Maggie Rogers’ ‘Surrender’ walks line between impressive, tedious

Photo of Maggie Rogers' "Surrender" album cover
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Grade: 2.5/5.0

Three years since the release of her debut album Heard It In A Past Life and six since her NYU masterclass with Pharrell Williams went viral, Maggie Rogers has finally returned with a brand new, highly anticipated LP Surrender, released July 29. With gigantic shoes to fill and Pharrell’s iconic feedback (“I have zero, zero, zero notes for that”) looming in the background, only time would tell if Rogers had true staying power in the alternative music scene.

Although it is by no means a bad record, Surrender leaves much to be desired. Lacking the auditory depth that made her 2017 single “Alaska” a hit, much of the LP feels one-note, both in the literal and figurative senses. While remaining listenable, the project is void of the clarity one would expect from such a musical powerhouse.

While not the groundbreaking work that many were expecting, Surrender does have its upsides. Lyrically, Rogers is at her peak, roping listeners in with the sharp lines and crystal clear imagery that seemingly come to the musician with ease. Similarly, many of the tracks are individually outstanding and showcase the true potential Rogers holds to become a cornerstone of popular music. When taken as a whole, however, the record’s absence of variation sparks boredom, especially towards the back end of the tracklist.

Rogers shines brightest on the more mellow acoustic tracks, as they allow listeners to digest her genius-level lyrical talents with ease. For example, on “I’ve Got A Friend” Rogers sings, “When I met you at a party/ Everyone was drunk on 40s just south of Stuyvesant,” while backed by an upbeat, finger-picked guitar. Reminiscing on times spent with her childhood bestie, the song is joyful and catchy while showcasing Rogers’ impeccable vocal range. Filled with fun, sometimes hilarious lines (“Oh, I’ve got a friend who’s been there through it all/ Masturbates to Rob Pattinson, staring at the wall”) the song is an obvious standout.

The album’s closing track “Different Kind of World” also impresses with its self-aware take on the overdone “songs for peace” trope. “My hands are shaking, palms are sweating/ Thinking ’bout the state of the world/ When we’re ridin’ all together/ I’m a different kind of girl,” Rogers sings, embracing her inner sarcasm as she closes off the record. Once again backed by an acoustic guitar, Rogers proves that her work is best paired with toned-down instrumentation and simple melodies.

Sadly, on tracks such as “That’s Where I Am,” the record lets listeners down. Though the first verse starts off promising with enticing vocal splicing and an incredible vocal performance from Rogers, the song quickly unravels into mush by the chorus. Belting the unimpressive lyrics “It all works out in the end/ Wherever you go, that’s where I am” alongside an unquestionably boring melody, the song grows increasingly grating over its four minute run.

“Horses” shares similar melodic issues to the aforementioned track. While Rogers’ vocal ability is a force to be reckoned with, the song would certainly benefit from some depth — whether that be through the addition of background vocals, or perhaps even just a doubled vocal track on the chorus. Singing a melody that consists of around four notes total, one can’t help but feel like the singer’s full vocal potential is going unseen.

Not awful but certainly not fantastic, the album contains clear highs and lows, averaging out to a playthrough that is only a step above unremarkable. With that being said, Rogers is a master of her craft, and her raw talent shines throughout the record, even in its unsatisfactory, sometimes tedious moments. After listening to the LP, it’s evident that the songwriter holds extraordinary musical ability, yet did not utilize the tools necessary to unlock her full potential. While Surrender contains a few gems, it is only worth a full listen for those already within Maggie Rogers’ fanbase.

Contact Ian Fredrickson at [email protected].