“R.U.O.K.” by Melanie Rogers

Melanie Rogers has spent much of her lifetime serving two needs – her need to praise God and to make music. The latter has arguably never failed her, it’s maintained an enormous presence in her life since childhood and has shaped countless experiences she’s lived through during her life. The former has provided memorable moments of joy, without question, but it has reached a stage in her life where Rogers is engaging in a wealth of self-reflection. One of her key beliefs, that using her God-given gifts in service of anything not of God, has fallen by the wayside as Rogers’ songwriting has moved into a secular realm. The permission she has given herself, at last, to write about whatever has meaning in her life pays off for listeners during the song “R.U.O.K”.  It’s one of the more compelling singles released in 2021.

The track opens with swirling yet elegant piano playing. It builds from there, adding drums, percussion, and bass along the way, and its muted opening soon transforms into quasi-orchestral splendor. Adam Schaefer’s bass and Remy Morrit’s drumming are the key springboards for “R.U.O.K” – it is clear they provide the solid foundation over which the piano and Rogers’ voice can carry the song’s melodic load.

Her voice is wide-open. Rogers’ experience singing songs of worship undoubtedly informs her approach to tracks such as this. Despite subject matter concerning what it is like for empaths to deal with hearing other’s woes, “R.U.O.K” aches with the emotion of a love song. Rogers places the song on a large near-cinematic stage for listeners and its careful threading of various peaks and valleys will stir all but the hardest of hearts.

The lyrics are well-turned and thoughtful. Many modern pop songs treat lyrical content as an afterthought, just something for the singer to belt out, but Rogers puts a great deal of forethought into her message. They are tailored to the arrangement as well. They are intended to work with music, not stand alone, and have a strong percussive quality.

Her preceding single “Fever” hinted at this approach. Jesse Field co-produced this track and “Fever” alike with Rogers and his effect on the sound, engineering, and mastering of “R.U.O.K” is part of the reason for the song’s success. He has a sharp ear for recognizing Rogers’ best qualities and how to present them in the most compelling way. The balance achieved between the instruments is stellar as well.

Life is impossible to predict. It is safe to assume that if you had approached Rogers five years ago and told her that in 2021 she would be writing and recording secular pop songs and out of church she would have believed such a turn of events near inconceivable. Yet here she is. One certainty you can arrive at after hearing “R.U.O.K”, however, is that Melanie Rogers ranks among the best young vocalists today and her songwriting talents add a deeper dimension to her pop skills few peers can match. You need to check out this single today. 

Michael Rand

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