Roundtable Discussion: A Review of Maggie Rogers’ ‘Don’t Forget Me’

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers
Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers
Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss the classic songwriting, emotional depth, and sense of homecoming in Maggie Rogers’ open-hearted third studio album ‘Don’t Forget Me,’ the singer/songwriter’s most intimate, tender, and honest work to date.
Featured here are Atwood writers Christine Buckley, Kelly McCafferty, Kevin Krein, and Sam Franzini!

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

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To start, what is your relationship with Maggie Rogers’ music?

Kevin: My introduction to Maggie Rogers would have been when someone I used to work with had put “Fallingwater” on a playlist—I had completely missed the viral video, or whatever, of Rogers playing a very early version of “Alaska” to Pharrell Williams, and I was regrettably overlooking a lot of things within the world of contemporary popular music in 2019, so I don’t even think I was aware of the release of Heard it in A Past Life. By the end of 2020 though, I was genuinely interested in Rogers and spent a lot of time with the collection of pre-Heard material, and was surprised and impressed by the very folksy, acoustic, and at times very earnest beginnings she had as a songwriter, and the growth and development that happened seemingly very quickly to get her to the sound she had for her major label debut full-length.

Sam: I listened to “Fallingwater” when it first came out in 2018 and was hooked. I remained a fan since then and went to her tour in 2019 when she came to my college town in Santa Barbara, and Surrender was one of the first albums I reviewed professionally. I almost saw her this past year at All Things Go. (Sorry, but Carly Rae Jepsen was so energetic, and I was very tired after that)…

Christine: I first heard of Maggie Rogers through fellow pop artist Lewis Capaldi, who sang her praises in a 2019 interview. I was drawn in by her classic songwriting and vibe – Heard It In a Past Life has such a modern Carole King feel, both sonically and aesthetically. Her 2017 Tiny Desk concert captivated me, and when I saw her live on the 2023 Feral Joy tour I was just stunned by the sheer volume of percussion on stage – and how she basically uses her body like a tambourine. Plus she’s a feminist and pal of Phoebe Bridgers, so what’s not to like?

Kelly: I remember somehow stumbling upon the “Alaska” music video. I loved how her body moved with the rhythm of the song, and I loved how unique the rhythm of the song was. After that I obviously saw the Pharrell video and have been a fan ever since. “Say It” is one of my all time favorite songs. I was lucky enough to see her in Houston last summer at a free concert in the city. She was so happy to be on stage. You can tell when someone is grateful to be doing what they love – a certain magic comes out. She definitely had that.


What were your initial impressions and reactions to Don’t Forget Me?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: I’m going to be open and honest and say that, within my early listens, I thought it was a little uneven, and maybe a little short. I mean, not every album has to be sprawling or padded in terms of its length, but it is spry—ten songs in like a little over a half hour. It felt rushed. And yes I mean Surrender had been long gestating before it was released in 2022, so like less than two years between albums is “normal,” but I was also a little surprised that she was ready to release something new so soon. And I do get this album, or at least the point of it, was to write it and record it in a very short amount of time so kind of like the antithesis, at least in process, of Surrender, but also a little in its themes.

But even by the second or third listen through, some of the more uneven moments grew on me, or I came to appreciate it more as a whole.

Sam: I really liked it on first listen, honestly. She still is unfortunately clunky with ballads, but that leaves 8 songs to pore over and play on repeat. I thought it was groovy, funny, and at ease.

Christine: The album feels bookended with its best tracks. “It Was Coming Along” is just quintessential groovy melodic Maggie at her best. I can just picture her fabulous running-man moves to “Drunk” on tour, and “So Sick of Dreaming” is a perfect summer-hammock track. The wistful, bittersweet “All The Same” could come from a Grammy-winning Brandi Carlile album, and the album’s star track “Don’t Forget Me” pierces with self-reflective questions – and I’d call its chorus one of the most provocative and beautiful I’ve heard in some years. Yet the middle tracks left me wanting for more. “The Kill” has so much potential to deliver on that mid-80’s “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” vibe, but never seems to pay off. “If Now Was Then” just sounds too much like “Alaska” to me, and while I appreciate “Never Going Home”’s country vibe, it’s surprisingly trite for our usually brilliant songwriter.

