“Maggie Rogers and Lorde are both 1,000 years old, they both live in a fairy forest and control the sun and the moon,” a delighted fan comments on one of Maggie Rogers’ YouTube videos. It’s not hard to guess how that particular imagery blossomed into being – and it’s probably not psychedelics. Probably. Seeing veil-clad Maggie bop and twirl on stage is mesmerizing and universally praised as a “must-see” concert experience. Similarly, Yola was described as an absolute festival showstopper throughout 2019, forging new fans with every tone she soulfully belted out.
It’s no wonder their stage presence is so stunning – they were influenced by the best in show.
1. Both Yola and Maggie Rogers grew up with interesting music inspirations.
Growing up in a coastal town in the UK, Yola struggled to find a singing voice similar to hers among the Pop stars of the time. Things changed when she discovered Dolly Parton, and her style immediately clicked – although it would be years until Yola really got into Folk Rock and Americana. Maggie Rogers also grew up in a smaller town, in rural Maryland, USA, to be exact, where she liked to groove to Erykah Badu and Björk. Their emotive, independent expression seems to have resonated with Maggie and connected her even stronger to her foresty surrounding, since she chose them as the backdrop of her breakthrough music video “Alaska”.
While we’re on the subject of videos…
2. They both got their big break thanks to a video.
The aforementioned “Alaska” first went viral not as a music video, but as a clip of Pharrell Williams listening to its demo version. His stunned reaction and praise for Maggie – at the time a college student attending a songwriting masterclass – made her the next big musical prospect literally overnight.
As for Yola, a video of her performance was sent to renowned producer and Black Keys’ frontman Dan Auerbach, who couldn’t believe she wasn’t already signed to any label. They met soon after, creative sparks set off like party fireworks, and the resulting album “Walk Through Fire” is music history.
3. Maggie and Yola think outside of the genre.
As self-taught and extraordinarily talented musicians, both tinkered with many ways of music expression before finding and channeling their own. Prior to becoming a major Americana force, Yola played with Massive Attack and Phantom Limb and lent her singing-songwriting talents to other artists. Today, she laughs at the idea of being “cast” as a Soul singer, and instead likes to think like “a musical omnivore”, stitching together influences from Country, Soul, Folk Rock, just whatever feels right.
Although she is “officially classified” as Pop, Maggie Rogers’ style is often described as “folktronica”, and she often publicly dismisses the need to put labels on everything she creates. Besides blending together influences from both her childhood and partying in Berlin, she can play guitar, harp, banjo, piano, and harmonica, so we can agree that inventing proper descriptors for her tunes is quite pointless.
4. For just one October evening, you could catch them at the same venue.
Because the universe is funny sometimes, it brought Yola and Maggie together this October, namely, at the last leg of Kacey Musgraves’ North American tour. Yola was invited as Kacey’s special 8-concert guest, and Maggie merged her final tour night with theirs, culminating in a joint spectacle at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville.
5. They know exactly where they want to go.
The growth chart below is just one bit of proof that these artists possess industry-slaying skills. Both took the time and care to not only give it their all onstage, but to promote themselves online as well, and were rewarded for it with impressive fan growth. Take note that Grammy exposure isn’t at play here, as we only took into account the yearly data up to 19 November – before they were announced as Grammy nominees.
As both artists describe in their interviews, being “the only woman in the room” for too long has had many benefits – the main one being taking firm control of their own vision and narrative. For Yola, going from a teenager who had to sneak out of the house just to play music, to one of the UK’s leading artists in the Grammy game (she’s nominated four times, just like Beyonce, by the way) was a tough road, but she is finally enjoying the ride. And judging from Maggie’s absolutely hilarious Insta-posts, she too knows that the music biz is far too important to be taken completely seriously.
Our Grammy verdict:
While both musicians made an impact this year, we’d be surprised if any of them will snatch the Best New Act title away from Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Rosalía or Lil Nas X, who, according to our data and ranking, were absolute streaming and media juggernauts this year. For what it’s worth, seeing their names included in more and more playlists, and watching their ticket sales rise, is a clear sign that some things are still all right in this world.
Cover photo: Maggie Rogers by EMI music Publicity Photos
Illustration photos: Yola Press Photo by Alysse Gafkjen; Maggie Rogers Press Photo by Olivia Bee
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