Maggie Rogers moved out of her NYU apartment on May 31. On June 1, a video of Pharrell Williams listening to her song “Alaska” launched her career after going—shall we say—slightly viral. As nearly two million viewers know by now, the video was from Pharrell’s Masterclass at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute back in February, where he critiqued student work. The superstar was encouraging but constructive with every young musician—except Rogers. For her, Pharrell had only praise, a sense of awe quietly unfolding across his face as “Alaska” played. Occasionally, he glanced over at Rogers while she bobbed along to the beat, as if to confirm her existence.
“I’ve never heard anything that sounds like that. That’s a drug for me,” he said after the song finished, calling Rogers’ sound “singular.” He launched into a brief diatribe about how the best artists are those whose visions offer up something that had not quite existed before, and that Rogers was one of them.
Out of this 30-minute workshop, “Alaska” had been snipped and ripped to YouTube by listeners (Rogers’ part starts around the 18-minute mark), with many of these bootlegs garnering 50,000+ views each. The song and its accompanying moment were written about across the internet, including Slate, Jezebel, and Reddit, where it originally took off. Rogers hadn’t even heard of Reddit before all this. Hell, “Alaska” just happened to be the only song she had ready in time for the Masterclass. She wrote it in 15 minutes, and by the end of that day, had completed a version with her co-producer Doug Schadt, a 2014 graduate of Clive Davis Institute.