Much has been said about Maggie Rogers. The 22-year-old is largely known for moving Pharrell to tears when she played him a demo of the above song, ‘Alaska’, during a masterclass at NYU. Since then, she’s graduated, gotten a record deal, made her TV debut on The Tonight Show, and gone on tour (including her most recent performance at SXSW). Her viral and almost mythical big break may have made her special, but it’s not what will make her great.
Listening to ‘Alaska’ while I write this, I’ve stopped maybe three times because the song is so distractingly good. Listening to it in your headphones makes it even better, paying attention to all the completely unique layers of sound going on. One of the biggest complaints about modern synth music is that it’s inorganic. Rogers deftly bridges this divide between nature and the synthetic, mixing samples she recorded out in the wild with a pulsating beat and layering her gossamer falsettos and harmonies over everything.
Reflecting on a past relationship during a hike she took while taking a break from making music, Rogers sings, “I walked off you/And I walked off an old me”. As Amanda Petrusich explains: “first you relinquish the thing you loved, then you relinquish the part of yourself that loved it.” I’ve replayed this song over and over and I swear every time I probably make the same awed, emotional face Pharrell makes in that video that’s now been seen by over 2 million people. And if I don’t, I definitely feel it. Every time.