth vocals are pooled with lighthearted piano chords and light dubstep, transforming listeners to a dreamy wonderland. But the strong message of the song is still clear.

Some might classify Heard It In A Past Life as simple. The most recurring sounds are layers and layers of Rogers’ vocals, drums, and synthesizer textures. However, the repetition isn’t boring at all. It creates a continuous flow throughout the album of the stages in Rogers’ musical journey. I’m confident she will bring in more diverse sounds and styles of songs in her next record, but still, her lyrical messages will not be eclipsed. 

Rogers’ ability and eagerness to open up on her first studio album, paired with the reveal of her own wavy music style, show just how real of an artist she is — a true artist who has no intention of straying away from what she personally wants to create.

Heard It In A Past Life boasts forty-five minutes of eclectic and authentic anthems that follow Rogers’ story as a rising artist, and it’s clear she’s not just another one of those artists discovered online who come and go. She’s Maggie Rogers, and she’s just getting started.

Overall rating: 9.5/10

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About the Writer
Samantha Kar, Editor in Chief

Samantha is a senior at La Salle. She is a varsity swimmer on the swim team. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, photography, and hanging out...

1 Comment

One Response to “After Going Viral in a Video With Pharrell Williams, Maggie Rogers’ #1 Album “Heard It in a Past Life” Mixes Smash Hits With Sincerity”

  1. Evan Bohart on February 6th, 2019 6:31 pm

    Respectfully disagree here, for me this record was a jumbled mess of instrumentation and sound effects that did not coincide well with the very poorly written melodies. Like on the song “On + Off”, which features a huge variety of differnet sounds like the heavy bass and skippy piano, but in the end felt so mind-bogglingly fused together that the end result was not satisfying to listen to at all. Maggie additionally feels like a very average vocalist, and if one were to put her and other female vocalists I could not point out the uniqueness in her voice. I would personally give this albums somewhere around a 4/10.

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After Going Viral in a Video With Pharrell Williams, Maggie Rogers’ #1 Album “Heard It in a Past Life” Mixes Smash Hits With Sincerity