Tortoise Tuesday: Key Terms in the Lyrics of Maggie Rogers

As Princeton’s flowers begin to bloom and campus comes alive again, I cannot stop listening to Maggie Rogers’ songs. Her upbeat, folk-pop style matches the sense of reawakening and growth that comes with the spring. Rogers’ songs always make me feel hopeful and empowered — like anything is possible and I have unlimited potential. They also connect me to nature, as Rogers often expresses emotions in her songs in terms of the natural world.  

Specifically, water figures prominently in many of Roger’s songs in her 2019 album, Heard It In A Past Life. Most obviously in her song “Fallingwater,” Rogers sings, “I fought the current running just the way you would/And now I’m stuck upstream/And it’s getting harder/I’m like falling water.” Here, Rogers captures her feeling of being stuck in terms of the powerful currents of streams or creeks. In “Back in My Body,” Rogers describes her mental state: “Like the dam was breaking and my mind came rushing in.” In “Light on,” Rogers is “caught up in a wave.” In “Give a Little,” she asks, “let me be the light upon the lake,” and in “On + Off,” she feels “as light as the ocean.” Water is clearly thematic in this album but also in her songwriting more broadly. Even in songs outside of the album, Rogers is constantly referring to water. In “Dog Years,” she is “as sure as the sea,” and in “Love you for a Long Time” she sings, “if devotion is a river, then I’m floating away.”  

Each of these different references to bodies of water become important key words (defined in the Lexicon as “a paper’s main terms or concepts”) in Maggie Rogers’ lyrics. Each form of water — creek, dam, wave, lake, ocean, sea, river — serves as a touch point in her songs and informs the reader of what kind of emotion or experience Rogers is going through. With a breaking dam, Rogers expresses a sense of being immersed in her feelings; with a lake, she’s calm and settled; with a river, she’s swept away by love. These terms also create continuity between her songs and even across albums. The audience expects lyrics about nature and water as marks of Rogers’ style. 

Just as Rogers’ references to water guide her audience through her songs, key terms guide the reader through academic papers. Particularly when dealing with confusing scientific processes or a scholar’s complex ideas, strong papers will define key terms early on and consistently refer back to them as the argument develops. Key terms become reference points for the paper’s audience; every time a key word pops up in the paper, readers know to pay attention. 

                                    – Annabelle Duval ’23