There are tons of unique artists in the world, but very few are special.
So many artists make an incredible first impression, but not all are so memorable that you still think about them every now and then, even if they're not in the middle of an album cycle. Rarely, we are graced with someone who seems to be an overnight sensation on the surface and something about them just...sticks.
But why? What is it that separates them from the rest?
If you haven't heard of her yet, there's this little angel who goes by the name of Maggie Rogers
and guess what: we're talking about her. We recently recounted
her life journey and how she grew up in rural Maryland, attended NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and lived in France for a little bit in between all of that. Upon graduation, Pharrell visited the Masterclass to critique students' work and had notes for everyone -- except Rogers. Later on, video of Pharrell's stunned face as he listened to Rogers' work was released on the interwebs and the world's reaction? Colossal. Rogers released the song that she presented, entitled "Alaska," on the internet and new fans started to dig up her old folk music as if it were crack and they were on the verge of serious withdrawal. She then released a video for the track and gave us exactly what we had imagined when we listened to "Alaska"; a cool girl sporting blue mom jeans, spewing free-spirited words off the tip of her tongue, and whipping smooth sounds off the tip of her fingers. There was something magical about her -- She had a vision and we could bathe in it forever.
In early 2013, a young singer-songwriter by way of New Zealand Lorde
released her debut EP, The Love Club
(side note: I actually discovered this EP on SoundCloud and showed all my friends before she blew up, so I win). It wasn't until mid-2013 that Lorde released "Royals," an inescapable song that was one of the biggest hits of the year. Of course, this is when she kissed her exclusive romance with New Zealand goodbye and headed into US territory, later releasing her debut full-length, Pure Heroine.
When "Royals" was released is when the entire game was changed. Lorde had done something different. Like Rogers' "Alaska," there were so many special things about Lorde's "Royals." The minimalistic instrumentation, the descriptive lyrics about suburban middle class life that cut like a knife, and the soaring melody that sounded like a dominate lion's roar. It was unlike anything we had ever heard before, and a lot of people tend to forget that after Lorde hit the airwaves, music everywhere started to change. Artists took her and Joel Little (producer)'s cue to go for a more simplistic approach. Artists like Lapsley, Halsey, and Aurora were suddenly born, taking on a similar sparse and dark synth-pop sound. Lorde didn't follow trends. She discovered the sound that everyone else was itching to make.
So what is it about these two artists that differentiates them from the rest? It begins with the song. Both artists hooked their audience with a really good song -- before anyone knew anything about them, the song was enough to make people turn their heads and ask, "who's this?" People latch on to songs that are relatable.
Rogers' "Alaska" is about a young student going on an adventure to discover who she is. Lorde's "Royals" is about having an empty wallet and still having fun with real friends in the suburbs. These two ideas are something that almost every growing girl can relate to. Also, both songs are -- for lack of better words -- catchy. Right when the chorus hits, ears perk up. Listeners go ahhh,
and suddenly, that song is with them forever. They both have a song good enough to do just that.
Another huge factor is luck and timing. "Alaska" is a great song, but would it have made such an enormous impact all across the globe if it wasnt for the video of Pharrell's teary reaction on the internet? Imagine Rogers dropping it on the internet with no promo...It would probably get a couple hundred likes from NYU friends and family, nothing compared to what it has become. Rogers already had the song, and she was already in the position to be seen by attending NYU and being in that Masterclass the day Pharrell stopped by. At the age of 12, Lorde was discovered by A&R rep Scott Maclachlan after he saw a video of her performing with her school band, Extreme, in New Zealand. After signing to Universal Music Group, the label saw a ton of potential in her, but because she was so young, gave her a few years to write her own songs and collaborate with other writers. After taking these years to improve her writing skills, she came out with some songs good enough to put on an EP, "Biting Down," "Bravado," and of course, "Royals." If Maclachlan never stumbled upon that video of her singing in Extreme, would she have ever gotten signed? Would she have ever spent those years songwriting and collaborating with Little? Would she have ever written "Royals"? By playing that show with her school band, she put herself in the position to be seen. Because what's a perfect song without an audience?
So what's next after you score a hit song? We've seen a plethora of one hit wonders (Daniel Power with "Bad Day," James Blunt with "You're Beautiful," Cassie with "Me & U") but the artists that stay are the artists with enough quality content to keep the momentum building and the buzz, well, buzzing. Lorde proved to have more great content after "Royals" (re: all of Pure Heroine
). Fans drooled over songs like "400 Lux" and "Ribs," which featured "Royals"-esque lyrics and production but were different enough to not grow boring. Rogers, although she has only dropped one song, "Dog Years," after "Alaska," seems to be heading in the same direction with an equally as stunning sound as the first, material that is needed to back up the initial hit and sustain a career.
Another element that comes into play is the artist's demographic. The 15-26 year old female group tends to be scary loyal (especially the 15 year olds who have parents that buy them all of the merch). Ever piss off Taylor Swift on Twitter? Get ready to feel the wrath of her Swifties. A good way to prove this is to simply check out fans of Lorde, Halsey, Lana Del Rey, or Miley Cyrus. They are all insanely dedicated. In 2013, Complex compiled a list of artists with the craziest fanbases
, which included Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Rihanna. All artists with a demographic of young women who latch on. But why?
Young women everywhere connect with these artists because they are relatable. And it doesn't even stop at young women -- fathers with daughters and brothers with sisters all find it comforting and inspiring to see young women like Rogers and Lorde. There's something clever and whimsical in their writing, yet they're normal young women. They wear mom jeans, they have untamable hair, and having a frivolous team of makeup artists to put on their face every morning isn't a top priority. They are real women with real souls who glow with authenticity. Rogers recently posted this note on social media for her fans:
She appeals to everyone as she inspires us all to get out, create art, and live life. Not only do both Rogers and Lorde have the song, luck, and content, but they also have our hearts. We feel as though we already know them on some level. As a young woman myself, a glitzy, glamorous pop star like Taylor Swift might be who I want to be, but Maggie Rogers is who I am.