Reviews

Maggie Rogers’ Heard It in a Past Life Is for the Nostalgia-Driven Dreamers

Maggie Rogers creates music for the hopelessly lost, who trudge through, desperately searching for a purpose even if it seems despairingly far off. Her first EP Now That The Light Is Falling gave us woodsy elements that incorporated lyrics of a growing twenty-something discovering her place in the world. This was shortly after record producer Pharrell Williams gave her high praise for her track “Alaska” in a viral video during a class at NYU. While this gave her momentum for skyrocketing Internet fame, Rogers achieved that success all on her own.

Her debut album Heard It In A Past Life has been a long time coming after almost three years of a highly-anticipated and pressured process. Rogers doesn’t shy away from the reality of being terrified of her future. The millennial generation is no stranger to outspoken activism, fighting for a better life. While their certainty prevails through many civil rights marches and encouraging social media posts, the fear of a professional and personal future doesn’t come to the forefront often. Rogers is trying to change that.

Her first Billboard No. 1, “Light On,” rings true to the internalized anxiousness within us. Where are we going from here? Will we make it? Rogers penned the deeply personal track about her rise to fame after her viral success and her transition from private musician to potential pop star. As one of the first singles to be released from her LP, it sets a consistent theme throughout—change is inevitable, and we need to embrace it with open arms.

In “Overnight,” she sings that people change quickly, that we’re constantly evolving even if we’re not aware of it. It contrasts with the third track “The Knife,” which takes on a groovy dance vibe that delves into the overwhelming emotions of spilling your feelings in the late hours of the night. Halfway through, almost like shedding her skin, “Past Life” allows Rogers to bare her soul. Perhaps it’s the artist’s come-to-Jesus moment—she takes a glance back at the person she once was and witnesses who she is now, whether or not she’s happy with the outcome. Emotionally stripped down with piano keys against her fingertips, Rogers unveils an utterly vulnerable version of herself that we’ve never seen before.

From then on, the album shifts down a path of letting go. She releases her emotions in “Retrograde,” a freeing track that endlessly yells into the abyss of settling into old habits but fighting for a new sense of self. She quickly picks up the pace with “Burning,” which ultimately catapults the listener into a dance party about loving the life you’ve cultivated for yourself. With all the insanity Rogers has experienced in the past three years, the track embodies her wild ride of a career thus far.

She rounds out Heard It In A Past Life with “Back in My Body,” and rightfully so. The music industry is a demanding forum—we hardly allow artists to create their art in an adequate amount of time. The demand for new projects is a consistently harsh subject; patience runs thin and boredom often overtakes us. But for an artist to curate something truly meaningful, we need to grant them time.

After Rogers encountered an unexpected amount of attention back in 2016, all eyes were on her—she needed to come up with something quick. She expresses excitement over pursuing her passion so publicly, but there’s also a sentiment of nervousness. With “Back in My Body,” she weaves a tale of traveling far and wide searching for the right words to convey her feelings. She seems to transform into a divine being holding an endless amount of answers to many of the world’s questions.

Rogers wanted to culminate an album that spoke volumes to who she is, both artistically and personally. She achieves that with the maturity and courageousness of an artist that’s been present for years. Heard It In A Past Life is the soundtrack to any twenty-something’s struggles but brings the light of brighter days to come.

Featured image source: Capitol Records

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