Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

The Scene – “Heard it in a Past Life”: Strength through change

Maggie Rogers’ album “Heard it in a Past Life” debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard 200 in the week of Feb. 2. It is Rogers’ first full-length studio album and details Rogers’ life since gaining fame in 2016 from a master class she participated in with Pharell Williams. The album is full of complex, yet danceable beats and infectious melodies, as well as raw vocals and elegant and relatable lyrics. Perhaps the most impressive part of this album is Rogers’ auteur approach to its production. During a time in pop music when we’ve become accustomed to an assembly line style of production, it’s refreshing to see an album wherein the artist is the writer and producer on every track. 

One major theme in the album is how Rogers has dealt with her newfound fame and success. As she explains in “Light On,” fame can be confusing and overwhelming, singing desperately, “Oh I tried to stop it / tried to slow it all down / crying in the bathroom / had to figure it out / with everyone around me saying / ‘you should be so happy now.’” In the following track, “Past Life,” Rogers further pontificates on the deeply complicated feelings she has about gaining fame. At the end of the song she sings contemplatively, “Maybe there’s a past life coming out inside of me / maybe it’s the song I’m singing / maybe everything’s just turning out how it should be.” In contrast to the dance-y, percussive and synth-driven songs on the rest of “Heard it in a Past Life,” “Past Life” is stripped down. The track consists only of Rogers’ vocals and a chord-driven piano part. It is also, notably, the only song for which Rogers is the sole writer and producer.

“Heard it in a Past Life” also features two of Rogers’ previous singles, “Alaska” and “On + Off.” The former is a song about an outdoor excursion Rogers had in the Alaskan wilderness that brought her clarity and closure on a breakup and gave her more insight into her own self. “On + Off” is, as the name suggests, about an on and off relationship she’s been in. In the song, she concludes that she’s always happier when she and her partner are back together. Both tracks are stylistically indicative of the rest of the album, featuring intense and almost disorienting percussion, ethereal backing vocals and harmonies, as well as various natural and electronic samples that give her songs an atmospheric and dreamy vibe.

The final track on the album, “Back in my Body” details Rogers’ process of self-discovery and finally being able to love herself. In the choruses she repeats nearly endlessly “This time I know I’m fighting / I’m back in my body.” It is a powerful and anthemic note to end on, complete with heavy chords and triumphant percussion. In tandem with the rest of the album, “Back in my Body” offers insight into the dramatic and mundane changes in life and how we can reclaim ourselves in the face of such changes. 

Matt Woodward, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at MWoodward19@wooster.edu.

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