The Story Behind the “Sassy” Persona Maggie Rogers Adopts on “So Sick of Dreaming”

Maggie Rogers’ earliest hits were typically songs that held a great deal of meaning for her personally. “Alaska” is about Rogers discovering a sense of groundedness while hiking. “Light On” was about the gratitude she feels toward her fans. She wrote “Love You for a Long Time” as a love letter to her friends and band. For her third album Don’t Forget Me, Rogers once again dipped into her well of experiences and relationships, and emerged with inspiration for several of the album’s songs.

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The second single from Don’t Forget Me, “So Sick of Dreaming,” was not one of those songs. Rogers told The Line of Best Fit in February—two months before the album’s release—that when she was writing songs for Don’t Forget Me, in some instances, she was writing about stories that were not autobiographical. It was the first time she had done so for her own songs. “So Sick of Dreaming” is a story of a woman who gets fed up with an uncaring, conceited partner. While Rogers sings the story from the first-person perspective, it’s not about her or someone she dated.

The song does have some basis in reality. Here’s how Rogers got inspired to write “So Sick of Dreaming,” and how she used the song to make a nod to some of her favorite pop culture touchstones.

About a “Friend of a Friend”

The 10 tracks that comprise Don’t Forget Me are part of a loose concept. Rogers co-wrote most of the album with Ian Fitchuk, and they completed the songs in a five-day period. She didn’t go into the writing and recording sessions with a concept for the album, but as she explained in her interview for The Line of Best Fit, she wound up writing the songs as a sequential set of stories and “at some point, a character emerged.” Rogers described the character as “a girl on a roadtrip through the American South and West. A sort of younger Thelma & Louise character who was leaving home and leaving a relationship, processing out loud, finding solace in her friends and in the promise of a new city and new landscape.”

For “So Sick of Dreaming,” Rogers did not have to create that character from whole cloth. In an interview for NPR’s World Cafe, she said it was based on a story that someone told her about “a friend of a friend.” When Rogers sings in the first verse, So you think you’re on the right track / Cruising on the bridge in your gray Cadillac, she is referring to an overly self-assured man who dated her friend’s friend.

Ditched for a Knicks Game

For most of the song, Rogers gives us only a vague sense of the boyfriend’s flaws. Is it just being full of himself that causes Rogers’ character to say If you think that life without me’s like a heart attack / Take a long look in the mirror and be good with that? It’s the interlude of “So Sick of Dreaming” that provides some details on the soon-to-be-ex’s transgressions, and these were purely the creation of Rogers’ imagination.

Initially, the interlude was intended to be an instrumental—a space between the choruses that might have been taken up by a guitar solo. Rogers recorded a monologue in the tone of the “sassy” character she created just to fill that space as a placeholder. Her intention was to replace the monologue, but also—as she explained on World Cafe—to create something that would “make everyone in the room laugh.”

But there is no solo in the interlude, just Rogers’ character riffing on being ditched for dinner by the “loser.”

So he calls me up fifteen minutes before the reservation
And says he’s got Knicks tickets instead
I mean, I was at the restaurant
So I took the steaks to go, I had two martinis at the bar
And went to meet my friends down the street
What a loser

Channeling Some Sass

Rogers’ snarkiest moment comes at the very end of the section, when she adds And by the way, the Knicks lost. While Rogers said that she would be loath to talk about one of her own relationships in a song this way, she added she “loved the character that came to life in this song.” In retrospect, she realized she was channeling characters from Clueless, Sex and the City, and Shania Twain songs.

Over the course of three albums, Rogers has explored a number of her sides musically, melding electronica, pop, rock, and Americana. Perhaps her exploration of an alter ego on “So Sick of Dreaming” is a sign of more lyrical experimentation to come. Even if it’s not, the tune has added an intriguing new dimension to Rogers’ already-sophisticated songwriting.

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Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tibet House US

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