Surrender

Maggie Rogers

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Surrender Review

by Matt Collar

Maggie Rogers is just so darn good at presenting her core artistry and sense of self. It's one of the main aspects of her personality that was evident from the start, emblemized by that viral video of her playing her soon-to-be hit "Alaska" to Pharrell Williams while at music school in 2016. It's that sort of grounded, unabashedly earnest, and boldly uplifting vibe that courses through all of her proper sophomore album, 2022's Surrender. The album arrives three years after her breakthrough debut, Heard It in a Past Life, for which she picked up a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. On the heels of that success, rather than jumping back into the pop fray, Rogers took some time away from recording, enrolling at Harvard Divinity School, where she earned a Master of Religion and Public Life. While religion is never explicitly addressed on Surrender, there is a feeling of defiant joy to the album that one could easily connect to a spiritual enlightenment. Without ever falling into a dreaded cycle of toxic positivity in which one ignores the harsh inequities of life, Rogers instead conjures a feeling of hopeful exuberance -- a balm in the face of the deep turmoil she sees in the world. She addresses the point of view on "A Different Kind of Girl," a song that starts with an intimate acoustic guitar intro before rising to its cathartic, glass-smashing apotheosis. She sings, "One more song, I'll sing a song/And make it a song for peace/Though we all may carry on/May we do so decently." Later in the song she reveals, "When we're riding all together/I'm a different kind of girl," a sentiment that speaks to the way she brings her audience along with her on her personal artistic journey. And while spirituality is certainly central to that journey, it's also deliciously sensual, with Rogers celebrating her physical and emotional desires. It's a vibe that brings to mind albums like Marvin Gaye's Lets Get It On and Madonna's Ray of Light -- perhaps not so much musically, but philosophically in the way those albums marked a transformative spiritual and sexual ascension for each performer. Musically, there's a '90s alternative and electro-acoustic influence running through the album, especially on tracks like "Be Cool" and the infectious "That's Where I Am,'' where refracted percussion grooves pulse against woozy electric guitars and shimmering keyboard accents. Helping Rogers achieve these evocative textures is producer/collaborator Tom Hull, aka Kid Harpoon, who fleshes out her songs with thick, fuzz-tone basslines and crisp, sparkling guitar riffs. Much of the sound of Surrender evokes the spiraling uplift of Achtung Baby-era U2; it's a big, hooky pop album that draws equal inspiration from dance music, edgy alt-rock, and singer/songwriter lyricism. All of it sounds supremely organic and works as a further interpolation of the soulful pop she embraced on Heard It in a Past Life. Surrender is the sound of Rogers coming into her complete self as an artist and choosing to be the positive force for good that she wants to see in both the pop and real worlds.

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