"Heard It in a Past Life"
BOTTOM LINE A sparkling debut combining her folk roots and newfound love of dance music
Maggie Rogers has been a phenomenon inside the music industry for years, even before the 24-year-old graduated from NYU.
She was in a master class there in 2016 when Pharrell Williams was stunned by her song “Alaska” and her explanation of her sound — a combination of her folk music background and a newfound love of dance music. The video of that meeting went viral and the song sparked a bidding war to sign her. Rogers settled on Capitol Records, but only after they agreed to let her keep the rights to her master recordings — a deal that is almost unheard of for a new artist. That was followed by Rogers’ unusual appearance on “Saturday Night Live” just as her debut single was released.
Now that her debut album, “Heard It in a Past Life,” (Debay Sounds/Capitol) has arrived, the rest of the world can finally catch up with what the music industry has known: Maggie Rogers is going to be a star.
Her single “Light On,” which combines her sweet voice, a catchy chorus and some swirling synths, has already hit No. 1 on the alternative charts. And “Past Life” channels more than a little Stevie Nicks and Sarah McLachlan.
But Rogers’ work gets stronger with each risk she takes. You can almost hear “Overnight” as a folk song, but the pounding beat and glitchy samples and choral snippets turn it into something all her own. “On + Off” takes a choppy EDM anthem and warms it up with stacks of her vocals and unexpected rhythmic surprises. And the simplicity of “Alaska” is even more charming than the version she played for Pharrell at NYU, with its breathy vocals and bouncy groove.
With “Heard It in a Past Life,” Rogers delivers the rare debut that is also a fully realized artistic vision.