Arts, Music, Review

‘Don’t Forget Me’ Is Maggie Rogers at Her Realest

In late 2020, Maggie Rogers released Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016. It was a collection of everything left in the vault—the demos, songs, and musical musings from her high school and college years.

The collection was a taste of who Rogers was before YouTube virality, a hit debut album, a Grammy nomination, and the dazzling triumph of pop stardom.

Her newest record, Don’t Forget Me, returns to these roots. With a largely stripped-down production, candid lyricism, and stirring wisdom, the album delivers Rogers as she is—no veils of persona, no larger-than-life theses.

If her debut album Heard It In A Past Life, was a celestial trip through the stars, and her sophomore album Surrender, was a night at your favorite downtown dive bar, Don’t Forget Me is a night in with close friends. It’s after-dark conversations on the floor, empty bottles, and big thoughts.

Rogers dims the fluorescence and unsews the sequins from her craft in this latest release. It’s the most honest she’s ever been.

The album opens with the warm and sincere “It Was Coming All Along.” The driver-seat, windows-down kind of bop starts the record in a bittersweet, coming-of-age vignette.

“So fast / It’s fading out of view / I’m flying / Long past 22 / So high / Can’t find the moment it went wrong / But it was coming all along,” Rogers sings.

In a newsletter sent to fans in early February, Rogers shared that the stories of Don’t Forget Me are built out of memories. Accordingly, even the somber bits of its opening track are dashed with tender nostalgia and assured hope.

No sooner does the blissful tune fade out than the distorted guitar and angsty beat of “Drunk” takes the scene.

“I’m drunk, not drinking / Lost in wishful thinking,” the restless, lustful second track cries out.

“So Sick Of Dreaming,” the second single released ahead of the album’s debut, sports a funky banjo strum—the instrument Rogers began her songwriting career with in high school—and the quick wit of a ’90’s folk-rock, pseudo-country hit. Think Sheryl Crow or Shania Twain.

“Oh, there ain’t no diamond ring you could buy me to take me home,” the song grooves.

Rogers, who turns 30 this month, has never been a juvenile songwriter. Even her oldest cuts evince a striking maturity. Still, songs like “So Sick Of Dreaming” mark a new era for her music. She’s less the starry-eyed protagonist and more the learned mentor these days.

“The Kill” boasts easily the best production of the album’s 10 tracks. Swelling with a heavy wave of sultry low brass, the symphonic tune pitter-pats along with the signature, falling-into-place lyricism of a true Rogers chorus.

“The shoes I laid down for you / From the guys that came before / You were all the way in / I was halfway out the door / Oh, you were an animal making your way up the hill / And I was going in for the kill,” the fleet-footed refrain carries.

In a remarkable back-to-back, “If Now Was Then” follows with equal vigor. Rogers once again reveals her affinity for writing lyrics that don’t merely describe an emotion, but illustrate it.

“If now was then / I would get out of my head / I would touch your chest / I would break the bed. I would say the things that I never said,” she sings.

It has the pop rhythm and emotional crescendo of a staple Rogers banger, the kind the audience screams the words to as she twirls and galavants around the stage.

“I Still Do,” featuring only Rogers and her piano, produces the same kind of mid-album, existential pause as “Past Life” did on her debut record. It’s in these tender moments of inornate production and lyrically simple vulnerability where the true essence of the album seeps through. 

“On & On & On” flirts with an agitated melody and brisk tempo, while “Never Going Home” flaunts a sky-high chorus about finding solace in the perfect night out. Both carry the sass and self-reliant spirit of a perfect pregame jam.

But the record is most vulnerable and true-to-form on “All The Same.” In another scene of barren production, Rogers sits down with listeners to share the things she’s learned, the places she’s been, and the person she’s become since her journey began.

“If only just to keep on hoping / Maybe even knowing there’s another way, oh / Won’t you wait?” Rogers sings.

Rogers closes the album with its titular track and first single “Don’t Forget Me.” It’s the most Rogers end to an album imaginable.

“Take my money / Wreck my Sundays / Love me til your next somebody / Oh and promise me that when it’s time to leave / Don’t forget me,” the chorus cries out.

With each album she creates, Rogers sheds a layer. Yet, the signature undercurrent to her music remains. There’s always a pining for more, an itch for catharsis, a breathtakingly reflective nuance.

Whether it be through scintillating electronica, course and fanatical rock, or simple instrumentalism vocals, Rogers makes music for people who are hungry to feel.

It’s a remarkable thing for an artist to produce their most honest record the third go-around. Don’t Forget Me achieves just that.

April 18, 2024