Santa Barbara, California born Melanie Rogers has faced perils during her journey into the popular music world. Her musical talents first bloomed in an evangelical environment. Her songwriting initially developed under the absolute influence of the Contemporary Christian style; she suppressed her voice within believing her failure to use her gifts in praise of God constituted a betrayal. She further honed her skills serving in the Westmont College chapel band staging concert-style service three times a week for near 2,000 people. She relocated to the Seattle, Washington area intending to enroll in grad school and involved herself with a new church and worship activities. A change in church leadership, however, led to a break with the church and prompted Rogers to re-evaluate her beliefs.
Her first single “Fever” offered ample evidence of her songwriting talents, but the new single “r.u.o.k.” veers even closer towards realizing her potential. No one can ever accuse her of shirking adult subject matter. “r.u.o.k.” is an intense and deeply felt look at what she calls “lingering empathy overload”. It chronicles someone who people often bear their souls to and the resulting toll it takes on them. It isn’t your usual fare for a pop song but Melanie Rogers is far from your typical performer.
The influence of Enya, Welsh singer/songwriter Novo Amor, Vera Blue, and Gabrielle Aplin is apparent in her music. Her songwriting never sounds derivative, however, and bears all the hallmarks of an individual voice. The phrasing of her lyrics reflects a songwriter willing to immerse herself in penning the words until she’s certain it strikes the right note and isn’t flabby. Her attention to detail is absolute.
The ethereal lift present throughout the cut is one of its strengths. Responsibility for this lies with the light glow of the song’s almost crystalline piano sound and its interplay with the song’s stately pace. It has a potent near-orchestral quality as well. Melanie Rogers’ songwriting has a wide command of dynamics, weaving lulls and crescendos into a concise musical statement with dramatic impact. The effect is never cheap.
The rhythm section generating that stately pace are superb collaborators for Rogers. Drummer/percussionist Remy Morrit has unerring instincts for when and how much to play and Adam Schaefer’s bassline locks into his confident stride. Rogers co-produced “r.u.o.k.” with creative partner Jesse Field and the latter’s importance cannot be underestimated. A large part of the reason this new single makes the positive impression it does comes from the clarity and balance Field imposes over the cut. Field’s influence over the song’s sound extends to its engineering and mastering as well.
Rogers’ secular career continues developing at an impressive clip. “r.u.o.k.” is clear step beyond its fine predecessor “Fever” and the cathartic value of the music for Rogers never impedes its potential to entertain listeners. She’s a talented vocalist and her songwriting skills are certain to continue growing exponentially. Melanie Rogers now enjoys the personal freedom to write about spirituality if she chooses, but she can also write about the vast spectrum of human experience rather than restraining her internal voice. We’re better off for it.
Photo Credit: Mandee Rae