In 2016, Pharrell Williams visited an NYU music class to critique student songs. When then-student Maggie Rogers had her turn, Williams sat and listened in stunned silence. When the song was over, he said, "I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. And I'll tell you why. It's because you're doing your own thing. It's singular. It's like when the Wu Tang Clan came out, like no one could really judge it. You either liked it or you didn't, but you couldn't compare it to anything else."
A year later, The Guardian described the encounter:
After insisting that it needs "a couple more hours mixing and mastering", Rogers plays Williams the result of her homework assignment – Alaska. The song, even to ears not as expert as Pharrell's, is immediately striking. Its expertly crafted layers – an elastic, melodic beat, syncopated taps and clicks, and the murmured sample of a spoken voice – sit for a moment before the melody announces itself. "I was walking through icy streams that took my breath away," she sings, the folk beginnings she outlined to Williams a few moments earlier immediately evident, "… and I walked off you. And I walked off an old me." Williams's eyes widen, his mouth opens, and he glances over at her with an expression somewhere between confused and astounded. "I have zero, zero, zero notes for that," he says finally. "I've never heard anyone like you before, and I've never heard anyone that sounds like that." The video went viral, and a record deal soon followed.
The Guardian also describes how Maggie Rogers' career took off after this encounter
When she met Williams, Rogers had only just emerged from two-and-a-half years of creative stagnation. During that period, she didn't write a single song. "I just didn't really know who I was," she says, "so I didn't really know what I sounded like. And so I did a lot of writing, and I studied abroad and I fell in love, and like … I got to be like any other college student. It was kind of nice to just not know for a little while." It is lucky the creative drought ended when it did, a week before the masterclass, with Alaska tumbling out of her "in about 15 minutes". If it hadn't, the year that followed would have looked very different. In the past 10 months, Rogers has graduated from college, signed with a major label, released an EP, played her first festival, made her live TV debut on The Tonight Show, and toured the US and Europe. She's been in London for a few days to play two sold-out club shows at Omeara, and when she is done with this interview, she will fly to Amsterdam. It's been incredible, she says, but she's had to learn pretty fast how to put her foot down.
What a treat to watch this exchange. The rest, as they say, is history—Maggie Rogers has, since that fateful day, gone on to have a terrific career, creating two studio albums and four EPs, with plenty more to come.