Maggie Rogers is no ordinary viral success story

Margaret Debay Rogers is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and producer from Easton, Maryland. She rose to fame after her song "Alaska" was played to Pharrell Williams during a master class at New York University. (BBC Music)

From graduate student to pop sensation, Maggie Rogers is the definition of viral success. As part of a music production master’s class at New York University’s Tisch School, each student was asked to submit a song for Pharrell Williams to critique. With not much to show for her efforts that semester, Maggie tentatively played for the pop icon her only demo-ready piece, a song she called “Alaska.” In a recording of the session that ended up going viral, we see Pharrell’s eyes widen and brow furrow in a look of shock as he listens along. The track concludes and he says after a tense pause, “I have zero, zero, zero notes for that, and I’ll tell you why: it’s because you’re doing your own thing.”

Within a week, Rogers saw her music explode in popularity. Her new hit single “Alaska” went on to peak at number 13 on Billboard’s Triple A. As new fans clamored to hear more from Rogers, her traditional folk albums “The Echo” and “Blood Ballet,” which she had written in high school, got over 300,000 streams each on Bandcamp. She also gained 100,000 Facebook followers in a matter of days. Her story was picked up and spread even further by Slate, Jezebel and users on Reddit.

Rogers has since graduated from college and signed with Capitol Records. Shortly after, she would release an EP entitled “Now That the Light is Fading.” It was generally considered to be a positive yet exploratory period for Rogers as she struggled to seek a more consistent voice. Creatively, it didn’t help that she felt immense pressure to follow up the incredible success of “Alaska,” which would appear on the EP as well. However, her debut EP proved to be lucrative for Rogers as she toured across the United States and Europe, not uncommonly selling out venues. It was clear that Rogers had a legitimate chance of making it in the music industry.

Most recently, Rogers has put out three enticing singles in preparation for the release of her first full-length album, scheduled to drop mid-January, 2019. Her performance on “Saturday Night Live” last week garnered more attention for her newest work. With Jonah Hill hosting, Rogers commanded the stage, singing two of the latest singles “Fallingwater” and “Light On.” Wearing a billowy red shawl, barefoot, hair parted neatly down the middle, Rogers gave off a very 70s, Janis Joplin vibe and an incredible performance.

It seems Rogers has settled on a sparse sound for her upcoming album with all three singles featuring simple yet effective drum packages and a select number of piano chords. In contrast, her voice is impressively dynamic, ranging from haunting and elegant in the higher registers to unrestrained and lucid her choruses. It is decidedly pop, but still lyrically genuine and true to what Rogers has been doing from her days at NYU.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Rogers in the conversation with pop icons like Ariana Grande and her former mentor Pharrell Williams within the next five years. Keep Maggie Rogers on your radar this coming new year.


Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at mitchell.clark@uconn.edu.