Maggie Rogers' overproduced debut record hits it home for some

By: Shannon McCarthy, Diana Huynh, Kelsey Brooks and David Ramirez

“Heard It in a Past Life” has made a splash, but does it live up to the hype? Overall, the album begins strong but doesn’t sustain its momentum throughout. Rogers’ sound is a mixture of haunting vocals combined with heavy production that can overwhelm her voice, and leave listeners wanting to hear her raw vocals. Pharrell Williams is credited for jump starting Rogers’ music career, but her work will be the final determiner as to keeping Rogers’ music in the limelight.

“Give a Little”

This is the perfect album opener. The song has an up-tempo sound that makes the vocals known within the first notes. She blends synthesized backing vocals with a strong drumbeat that builds in complexity throughout the first part of the song. By the time the chorus hits, there is an island-esque feel to the whole song.

Rogers has stated that the song is about feeling empathy for one another. The chorus, “Maybe we could learn to love each other,” is especially poignant when everyone is seemingly at each other’s throats. The basic message of the song is that life is a give and take, and in order to really know each other we have do just that. It establishes a great sound for Rogers to build on throughout the album.

“The Knife

The song has what could best be described as chimes as its driving beat. Like Rogers’ previous songs, the song builds in complexity throughout the verses and hits during the chorus. Rogers has an amazing ability to add complementary instruments to her songs, such as a piano subtly playing during the second verse, or the background singers adding a sense of urgency during the pre-chorus. “The Knife” is ultimately about getting knowledge thrusted into someone like how a knife cuts. Rogers sings: “The knife of insight tore its way in me // A brash collision without sympathy.” Ultimately, this is a sleeper hit on an album filled to the brim with standout singles.

“Past Life”

This ballad best demonstrates the depth of Roger’s soulful voice by paring it with spare instrumental backing. “Past Life” is one of the more lyrically complex songs on the album. She builds tension within the track to match the lyrics’ theme of changing times and personal growth.


This song has a novelty about it with its energetic synth and beats that would satisfy any lover of ’80s music. Although much of the album at times bends towards sounding muddled, the verses of this song put Rogers’ voice at center stage. She has a very interesting way of juxtaposing the mood of the song with the subject matter. “Retrograde” gives the listener the chance to appreciate her voice, her tone and her grit.

“Back In My Body”

Building off of the themes that have simmered below the surface throughout the entire album, Rogers uses the final track to make a lasting statement on empowerment and strength. The energetic verses and rousing chorus is a smart way to end the album — a sound that is both grand in substance, yet somehow intimate in delivery. Rogers saves one of the best tracks for last. Like the album, the song balances vulnerability with purpose and strength. Again, sometimes less is more, and someone should have let her production team know.

“Heard it in a Past Life” suffers from overproduction. At the end of the day, Rogers’ voice seems to be lost in the mix and is overshadowed by backing vocals and synthesizers. Some songs are absolute jams, but others sound like generic indie pop. This album is the start of Rogers’ career, and hopefully she will become the dynamic artist she has the potential to be.

Feature Photo Credit: Bryan9026 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] Changes made under WordPress formatting.

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