MAGGIE ROGERS, ALASKA, + THE EMERGENCE OF STYLE

Friday, March 24, 2017


I was walking through icy streams that
Took my breath away
Moving slowly through westward water
Over glacial plains
And I walked off you
And I walked off an old me
Oh me oh my I thought it was a dream
So it seems…


You and I, there’s air in between
- maggie rogers, “alaska”


I’ve been listening to Maggie Rogers’ song “Alaska” on repeat all day long. It’s one of those songs that stuns you with the sheer beauty of its lyrics and production. Please take the time to listen to at least the first minute of it before continuing with this post.




Isn’t it gorgeous? The steady beats, crisp vocals, imagery that conveys exactly what it means in the simplest of terms--all of it made me feel like I was wandering through a forest, dipping my toes in cold creeks and walking barefoot through piles of multicolored leaves. Something about the song hitches in my chest and makes me want to listen to it over and over again, and then create something just like it--before I realize I can’t.


Pharrell sums it up nicely in the video below. He was one of the first ones to hear the song when Maggie first produced it, during a master class at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and his reaction while listening to it is something akin to what I feel like when I listen to “Alaska.”




“Wow,” he says, after the song is finished. “I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. And I’ll tell you why. It is because you’re doing your own thing. It’s singular. It’s like when the Wu Tang Clan came out, like no one could really judge it. You either liked it or you didn’t, but you couldn’t compare it to anything else. And that is such a special quality, and all of us possess that ability, but you have to be willing to seek, and you have to be willing to be real frank in your music, and frank in your choices...and sometimes, most of the time people will say, ‘Okay, I’m going to make this kind of song,’ and so it ends up sounding like something we’ve heard before, or felt before, and I felt like what...your whole story, I can hear it in your music. I can hear the journey of you having that kind of background, and I love your singer-songwriter verses.”


At the beginning of the video, Maggie states that she grew up in a rural area, and she initially attended NYU to make banjo music. Later, however, she discovered that she had an affinity for electronic music, and had trouble reconciling the two styles until she finally came up with something that meshed both the folksy and electronic together.


And the thing is, you can hear all of that in “Alaska.” I can hear everything she says in the video through “Alaska,” and I can’t explain it, but I hear it. And there is no way I can replicate music like that, because it’s hers and I can’t make something that’s not mine.


This isn’t just for music, either. It’s for writing, or for painting, or for creating things in general. At some point, you stop making things that reflect others and start injecting your own experiences into them, and they become yours. Sometimes it happens unconsciously, sometimes subconsciously. I don’t believe anyone can consciously force style to emerge--it’s something that has to incubate for a while and hatch when it’s ready, which for different people is at different times. When it does come, though, there’s a kind of God-given blissful rightness that comes with making something that you know is one hundred percent your own.


I don’t know if I’ve quite found my own style yet, but I know it’s definitely emerging, piece by piece. Whenever I sit down to write something, whether it be for the blog or for a book or just for myself, I feel a tangible level of excitement that wasn’t there a year or two ago. I’m not quite sure what the source of this excitement is--fulfillment, confidence, comfort, freedom, maybe some of them, maybe all of them, maybe none of them. It could be just plain old pride. But what I do know is that I love to write, that I believe I was made to do it, and I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t anymore. Style will come to me, just like it did for Maggie, just like it did for the thousands and thousands of painters and musicians and writers and filmmakers before her.

It’s a waiting game, where the ones who win are the ones who are willing to wait.

2 comments

  1. It's still weird listening to "Alaska" because... well, you know why. Nethertheless, I love the song. I feel like when it comes to us finding our style, it just really depends on how we are at different parts of our lives, and it doesn't become consistent until we kind of are consistent. Five years ago, my "style" was rainbow colors and 2012 music (oh my goodness it's been five years since 2012, that just hit me). 2014 was a blur of purple yet a stronger joy, and my current "style" now? I'm not sure. I'm still trying to find out, but I know it'll come out pretty soon.

    xoxo Abigail Lennah

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  2. I can see your style, and it's beautiful.

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