Kelly: I truly felt after my first listen that this is the record she was always meant to make. There is a freedom to it, but because of her experience and her love for not only making music, but for music in general, this collection of songs feels perfectly baked. You can hear that she is having fun through each song. Even the deeper, ballad tunes have a feeling of levity and hope. This album feels like coming home.

Maggie Rogers © Maddy Rotman
Maggie Rogers © Maddy Rotman

How does this album compare to Rogers’ first two records, and where do you hear her growth and change?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: I mean, she continues to push herself to the boundaries of and then beyond of like “pop” music—both Surrender and this album are a lot different in aesthetic when compared to Heard it in A Past Life. It is genuinely interesting. Like she continues to shift with literally each thing she records. With this one you can definitely hear like the urge return to the singer/songwriter-y stuff that she was dabbling in with her early, independent releases, but there is also the desire for something much larger, or more bombastic in scope. I think the most noticeable growth honestly comes from how seriously she seems to take herself, or like her commitment to the album cycle in terms of a look, the release, the tour in support of, etc. She just seems to throw herself more and more, and deeper into not a caricature or like a shifting persona, but as an artist—and one who is restless and hopes that her audience comes along with the restlessness.

Sam: For her debut, Heard It In A Past Life, it seemed like she threw everything at the wall, trying to make an alt-pop and folkier debut. It worked sort of well, although the album came as a bit of a mixed bag. Her vision was clearer on Surrender, a pop-rock album filled with mostly bangers, but there were still odd inclusions. On Don’t Forget Me, though, I can hear her growth through her lyrics and the more relaxed instrumentals — finally, it doesn’t feel like she’s trying everything just because she can now. Her voice is more at ease, and this is the first album it feels like she’s settled in.

Christine: I agree that Maggie likes to try different things, and I commend her for that. This album feels more stripped back than Surrender, which really pulled out the stops with production, especially percussion, which I personally adore about Maggie’s music. It’s got the honest verve of Heard It In A Past Life and those beginning and ending songs deliver, while the others fall a bit short for me.

Kelly: To me, the growth in this album is letting go. She’s spoken a lot about the way it was made; sprawling over a week with 2 songs a day. For someone who has studied music her entire life and has been put through the pop album machine of tweaking and gnawing over every single note – this album is what music is supposed to be. She made music that felt right and true to her. She didn’t overthink it and because of that – I think it’s one of her greatest and most relatable body’s of work.

Rogers teased the album earlier this year with just two singles, “Don’t Forget Me” and “So Sick of Dreaming.” How do you feel these two songs captured the spirit of the album as a whole? Were they faithful or fitting as sneak-peeks?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: So peace and love ot Margaret Rogers but like I was honestly hoping the whole album was going to slant more into the adult contemporary, acoustic smolder of “Don’t Forget Me.” It’s not misleading, exactly, as a first single from the album, but “So Sick of Dreaming” is a lot different in tone—it’s a song that grew on me the more I listened. Which is good. Because at first I was like oh woof this is kind of not it. Especially the little jokey interlude where she talks about the guy standing her up for a dinner date so he could go to a basketball game. There are times when like a singer or artist breaks the fourth wall and does something kind of self-aware and cutesy and I don’t know if she’s the kind of artist that can pull it off with the charm that is needed. I don’t think they really captured the spirit of the album because like Rogers really shifting herself from album to album in terms of the embracing of different sounds or styles, or whatever, this is a really restless album. It doesn’t sound like cobbled together, but, the cohesion is truly only in her voice.

Sam: Totally — the title track with its plea, is such an odd way to start an era, but I’m obsessed. It’s melancholy, reflective, and I think it encapsulates the album as a whole well. I liked “So Sick of Dreaming” more — I enjoy when she gets into this country side. And the whole sentiment of being over the hope of dating, only expecting disappointment with the guy that abandoned her for a Knicks’ game — deeply funny and deeply relatable.

Christine: Both tracks are great, and definitely gave a sense of that country-tinged pop, adult contemporary feel. It’s an interesting choice, though, to bring out two relatively downtempo songs to tease an album that definitely has its bangers. I’d have liked It Was Coming All Along as a lead single.

Kelly: Absolutely. I think “Don’t Forget Me” encapsulates the album as a whole. I think “So Sick of Dreaming” introduces the fun and playful side of the album that is so special. Singles are hard, but I think she nailed it.

