“Would you believe me now,” Maggie Rogers sings over a gently-strummed guitar line in the opening to her new single “Light On,” “If I told you I got caught up in a wave?” Rogers’ latest is her most promising since appearing, seemingly out of nowhere, with her electro folk-pop viral hit “Alaska” in 2016. On that song, Rogers announced herself as a songwriter with a unique knack for dramatizing self-growth, for turning young twenties misadventure into anthems of self-discovery.
“Light On,” co-produced by Rogers alongside by pop mastermind Greg Kurstin and Jessie Ware/Harry Styles collaborator Kid Harpoon, picks up the story that “Alaska” had started to tell, two years later. Rogers sets an immediately familiar scene, drawing from a decade of well-crafted pop: Haim’s vocal echo, Robyn’s electro-melancholy, the melodic refrain on Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well.” The song, which vaguely sketches out the surely bewildering personal and professional journey Rogers has taken since becoming a highly-touted major label Next Big Thing, offers itself as a counterpoint to the standard pop empowerment declaration.
Instead, “Light On” earns its catharsis by centering Rogers’ own self-doubts and uncertainty. The song’s climax comes halfway through, when Rogers repeats a line she’s already introduced in the first verse, a line she keeps getting told by those closest to her: “You should be so happy now,” she sings, her voice breaking this time, as if to show how the well-wishes of family and friends have fully transformed into a torment and a threat. But when Rogers arrives at the chorus triumphantly dancing on her own, she quietly delivers her response to such a demand with four, hard-won words that are seldom found in a pop song this self-assured: “I am finding out.”