Maggie Rogers is still a relatively new artist within the alternative-pop sphere, but she’s always been able to captivate listeners with her raspy vocals and introspective lyricism. After attending a New York University masterclass at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in 2016, the singer caught the attention of Pharell Williams with what would soon be her first major hit, “Alaska.”
From there on, Rogers was able to record and release her first debut album, *Heard It in a Past Life, with *Capitol Records in *2019. The album was a spectacular display of Rogers’ talent, as it deals with the themes of growing older and searching for love.
Now, Rogers is back after three years with ”Surrender," a spiritual awakening created during her time working towards her master's degree in religion and public life at Harvard Divinity School, and seems as though she’s grown out of her hippie, down-to-earth phase into a person who knows their worth and the knowledge they hold.
Surrender opens with “Overdrive,” and it already sounds worlds apart from her previous album. Rogers’ wails are the first thing listeners hear as she sings of jumping back into a dangerous relationship that has left her depleted in the past. The bridge may just be one of her best, saying, “I don't wanna do this again if you're gonna break my heart / I'm tearing at the seams, can't believe that it's gotta be this hard / You told me that I was all you could see, but you kept me in the dark.”
Blaring synths creates a more experimental transition into “That’s Where I Am,” a spiritual epiphany that Rogers has realized: Everything works out in the end. Comparing herself to a spirit, Rogers reassures her audience, which could be a friend, family member or lover, that her presence is always there, and even if some of her stronger relationships have faded, she is still grateful for them.
You would think after an intense, uplifting song the album would lose some of its momenta, but Rogers keeps up the same energy, unveiling her sensuality with “Want Want.” Unlike her early days as a musician, afraid to dive into the themes of sex, femininity and power, the singer almost sounds like a whole new person on this track. Shouting into the void, Rogers admits she longs for intimacy, and that her listeners should also go for the person they desire.
“Anywhere With You” sounds like the perfect, thought-inducing late-night drive, the singer admitting that she needs an escape from reality. As the song title suggests, Rogers just wants the person she loves to come with her on this new adventure, singing, “I wanna lose my mind in a hotel room with you / Anywhere would do / I'm sittin' in the bath like it's pouring rain / You call me from the heart just to say my, say my name / I'll go anywhere with you.”
Rogers finally takes a breather with “Horses,” a country-inspired track with just her vocals and a guitar. While the previous tracks wallow on being in love, the singer seems to have moved on from that state in her life, wishing that her relationship could’ve worked out. Still seeing reminders of the person they once loved, the album turns into a vulnerable display of Rogers' inner thoughts and false hopes.
“Be Cool” is another distant memory from the past that Rogers sweetly doesn’t want to let go of, remembering the wise words of a lover who sensed her anxiety and fear to jump into a relationship. “Shatter” comes next, sounding like the background of an '80s romance. Rogers sounds comfortable with herself in this song, talking to listeners in between confessions of wanting to go back to her teenage years.
While these two songs flow well with the rest of the album, they aren’t Rogers vocally at her best, and they also don’t hold the same energy as the first couplet of opening tracks. Yet, this lack of character is revived with a calmer, smoother track, “Begging For Rain.”
“Begging For Rain” is a beautiful song in general, accompanied with perfectly layered harmonies and clean production, with Rogers wishing that things could change, feeling frustrated with herself and not knowing what to do after experiencing success.
Rogers gives us a glimpse into her personal life with “I’ve Got A Friend,” shouting out all of her close friends in her life, which makes the album feel more relatable. “I’ve got a friend who’s been there through it all / When I lose my shit, she’s the first person I call” is a lyric we can all say is true about our own friends, and Rogers even includes voice memos of her friends’ conversations and laughs to add more emphasis to the theme of the song.
“Honey” and “Symphony” both discuss past and present loves. The first track is Rogers asking her former lover what she could’ve done to save their relationship, while the latter is the singer reflecting on these past mistakes to strengthen the relationship she currently is in. It’s an interesting comparison of her situations, comparing and contrasting love throughout its various stages.
The grand finale, “Different Kind Of World,” sounds a lot like the tracks on Rogers’ compilation album, "Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016,“ stripped down to just her voice and a piano. In this song, Rogers hopes for peace and that the world can heal itself after the last two years of witnessing a pandemic, seeing injustice everywhere, rights being taken away from certain groups of people and positions in power changing. Essentially, it’s a track full of the singer’s wishes for the future, which seems to symbolize the universal wishes all people secretly hope deep down will come true.
Maggie Rogers’ "Surrender" is a pretty impressive comeback for the 28-year-old. Definitely more mature and experienced, the singer reveals what she’s gone through within the last three years, while also angling her music to reflect the current times we’re living in. While it isn’t a perfect album, it might be this fact that proves that no musician is perfect, but instead are just trying to create work that projects what they were feeling at that time.