Maggie Rogers: Heard It In A Past Life
review by reese gorman
Maggie Rogers, the Pop Star We Needed
We’ve known the name for a while now, 2016 to be exact. She had it all, a viral video, a hit in the song “Alaska,” a record deal, and an 18-month world tour. But we were missing one thing, an album. As of January 18, we finally have the album. Maggie Rogers’ “Heard It In A Past Life” is her record, no one else’s, she made it out of her own free reign. It’s a beautiful record at that. An album that addresses’ her struggles and achievements in her rise to fame.
The “thesis statement” of the record, “Light On” addresses her sudden rise to fame and how this sudden change in status left her nonplussed.
“Oh, I couldn’t stop it/ Tried to slow it all down/ Crying in the bathroom/ Had to figure it out/ With everyone around me saying/ ‘You must be so happy now’” she sings.
This piece became the centerpiece of the album. Writing about how everyone looked at her and falsely assumed she was happy and doing good, because why wouldn’t she be? She had everything she ever wanted. But there was more, there were emotions even the people closest to her couldn’t see. Nobody saw how this sudden fame and garner of attention affected her emotionally. Described by Rogers as, “the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in a song.” She explains how her fans gave her light, stating that she will “leave the light on” if her fans left “the light on” for her.
The following song on the album is an overwhelming ballad about her life before fame. “Past Life” depicts Rogers reflecting back to when times were simpler, times with old friends. She is haunted by these thoughts while at the same time in shock with the complete life change going on around her. You have to remember she was only 22 at the time when she went viral, imagine when you went to bed at night you were a normal college student at NYU and when you woke up the next morning you were viral. That is how little time Rogers had to transition into this role of fame.
“Back In My Body” is an introspective song about Roger’s experiences and hardships while overseas and on the road touring.
“I was stopped in London when I felt it coming down/ Crushing all around me with a great triumphant sound,” Rogers sings.
This verse was about a panic attack she experienced while on set at a show in London. In an interview with the independent, she states, “I’d finished a soundcheck and someone came up to me and asked why I hadn’t played ‘Alaska’. I was like, ‘I play that all the fucking time’. And they said that the booker for Jools Holland was there and that I needed to do it. I was like, ‘Fine, I’ll play the game’. And then halfway through the song, I had a crazy panic attack and ran off the stage sobbing… Folk music usually romanticizes the road. ‘Back In My Body’ tells the opposite story.”
Rogers uses “Back In My Body” to tell the true aspects of one's journey on the road. It’s a dirty and gritty song about the true reality of tour life.
“Oh, I lost you in the morning, don’t live anywhere/ I found myself when I was going everywhere,” Rogers sings in the chorus.
These lines of the chorus tell us how she lost her life on the road, she had no home and no stable foothold anywhere. Building an intimate relationship was hard because she was never in one place long enough to get to know people on a deeper level. They also tell us about how she found her life. While on the road it gave her time to reflect on who she is as a person and made her reflect on herself, and through that she found herself.
Riddled with a variety of different songs from shaking your ass dance songs, to ballads, all the way to self-reflective lyrical masterpieces, there is no shortage of good music on this album. If I can conclude one thing from this album it’s that Maggie Rogers is here to stay, she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. She’s the hero pop music needed.