Review: Maggie Rogers’ ‘Heard it in a Past Life’ explores journey of finding oneself

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Review: Maggie Rogers’ ‘Heard it in a Past Life’ explores journey of finding oneself

Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers released her debut album, 'Heard it in a Past Life' on Jan. 18, 2019. The album discusses the emotions surrounding change, and the journey of figuring out who you are.

Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers released her debut album, 'Heard it in a Past Life' on Jan. 18, 2019. The album discusses the emotions surrounding change, and the journey of figuring out who you are.

Photo credit: Maggie Rogers promotional materials

Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers released her debut album, 'Heard it in a Past Life' on Jan. 18, 2019. The album discusses the emotions surrounding change, and the journey of figuring out who you are.

Photo credit: Maggie Rogers promotional materials

Photo credit: Maggie Rogers promotional materials

Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers released her debut album, 'Heard it in a Past Life' on Jan. 18, 2019. The album discusses the emotions surrounding change, and the journey of figuring out who you are.

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Last year, I was sitting in a van on my way back from Arrow Week when my instructor plugged her phone into the auxiliary cord and started playing her expedition playlist. My friends and I were debriefing our trip when I heard the first lines of Maggie Rogers’Alaska.”

“What is this?” I asked my instructor. I had never heard a song that sounded like it before. And with that, I was roped into Rogers’ world.

Released in 2016, Rogers’ “Alaska” was written about a course she took with the National Outdoor Leadership School (something I did not know we had in common after my first listen, but nevertheless, something that pulled me further into Rogers’ music career). The song fueled her rise to stardom, as she played it for singer and record producer Pharrell Williams at a critique session at New York University. After hearing the song, Williams was floored, saying that he had “zero notes.” But Rogers’ success did not end with “Alaska.”

Rogers, who was born in Easton, Maryland, got her start in music by playing the banjo. She drew her musical inspirations from French dance music, folk music and indie music, all of which are prevalent in her new album, “Heard it in a Past Life.” While these genres may not seem like they work together, Rogers’ unique style and vocals defy limitations. The 45-minute-long album, which was released on January 18, 2019, is magical.

The album kicks off with “Give a Little,” an upbeat dance song. While the bass and percussion offer a light start to the album sonically, the song’s message is deep. Rogers sings “If I was who I was before/Then I’d be waiting at your door/But I cannot confess I am the same,” explaining in an Instagram post that this song is her “re-introduction” to the world as an artist. 

“Give a Little” is the perfect example of her new authenticity. The track starts off with a light drum beat, but the beat gradually becomes louder and stronger, almost as if it was a story, adding more detail as time went on. The song’s emotional nature, and the fact that it sounds like nothing Rogers has produced before, truly introduced me to “the real Maggie” and her new style.

The ninth track, “Fallingwater,” best features Rogers’ immense vocal talent. The track begins with Rogers belting the lyrics, “Hold on, I thought that I could take it from here.” Though the sentence is short, the power of her voice embodies a larger message. This song highlights Rogers’ genuine interest in bettering herself, both vocally and in life. The lyrics explain the results of letting go of relationships, and Rogers explained in an Instagram post that this song showed her what she could truly do as a singer. I found the song to be empowering, and it is one that I have played nonstop since the album’s release.

The album concludes with “Back in My Body,” a song about finding yourself. It feels almost like a step-by-step walkthrough of how she got to “Give a Little.” Through the emotional four-minute-ballad, I really got to understand Rogers’ feelings of not knowing who she was, and her process in understanding and feeling comfortable with herself. The song is less uptempo than her other songs, but the speed sets the tone for Rogers’ moving storyline throughout the song — she truly takes the time to express her story. Rogers explains this story by letting listeners know that now, especially with the help of this album, she understands who she is when she sings, “This time I know I’m fighting.” This song was the perfect end to an album like no other. Rogers addresses who she used to be and encourages others to embrace the feeling of figuring out who you are. For me, hearing an artist sing about this is uncharted territory.

“Heard it in a Past Life” is not just an album — it is an experience. As a fan of Rogers prior to the album’s release, I was amazed by the raw, emotional power the album brought, and I was so inspired by Rogers’ ability to show her true self. The album was like a documentary of Rogers’ life, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

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Heard it in a Past Life
  • Originality
  • Lyrics
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact
4.8

Summary

Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers released her first album, ‘Heard it in a Past Life,’ on Jan. 18, 2019. The album discusses what it’s like to experience change, how to navigate understanding yourself and relationships. The album is Rogers’ “re-introduction” to the music world, and it gives listeners insights into what her life is like.