Maggie Rogers' summer mixtape sweats with sweetness
Growing up on the east coast, Maggie Rogers spent summers on the Chesapeake Bay, enthralled by the sudden drama and beauty of storms: "It's just like magic," she tells NPR Music, "and then it's gone." Her new album, Surrender, out July 29, has a similar sense of awe and danger buoyed by thick distortion and all-in emotion — it's a pop album that joyfully leaps into the chasm beyond the crush, but keeps an open space for feelings and friends.
"I think that joy and anger are really connected emotions because of the way they ask you to fully give in and fully experience them," Rogers says. "And that was the leading thought process through making the record — really just making sure that I created a body of songs that expressed that surrender to me. It was something worth chasing rather than something [worth] running away from."
Across the album's 12 tracks — culled from over a hundred written during the pandemic in coastal Maine — she mirrors an internal life with the world raging outside of her. There's deep desire felt in the teeth (the dizzying industrial-pop banger "Want Want"), hanging onto friendships that will last (the Des'ree-cool "Be Cool" and bestie anthem "I've Got a Friend" featuring Jon Batiste goofing on tack piano), rage fatigue ("Begging for Rain") and, riding the zeitgeist of unapologetic pleasure following a few years of isolation, the album's pretty horny (the belted ballad "Horses" and strutting rocker "That's Where I Am"). But most of all, there's a longing for intimacy that doesn't give up, but gives into a person, an idea or something bigger than yourself. A surrender that owns its action.
"You're not going to ever be able to take care of everyone," says Rogers, "but by really taking care of yourself, you can provide a mirror for someone for how they might be able to fully embody themselves rather than emulating something or feeling like it's beyond reach or something that's not within them." Lately, Rogers says she's been thinking deeply about "the relationship between artist and audience." She continues: "The responsibility of the artist is deeply to their own practice and to their own release. And in doing that, you actually unlock that for many other people."
Surrender feels like a quintessentially summer album. Intricately produced and played, these are pop song mosaics that sweat with sweetness — in the rising heat and volume, audio treats appear like sonic mirages, especially around the distorted edges where euphoric release lives. With that in mind, we asked Maggie Rogers, one of this year's patron saints of roséwave, to give us a summer mixtape. There are songs that proved crucial to Surrender's sound and scope, but also just jams that inspire summer vibes.
Jamie xx (feat. Young Thug & Popcaan), "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)"
"The first song that comes to mind immediately for me when I think of summertime. I have so many good summertime memories [attached] to it. I love Popcaan and I always have; he has a really amazing verse on this record. It just makes me feel really free. There's something about songs that tell you it's going to be OK. I feel this way about Bill Withers' 'Lovely Day.' Like, someone being like, 'It is good.' There's a really simple way to just receive that information that can change your day."
Madonna, "Ray of Light"
"When I was 18, a friend of mine called me and was like, 'We're going skydiving.' I was like, 'OK, great.' And in the car on the way to the spot, she put on Madonna's 'Ray of Light.' And it was one of those perfect summers — the summer I was 18. I always think of that song."
Otis Redding, "Cigarettes and Coffee"
"There's a lot of different moods on this summer playlist. Jamie xx feels like, 'It's summer. I'm with my friends.' Madonna feels like we're going somewhere and it's the beach or it's an adventure. And 'Cigarettes and Coffee,' to me, feels like the end of the night. Like, you're sitting on the front porch and there's fireflies and that sort of quiet moment where everyone's still just hanging out in someone's backyard. That's one of my favorite things about summer."
John Carroll Kirby, "Rainmaker"
"I've been listening mostly to instrumental music just because I sort of feel like my feelings are enough to deal with. But I love this record and it feels like one of those everyone's-in-the-backyard, barbecue, glass-of-wine records for me."
Kendrick Lamar (feat. Blxst & Amanda Reifer), "Die Hard"
"[Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers has] been a record I've had on repeat a lot of the summer. It feels so much like an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety, which is why I love it so much. But in terms of picking a song that could come off it and go on a playlist, this was the first pick for me."
The Cardigans, "Erase / Rewind"
"Really important for Surrender. [Gran Turismo] really helped me understand a way that I could palpably integrate distortion. Because Nina Persson's voice is so sweet and the songwriting and the melodies are just so accessible and inviting, but in a lot of the record, they're over this darker distortion. And it helped me see a version of this tone or texture that I could apply into my own musical world. It very much was a doorway for me.
"I also found distortion to be so, so healing. It's not something I ever felt was super accessible to me. Growing up as a woman in a small town where there wasn't a guitar store, it just didn't feel like a color in my palette. And it was something I started playing with in the pandemic. Being able to play with distortion, being able to control the chaos, was so therapeutic."
Little Dragon, "Feather"
"I listened to it when I was driving in the dark on one summer night, and it just has such a vibe. I've loved playing festivals over the years with this band and find their synth work and their songwriting and the way they make dance music just to be really compelling."
Prince, "I Would Die 4 U"
"I love Prince. I studied him in college. He's such a pop music staple. I was thinking a lot about him when I was writing 'Want Want' for that second chorus that opens up in that big head voice world and those dreamy chords. I've been trying to just pay attention to what songs are popping into my head when I wake up in the morning and it's crazy what just comes through. And a couple of weeks ago 'I Would Die 4 U' came through really strongly."
Rosalía, "CHICKEN TERIYAKI"
"We've spent a lot of time coming up together. Not like a ton of time together, personally, but we played a lot of festivals together and I would always sort of clear my schedule to make sure I got to go see her set. She's one of the most engaging and exciting performers I've ever seen. Her voice is flawless. She's lovely as a human. Every time I've spent time with her I just find her to be such a compelling songwriter and producer. I'm just a big fan."
Beyoncé, "BREAK MY SOUL"
"I had to include this song on my playlist, if only just to quiet the people who are like, 'Poor Maggie,' or, like, 'She must be so upset' or any of that s***. [Eds note: Surrender shares a release date with Beyoncé's Renaissance.] Like, new Beyoncé is literally good for everybody in the world. I'm so excited for this record. It feels like my release gift is that I get to spend the day listening to Beyoncé. I just have loved this first single so much this summer. Release day or no release day, it had to be on the playlist."
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