If you’ve heard of Maggie Rogers, you likely know the story of how the singer became famous. Two and a half years ago, Rogers, just 22 years old, prepared her song “Alaska” for her music class at NYU. Unbeknownst to the singer, Pharrell appeared as a guest professor on the day she would play the song in class. A video of Maggie playing “Alaska” for Pharrell, who is clearly touched by the song, was quickly uploaded to YouTube. The video went viral and Maggie reached almost instant musical stardom. Rogers was signed by Capitol Records two months after graduating college. The rest was history — right? Not so fast.
Photo: Adrian Korte on Unsplash
There is a story behind this skyrocket to fame. A story of a young girl afraid of the sudden public attention she was receiving. “My private life became public very quickly, without me having much control over it,” Maggie recounted of the experience in an interview for The Independent. Rogers also had to grapple with being publicly defined by her encounter with Pharrell. Maggie wants to add on to this narrative — if not push away from it entirely — on her debut album, Heard It in a Past Life. “[People would] be like… ‘Tell us about Pharrell,’” Maggie shared. “But I realize that I haven’t really given people anything else to talk about yet. That’s why I’m so excited about this new album.”
Heard It in a Past Life plays like a documented journey of how Maggie experienced and eventually overcame her anxiety about sudden fame. Rogers sings of her fears on the song “Light On,” belting, “Would you believe me now / If I told you I was terrified for days?”
“Light On” is a beautiful ballad, smooth from the track’s first notes to its final strums of guitar. It is later in the album that Rogers expresses coming to terms with the new media attention and her growing comfort with it. Maggie sings, “Cause people change overnight / Things get strange / I’m alright” on the song “Overnight,” a poppy and uplifting track.
Many of the tracks on the album have upbeat melodies you can dance to, even if they are describing the singer’s deeper feelings. Perhaps the strongest track on Heard It in a Past Life, however, is the hauntingly simple song titled “Past Life.” The song features Rogers and the piano. The track is chilling in its bareness and in the emotional transcendence that it contains. “I could feel the change a comin’,” Maggie sings of the momentous transition in her life. On “Past Life,” Maggie shares that she has since reclaimed her old self — the person she was before fame found her — and used this self to make peace with her present. Specifically, she belts, “Maybe there’s a past life coming outside inside of me.” Maggie’s vocals on “Past Life” are beautiful. Her voice is both soft and powerful, like an angel with force.
Anyone can relate to Maggie Rogers’ experience — one that left her initially fearful but eventually on the other side with greater self-awareness. On the final track of the album, “Back in My Body,” listeners celebrate with Rogers as she again accepts herself and her new present, bringing her authenticity with it. “This time I know I’m fighting / This time I know I’m back in my body,” Maggie sings. One believes in and is empowered by the singer’s renewed strength.
Kat Frabotta is a young adult living in New York City. In her dream world, she has a Chihuahua named Frances, but for now, dog-sitting will have to be enough. She hopes to visit Nigeria one day and has an unhealthy obsession with pasta.