Her talent is undeniable. Maggie Rogers seemed to be destined for this type of breakthrough success after catching an early break when her song “Alaska” caught the ears of Pharrell Williams in a class he taught at her school in 2016. This would allow the floodgates to open with opportunities of major labels wanting to sign Rogers on the spot. Heard It In A Past Life, Maggie Rogers’ debut, would continue this breakthrough success with marquee support tours with Mumford & Sons, Haim, and Kacey Musgraves before doing an extensive word-wide headlining tour to solidify her status as a name to watch, and she would even get nominated for a Grammy award for Best New Artist along this same timeline. Since the release of her debut album, Rogers decided to go to graduate school at Harvard Divinity School, where she would graduate with a Master of Religion and Public Life degree. This worthy path back to education still allowed Maggie Rogers some time to focus on her music and record what would become the Surrender sessions with producer Kid Harpoon. This set is co-produced by Rogers, and it’s a remarkable achievement in her musical journey. With an album filled with great vibes, soul-wrenching lyrics, unique beats, and the songwriting chops similar to a young Joni Mitchell, Maggie Rogers has created the record she may have only dreamed of making in her youth.
The set launches off on the right foot with the beautifully mixed ballad called “Overdrive,” that sounds the most similar to the material that came on her debut. Rogers commands the song from the opening note and I found the second verse of, “Oh young were we / But I’m sick of saying / You made me weak at the knees / Cause I was a runner / And I could go for miles / Gave me a reason / Now I’m in overdrive,” to be particularly powerful as she goes into her higher vocal register. The opener features some great electric guitar towards the end, and cuts through the beats and the mix majestically.
One of the early gems comes in the form of the single, “That’s Where I Am” that features an electronic, frenetic beat paired with Rogers’ beautiful vocals. From the well-crafted lyrical poise in the beginning of, “I found a reason to wake up / Coffee in my cup / Start a new day / Wish we could do this forever / And never remember / Mistakes that we made,” to the brilliant bridge, Rogers remains laser-focused in her songwriting. Things continue on the right path with “Want Want” that finds Rogers taking full advantage of her own advice and seizing her moment.
Things turn towards the more self-reflective on “Anywhere With You,” a piano-laced ballad about running away with the person that means the most to us in the world. I connected with the second verse of, “Cruising 95 like we got nothing to lose / I’m praying to the headlights like I prayed to you / Before I found you / Roll the windows down, kill the radio / I’d rather hear the wind than hear that song I’m supposed to know / By some fucking bro,” since it reminds me of long, summer drives back in my childhood that would be filled with the choice between radio-ready rock or my dad’s treasured James Taylor tapes. “Horses” continues down a similar path of self-expression and discovery that slow builds to a majestic chorus filled with utmost passion. When Rogers croons, “I see horses running wild, I wish / I could feel like that for just a minute / Would you come with me or would you resist? / Oh, could you just give in? / I see horses and I know there’s a way / I hear thunder, oh and I start to break / Would you come with me or would you resist? / Oh, could you just give in?” it’s really hard to not feel that same passion that she was feeling when she wrote those lyrical lines.
The pace picks up again nicely on “Be Cool,” that ironically, is a pretty cool mid-tempo track that showcases what Rogers can do vocally over a simplistic beat and melody. “Shatter” is a track made for the clubs, with its breakneck beats, electronic and synth-heavy parts, while still remaining true to Maggie Rogers’ core as a songwriter. The sequencing of this section of the record is a little curious with “Begging For Rain” following the energetic, club-ready song, yet I can’t imagine this LP without songs as vulnerable as this one. The bridge of, “I try my best to not be bitter / Give my rage a babysitter / Stop waiting for the adults to come home / It’s a firework and you can’t stop it / I’m cutting holes in all the pockets / Of everyone that’s calling me insane / Waiting for rain,” connects the dots of where Rogers headspace was when she was writing this track, and it only further showcases her talent.
”I’ve Got A Friend” takes a rare step back from the heavier production elements to display Rogers’ vocals over just an acoustic guitar, alongside some banter between herself and co-producer Kid Harpoon. “Honey” is dripping with heavy synths and fluttery keyboards to bring Rogers’ vocals back into the forefront, where they belong. Add in the one-two punch of the closing statements of “Symphony” and the acoustic-guitar ballad “Different Kind of World,” and it becomes crystal clear that Rogers has no trouble baring her beautiful soul for all the world to see. With so much working in Maggie Rogers’ favor on this dynamic set of songs on Surrender, I can’t help but raise the white flag myself and become completely engulfed in the world she has created on her sophomore record. As good as her debut was, Surrender has surpassed it in every aspect.