The sun is setting over the backyard of hit songwriter Justin Tranter’s Hollywood home, and an over-six-foot troubadour is trembling on a makeshift stage by the pool like a lamb amongst hyenas at a rosé-filled watering hole. His name is Jake Wesley Rogers, he hails from Springfield, Missouri, and he’s wearing iridescent, heavily sequined briefs that peak through crepe chaps, in front of a bustling group of 50 or so record executives, streaming gatekeepers, and members of the press.
“Weddings and Funerals” was the highlight from that four-song set, which Rogers released just last week. In the first seconds of the track, the warmth of his robust timbre intoxicates; much like his appearances, his voice somehow straddles a line between operatic and airy. When he presses both hands down on the piano for the chorus’ introductory major chords — before crying out for a reason to commemorate life’s simpler pleasures and more subtly poetic milestones — it’s a neon signal in a pitch-black night urging listeners to feel alive again. And when the drums kick in for the second chorus, Rogers’ music transcends from captivating to absolutely invigorating.
There’s no doubt: Growing up, Rogers must’ve studied Elton John as much as he did David Bowie; his aesthetic is everything Harry Styles’ pines to be. But looks aside, its Rogers’ elegiac lyricism that makes him one to observe closely. “Look at my green eyes, dreaming of marigolds,” he begs through his signature bravado-whisper near the end of “Weddings and Funerals,” and the attentive listener can hear him choking back tears.
Rogers is signed to Tranter’s own label, Facet Records, which Tranter runs and distributes through Warner Records. He will embark on his first big tour, supporting Ben Platt in arenas and amphitheaters, in February. Madonna now follows him on Instagram. All we can say: If this industry doesn’t protect him, it would be a damn shame.