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Maggie Rogers | Heard It In A Past Life

The Alaska singer-songwriter goes big — too big — on her major-label debut.

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It might seem like a lifetime ago. But really, it’s only been a little more than two years since Maggie Rogers became an overnight sensation — thanks solely to a viral video of the then-music student playing her homework-assignment composition Alaska for a clearly flabbergasted Pharrell Williams during a master class at her New York school. In the wake of that very good day, she signed to a major label, released an EP, made the late-night TV talk-show rounds and travelled the globe stoking the star-maker machinery — all before releasing this debut full-length. If that sounds a bit cart-before-horsey, well, the answer is simple. And fairly obvious once you listen to Heard It In A Past Life: She doesn’t have many other songs that are as singularly sweet and magical as Alaska‘s home-spun tapestry of low-impact loops, bloopy electronics and dulcet harmonies. Perhaps she never did. Or perhaps, like countless young performers before her, she let producers and managers and record executives and everyone else talk her into retooling her sound and style for the pop chart and the dance floor. It’s not that they’ve watered down her sound; if anything they’ve beefed it up too much, swamping the less-is-more delicacy of her songcraft with massive production, mighty choruses and powerhouse vocals. And it’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the other songs; it’s just that compared to Alaska, they sound overworked and overblown. Only she might know for sure what happened. All I know for sure is that on that viral video, Pharrell tells her she has to be willing to follow her own path instead of following convention. And somewhere along the line, that lesson seems to have been lost. Of course, given everything that’s happened to her in the past few years, it probably seems like something she heard in a past life.