Maggie Rogers is at Her Sweet and Simple Best on Don’t Forget Me

The New York singer-songwriter's latest 36-minute album is her shortest to date, but it's also her strongest.

Music Reviews Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers is at Her Sweet and Simple Best on Don’t Forget Me

Maggie Rogers was destined for greatness. Upon debuting her breakthrough single “Alaska” to a visibly stunned Pharrell Williams in a New York University music production course, Rogers knew from day one that she was never going to be just a flash in the pan. Over the past five years, she’s found calm within the chaos—not necessarily becoming an anti-pop star, but rather, an interesting part of the mainstream landscape. Though you might not hear her on pop radio, Rogers is on a good amount of pop and indie playlists on digital streaming platforms. Expressing a whirlwind of emotions through her distinct vocals and musical chemistry with live instrumentation, Rogers’ lore has become the narration for the lives of those of us constantly searching for what’s next On her latest album, Don’t Forget Me, Rogers’ songwriting process parallels her navigation with love and loss, on her way to finding a calmer, more assured version of herself.

Rogers’ debut album Heard It In A Past Life featured production by powerhouses Greg Kurstin and Rostam, building upon the momentum she gained after impressing Pharrell three years before its release. As she was rising to fame, with many shows and festival headlining gigs planned for 2020, COVID hit and forced Rogers to rethink her process. After briefly relocating to Maine to escape the chaos of the world at the time, she found herself inspired by life and nature, and she wanted to explore music with the same sense of curiosity. The result was Rogers’ sophomore album, Surrender, which featured her giving in to a whirlwind of emotions.

Rogers lived with Don’t Forget Me in its mixed and mastered glory for almost a year before sharing it with the world, but had invited fans into the album’s universe as early as last summer—performing the album’s heart-shattering title track while on the Surrender tour. Never one to mince words with her lyricism, Don’t Forget Me’s simple production (courtesy of Ian Fitchuck) allows for listeners to fully immerse themselves in Rogers’ storytelling. Recorded over the course of five non-consecutive days, Don’t Forget Me picks up where Surrender left off—with Rogers grappling with feelings of uncertainty. But now, at 29, Rogers has done the emotional labor to know she’ll emerge from any sort of heartbreak—whether it stems from love, loss or unexpected change. “I just don’t know what to do / I’m fine, but feel I’m breaking through,” she sings on the album’s opening track, “It Was Coming All Along.” The arrangement—‘80s-infused synths paired with a swinging drum pattern—evokes a feeling of brightness, setting the scene for a more confident chapter, as Rogers seeks meaning and purpose through it all.

In an open letter published before the release of the album’s title track and lead single, Rogers revealed that she experimented with folkloric writing. “Some of the stories on this album are mine. And for the first time really, some of them are not,” she said. But don’t waste your time trying to figure out which stories are hers and which belong to the “younger Thelma & Louise character” Rogers imagined for the record. Rogers is not one to share her personal life with the public eye, instead asking her listeners to surrender to each song as thouse its scenes are from your go-to comfort movie. Take in every word and lyric like pages from a book, even if with the release of the album’s closing track, we already know how it ends.

On a standout track called “The Kill,” Rogers describes the feelings of falling in love—even when she was putting up a wall. “So difficult, but so invincible / Irresistible, but I lovеd you still / You were going in for the kill,” she sings over a western-inspired guitar riff and a thumping kick drum, channeling the empowered country-folk songstresses of the ‘90s. Another notable song, the percussive, punchy “Drunk,” features an unfiltered Rogers, “lost in wishful thinking,” who can’t help but wear her heart on her sleeve, as she details a newfound infatuation.

But over the course of Don’t Forget Me’s overarching narrative, Rogers finds peace with the idea that the traditional, picket-fence life isn’t for her—or, at the very least, not at this point in her life. By now, we’ve all heard Don’t Forget Me’s self-assured title track, on which Rogers sees the friends around her getting married, while she finds joy in other forms of love. But the final songs leading up to “Don’t Forget Me,” which serves as the album’s closer, are equally poignant. “Never Going Home” details a sense of closeness and losing oneself in love, and a sexy guitar solo at the bridge reflects the feeling of letting go. The stripped-back, acoustic guitar-driven “All The Same” features Rogers assured in the love around her, while realizing the idea of traditional romance that many have idealized may not be for her just yet. “Give me the chance to wake in a full romance / Just knowing that you chose to stay / If only just to keep on hoping / Maybe even knowing there’s another way,” sings Rogers on one of the song’s verses.

The universe of Rogers’ third album isn’t centered around sadness or heartbreak, but rather the self-awareness and assuredness that comes as a byproduct of growing through emotional turmoil. Though some songs, as are expected with Rogers’ body of work, may strike a nerve and tug at the heartstrings, they lead into the peaceful acceptance of what is the closer, “Don’t Forget Me.” “Love me till your next somebody,” she aches as the album concludes. A 36-minute story, Don’t Forget Me is Rogers’ shortest project thus far. It is also her most sonically and lyrically cohesive, featuring some of her most captivating, folkloric songcraft yet. Allowing the listeners to create a world around her words and sounds, Rogers is at her best when she keeps it simple and sweet.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin