On ‘Heard It In A Past Life,’ Maggie Rogers Spins Pop Songs Into Revelations

Capitol Records

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Maggie Rogers was introduced to us as a fully-formed phenomenon, a brand-new It Girl all the more compelling for her apparent disinterest in her It-ness. In the viral video that first made her famous, she’s a senior at NYU, wearing jeans and a black blouse and a chunk of bone on a string as a necklace. Her long, ginger-blonde hair is loose and wavy, and her face looks bare of makeup.

She’s explaining to Pharell, who has dropped by her songwriting master class at the Clive Davis Institute, how she used to make classic folk songs, but then she spent a semester abroad in Paris and fell in love with dance music; now she’s experimenting with trying to combine the two sounds.

Then she plays him her song “Alaska,” and pretty much all he can say in response is: “Wow.”

“Alaska” is included on Rogers’ major-label debut, Heard It In A Past Life, of course, and it still shimmers and crackles like it did the first time we heard it; the line cut my hair so I could rock back and forth / without thinking of you will still make your breath catch in your throat every time.

It is immediately followed, however, by a song that undoes some of “Alaska” and that video’s myth-making spell: “Light On” allows Rogers to introduce herself not as that prodigy, a nymph, a myth or a sensation, but on her own terms, as someone flawed, and hurt, and hurting.