Which songs stand out for you on the album, and why? 

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: “The Kill.” It is unrelenting in its rhythm and the kind of dreamy. Indie-adjacent guitar tone that chugs along with the quick tempo is really fascinating in terms of an element within the song, but also within the album as a whole because there’s nothing else that really sounds like that included. It’s also catchy as hell. Like the chorus isn’t a “big” moment—there’s really no playing with a tension and release between the verses and the chorus. It just like arrives at the place where she hits that line and kind of shimmies and skips her way through a melody that is like just truly fun.

I also really liked “I Still Do.” She doesn’t lean into it a lot, but she is really good at an emotional piano ballad like this — there is just an absolutely jaw dropping song similar in tone that’s included on that anthology of early material, Notes From The Archive. Here I mean it’s a good kind of halfway point song to shift things just slightly and provides a reprieve from the more up-tempo, adult contemporary or Top 40 sound that some of these songs have.

Sam: Yeah, “The Kill” is moody and groovy, and also is a new approach to her songwriting I haven’t seen from her before. It feels very Swiftian, this switching of protagonists, and it flows so well. “Drunk,” too, is so immediate and cutting — it really lingers with you for a long time. The romanticism of “If Now Was Then” is appealing, too.

Christine: “It Was Coming All Along” is great, with that rhythmic chorus, gorgeous Maggie harmonies and that lyric “My world’s a honey shade of blue.” “Drunk” also reminds me of one of my favorites from Surrender, “Shatter” – that tense, driving beat and provocative lyrics.

Kelly: I’m a big fan of “The Kill” as well. The melodies are insanely catchy and the story-telling of the song is something that so many of us experience. It’s one of those songs that has the most relatable meaning, but no one has put it into those words yet. I find those to be the best songs.

Do you have any favorite lyrics so far?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: Not yet. I mean I have been sitting with it a little over a week right now and I am easing my way into it as something I can enjoy just for the sake of listening, rather than listening analytically with the intention of writing something long and overwrought about it. I think that, at the time Surrender came out, and even now, nearly two years later, there’s a lot of lines in that album that still really resonate with me. WIth this album, though, I have not made that connection yet.

Sam: I don’t particularly think Maggie Rogers is a showstopping writer, and this album is much chiller than the shouting she did on Surrender, where you couldn’t look away from what she was saying. I do, however, like the hopefulness of “One of these days I’m gonna wake up fresh / And wipe all the past from my eyes.” Try as she might, she has always been a writer concerned with memories.

Christine: The entire “Don’t Forget Me” chorus just sticks with me:

So close the door and change the channel
Give me something I can handle
A good lover or someone that’s nice to me
Take my money, wreck my Sundays
Love me ’til your next somebody
Oh, but promise me that when it’s time to leave
Don’t forget me

Kelly: This part of “The Kill” chorus:

You kept my secrets and stole my weaknesses
In your white T-shirts, but I couldn’t fill
The shoes you laid down for me
from the girls that came before
I was all the way in, you were halfway out the door

Rogers has said that with Don’t Forget Me, she wanted to make an album that “sounded like a Sunday afternoon… An old corvette. Vintage, but not overly Americana.” How do you feel she did at accomplishing this goal?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: I mean okay. Here’s the thing. She wrote something borderline pretentious or at least very “I wish to be taken very seriously as an Artist with a capital A” about Surrender that I reference a lot in other things I have written, just in terms of the idea of surrendering to something larger than yourself or to an unknown that you can feel. And yet. I think that describing this album as something that “sounds like a Sunday afternoon” is like. Come on now Margaret. Please. I do not think it does. I don’t think it has a vintage sound. I mean in a sense the restlessness gives it a timeless feeling, or one that won’t be inherently dated. But I do not agree with such a big thesis statement about this collection of songs.

Sam: Sort of. I agree with Kevin, artists can talk as to how they feel about an album, but it’s really the audience’s decision or comprehension to understand what they’re getting at. And true, with her schooling, studies, and long Instagram captions, it’s clear Rogers desires to be an artist’s artist, a writer foremost. Yes, it’s probably her chillest record, so if it feels like a Sunday afternoon to her, then I’m happy for her.

