review: maggie rogers "heard it in a past life"

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When I was asked to write this review, I initially wanted to say no. There was no way I could write a review about a Maggie Rogers project and do it justice. In the end, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to write about something as important as this album (hence this review, which you are reading). So in turn, I decided that instead of trying to break down the entirety of the album, I will just write about how my favorite songs make me feel and how this album has impacted me.

Here we go…!

The Album

The ensemble that is Heard It In A Past Life is a breath of fresh air. It tells a story of an introverted, lively woman who is coming out of the shadows and slowly finding herself. Through this journey, the woman is learning that her happiness is worth more than anything and she’ll fight to hold onto it. It’s refreshing to hear music that expresses these fears out loud without shame. Facing those fears, as Maggie expresses it, is like going into joyful battle.

The Voice

Maggie’s voice is rare. It has this mixture of sultry fire with belted out flutes of unexpected high notes. In each song, she gives us a different part of her voice. In Overnight, she gives us sexy, in Fallingwater, she belts out a ballad, and in Retrograde, she fills the room with pure funk. Her sound is constantly evolving throughout the album and this proves her versatility. The way she creates these lyrically-charged ballads and memorable melodies is still a mystery to me. From the distant echoes of choir cries in Overnight to the perfect “ohs” in Retrograde, Maggie has mastered the use of unconventional sounds, turning her production, and her voice, into art.

Give A Little

Carefree.

Honestly, I just want to shake my ass and let all my worries get washed away by Maggie’s harmonies in the hook. As she sings the words “give a little” I get chills. The genius of her verses and the conflicting harmonies of the title lyrics leave me in awe.

Overnight

Insecure.

The first time I listened to this song, it reminded me of all the flaky men I’ve dated.

You know how it goes. First, the connection starts out electric. You two can’t stop touching each other. You go out on dates and flirt with each other all night. You go back to your place (or his) and you maybe have sex or maybe don’t, but something great definitely happens. He promises he’ll call the next day. And then...he doesn’t. He lied and now you’re annoyed because you thought you guys had a great time. Cause people change/overnight, and often you don’t know what caused their feelings to change. Had they just been up front with you, you would still meet [them] in the middle of the night, but just don’t lie to me, or I’m gone. Gone.

The Knife

Conscious.

This song is going to be Maggie’s radio hit. Mark my words. The rhythm makes me want to sway my hips and nod my head back and forth. The “ohs” in the hook give me life. The power behind the lyrics make me want to cuss someone out. The pain of realizing that something or someone is not working out is one of the worst pains to experience. The moment of impact—the knife—cuts you deep, and when you finally have to make the decision to go your separate ways (the final twisting of the knife), it feels impossible to recover.

Alaska

The first. The classic. The star.

I honestly can’t say what the intro reminds me of because I’ve never heard anything like it before. The sound is unique and the lyrics have this calming effect. I feel at peace when I listen and I’m reminded of how stressful and chaotic my life can be sometimes, but if I just stop and listen, and I mean really listen, I see that none of my problems are really that serious.

Light On

Hopeful.

I remember a group text I shared with my friends, Sarah and Tavis, as we were trying to dissect the lyrics and the meaning of this song. Maggie had just released the single, and each of us literally (and I mean literally) played the track on replay ALL DAY. The song affected us in a way I can only describe in emotions. I felt like crying and letting out my worst fears all right there on my desk in the middle of my office. Simultaneously, the progression of the music and the hopeful lyrics made me feel like I was more than. I don’t know exactly what I was more than, but I knew it was better than where I was.

Fallingwater

On the edge.

First of all, who knew Maggie could sing like that? I don’t think I really knew until I heard this song. I feel a rush coming down over me when I listen. I want to scream out all the hurt and pain I’ve felt in the last 25 years of my life. I want to do interpretive dance on my living room floor and cry out my frustrations with a glass of red wine sloshing. When I get to the bridge of the song, I feel like I’m on this precipice, waiting to jump headfirst into the unknown. It could be good or bad, but it’s for me to find out. Then the drums build again and before you know it, I’m standing back on two feet, unbroken. This song holds you at your most vulnerable. I may have scars and bruises from the fall, but I made it on my own because I’m powerful. Fallingwater celebrates that power.

Retrograde

Moving backwards.

We’ve all been there. There’s always someone in your life that makes you move in the opposite direction of where you’re supposed to go. Whether it’s a significant other, friend, colleague, or society at large, we’ve all felt like we’ve taken two steps backwards when our goal was to move forward. Retrograde is a powerful reminder that no one should ever make you feel like shit or make you feel less than, and refusing to let another person drag you down with them is a powerful notion.

Back In My Body

Freedom.

I know I’m not exactly the same person I was when I was in high school. I’ve grown to make mistakes. I’ve said some mean things, I’ve been selfish, I’ve put myself in vulnerable, potentially dangerous situations, but all of these situations have taught me lessons. It’s easy to get detached from who we are especially when life is moving rapid-fast around us. This song reminds me that no matter how far I stray from myself, and no matter how dark I go sometimes, I will always find my way back to who I am.

The Final Verdict

As I wrap up this review, I’ve come to the realization that I didn’t know how I felt listening to this album, the deep emotional state it evokes, until I wrote it all down. That’s what Heard It In A Past Life does to listeners. It brings out thoughts and feelings you didn’t even know were there. The good and the bad. As I combed through each song on the album, I was reminded of different moments throughout my life, but every time I reach the end, I’m somehow cleansed of the past and reminded to move forward.

I’m so glad Maggie fell into our lives, and like everyone else, I can’t wait to see what she does next. Until then, I’m going to keep blasting her album in my car and patiently wait to see her in concert this April.


Illustration by Sarah Crawford. Inspired by Maggie Rogers Heard It In A Past Life album cover, photographed by Olivia Bee (Iconoclast Image).