Embracing emotion wholeheartedly, her second record pulls you in even on first listen, and grabs you by the scruff of the neck
Six years ago, Maggie Rogers was attending a songwriting masterclass at New York University, where none other than Pharrell Williams was the guest mentor. Rogers played him a new song she’d written, Alaska, and Williams’ astonished reaction ensured that the resulting video soon went viral.
It’s intriguing to watch that video now – with Pharrell being visibly stunned by what he was listening to, and a nervous Rogers flashing side-eyed glances at him – especially knowing what was to come. Her debut album Heard It In A Past Life was released three years later, and some incessant touring has meant she’s evolved into an incredibly confident performer.
While Heard It In A Past Life was a decent debut, Surrender is on a whole new level. Rogers has taken to the alt-rock anthem sound with gusto and it’s a sound that sits well with her – you’ll be hard-pressed this year to find songs as exhilarating and addictive as That’s Where I Am or Shatter.
Surrender is an album that embraces emotion wholeheartedly: the sort of record that pulls you in even on first listen, and grabs you by the scruff of the neck. It’s also an album that celebrates carnality unashamedly – the lust of Want Want, or the line about a friend of Rogers who “masturbates to Rob Pattinson, staring at the wall” to name just two examples.
Where Heard It In A Past Life was a small, intimate album with some heavy electro-pop influences, Surrender is a full-on widescreen experience. There are nods to Sharon Van Etten‘s finest hour, Are We There, throughout, while the quieter moments are reminiscent of Taylor Swift‘s 2020 double-header of Folklore and Evergreen. Yet there’s also a unique quality to the record that’s very much all Rogers.
That’s Where I Am is one of the very best songs of the year, a beautifully constructed anthem which incorporates handclaps, squelchy synths and a big glorious chorus which makes you want to throw open the window and sing along to. It’s followed by Want Want, which is almost as addictive, a big massive pop anthem, which unashamedly celebrates sex but with a vulnerable edge (“As I watch you get undressed, pray to God this won’t be a mess”).
It’s Rogers’ songwriting that lifts Surrender up another level – I’ve Got A Friend is a glorious tribute to female friendship which, as well as the aforementioned R-Patz reference, talks of hanging out listening to Dolly Parton and having the “fashion sense of a king”. The gorgeous, soaring ballad Horses casually throws in a reference to oral sex, while Be Cool simply celebrates “fucking off for a month or two” to listen to Britney Spears.
Best of all is Shatter, the sort of pop gem that settles next to the likes of Closer by Tegan and Sara or The Veronicas‘ Untouched – it’s full of fizzing, barely restrained energy with Rogers vocals become ever more intense as the song goes on. And yes, that is Florence Welch you can hear on backing vocals and shaking a tambourine.
There’s barely a weak track on Surrender, and it’s a record that’s destined to appear on a lot of ‘end of year’ lists come December. The fact that this is only Maggie Rogers’ second album is astonishing, given the level of confidence and ability that shines through it. Get in early for an artist who surely has a long and successful career ahead of her.