Christine: Now I want to know what thing Maggie said that Kevin found so pretentious! Earlier in these questions I referred to “So Sick Of Dreaming” as a summer hammock track, which might fall in the “Sunday afternoon” category? Guess it depends on how you like to spend your Sundays. Many of the tracks give me that groovy, swingy vibe that I’d say are classic, which is what I think she means by “vintage.”

Kelly: Absolutely, as I’ve said. This album has a brevity to it while still carrying messages that are deep. To me, this is a Sunday afternoon album. It’s the one you put on when you want to feel at peace. It’s timeless.

Maggie Rogers © Maddy Rotman
Maggie Rogers © Maddy Rotman

Title track “Don’t Forget Me” is Rogers’ favorite song she’s ever written; she’s said that it’s about “craving simple baselines – a good lover or someone that’s nice to me,” and striving for a lifetime filled with love. Does the album convey that message, for you?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: It’s funny. Surrender was such a lusty album at times, and so many of the songs were full of like a terrible, palpable longing. I don’t want to say that Don’t Forget Me is a breakup album but it is certainly is written from a different place. A lot of these songs are about heartbreak, or at least a kind of uncertainty and a remorse about relationships. So I mean in a way yes she is like longing for “someone that’s nice” to her, but it is not an album of “love songs” in the traditional sense but rather songs about love. There is always an overlap with those things but there is a bigger difference and she’s writing about the much harder or uncomfortable elements.

Sam: Definitely, although I think she could have gone even further in its desperation. “Take my money, wreck my Sundays” is a great line, and she has great vocal delivery, but let’s hear you really plead your case. That’s why Surrender was so thrilling, as it had emotionally intense moments where it felt like Rogers would die if she didn’t get what she wanted at that moment.

Christine: There’s a definite reflectiveness on life up til now, and a wondering of “is this all there is?” in tracks like “If Now Was Then” and “Don’t Forget Me.” The title track also speaks to me of realizing you don’t want a “conventional” life journey – marriage and settling down – and coming to peace with that. Especially for a woman, that can be a brave choice to make. “Don’t Forget Me” isn’t just about lovers – it’s also about the friends who settle down and might fade somewhat out of her life. It’s a love letter to those people who she will always love even if their paths diverge. And a modicum of gratefulness for the good things that will still come in an untethered life, like “someone who’s nice to” you.

Kelly: Yes, it absolutely does.

Where do you feel Don’t Forget Me sits in Maggie Rogers’ discography?

Don't Forget Me - Maggie Rogers

Kevin: I feel like it is a solid album and obviously she put a lot of thought into the process for it in terms of the pace with which the songs were written and recorded. But. it is not as immediate of an album as Heard it in A Past Life and maybe it’s not as bold and urgent of a larger statement as Surrender. I think it is an album that even in how short it is both in its length and the amount of tunes included, it does require more from its listeners in terms of asking them to sit with it in its restless nature, and have some patience in sitting with the songs and listening with intention. It honestly isn’t, like, objectively “better” or “worse” than her other two major label full lengths but it is just different — more than anything it is the sound of someone who doesn’t with to musically remain in one place for too long and continues to grow and challenge herself as an artist. And that is certainly commendable even when the album itself falters a little at times.

Sam: At a numerical scale, all of Rogers’ albums float somewhere in the 7-8 range. I think the writing and the easygoing nature are huge plusses, but Surrender had a vigor I think she’s lost on this one. It’s a tough battle between the two, but I think Don’t Forget Me is a close second. God, those ballads really slow this thing down.

Christine: I will listen to several of these tracks quite a bit, but I don’t think I’ll listen to the album front to back like I do with Heard It In A Past Life or Surrender. So on the whole, not quite as good as the others, but still with several wonderful Maggie tracks. That said – I will reserve my final judgment for the deluxe album version that will surely follow in the coming months!

Kelly: I think Don’t Forget Me is I Heard It In A Past Life’s older sister. She’s been through the ringer and out the other side, and while she still holds the beliefs she once did – she’s giving herself grace and peace in knowing that not everything turns out the way you thought it would, but everything does turn out the way it should. These two albums are neck and neck for me – one doesn’t exist without the other.

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:: stream/purchase Don’t Forget Me here ::
:: connect with Maggie Rogers here ::
:: more on Maggie Rogers here ::

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Don’t Forget Me

an album by Maggie Rogers

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