From a striped shirt and acoustic guitar on America’s Got Talent to rocking a gold-sequined jumpsuit and keyboard in the middle of a courtroom, the transformation of singer/songwriter Jake Wesley Rogers into his most authentic self deserves recognition.
The 24-year-old musician from Missouri knew who he was from a young age, coming out to his family in the sixth grade. However, growing up in the Midwest, Rogers still felt he had to stay quiet about his true self. Music became an important, therapeutic outlet in his life.
Just a few years after a stint on season seven of America’s Got Talent, Rogers began releasing music independently, with his first EP “Evergreen” coming out in 2017 and his sophomore EP “Spiritual” in 2019. Rogers was signed to Warner Records shortly after the release of his second EP.
Since signing with Warner Records, Rogers has developed a passionate following on TikTok, with just under 300,000 followers since his first video in 2020. His videos and music gained attention from music legend Elton John, who later interviewed Rogers on his Apple 1 Radio show “Rocket Hour.”
Rogers released his debut EP with Warner Records, “Pluto,” earlier this month to positive reviews — and rightly so. His vulnerable vocals and authenticity blend beautifully with his songwriting skills, packaged together in a six-song EP that feels like a personal journal entry.
The EP opens with “Weddings and Funerals,” a piano ballad about the significance of the little moments in life. The simplicity of the verses — reliant mainly on vocals and piano — shift into the more theatrical choruses and bridge, showcasing his powerful vocals and range. He sings in the chorus, “Everything’s always / Weddings and funerals / No room to celebrate / Everyday miracles / Like the sun in the sky / Like your body on mine.”
“Middle of Love,” is reminiscent of Elton John’s work, a bouncy pop ballad full of both fun and deeply personal lyrics. His performance of the song from his “Live from a Courthouse” sessions has gained over half a million views on TikTok, sporting a golden jumpsuit and a giant “Scales of Justice” earring during the riveting performance. He sings, “I didn’t ask to melt to the floor / I didn’t ask to even be born / Both those happened when my eyes met yours.”
The title track of the EP — “Pluto” — treats the former planet as a metaphor for his self-doubt, rejection and ultimately as a message to all the haters. The song opens with Rogers reminiscing about when Pluto was still considered a planet and how he still feels sad about its demotion. There’s a feeling of kinship with the tossed aside Pluto, but still a sense of self-worth in the end. He sings in the chorus, “Hate on me, hate on me, hate on me, hate on me / You might as well hate the sun / For shining just a little too much.”
“Under the Sun” is a more folksy song, with the sounds of birds, light acoustic finger-picking and a simple beat making for a relaxing and enjoyable listen. My initial interpretation is that the song is about normalizing LGBTQ relationships and feelings, which makes sense when he sings, “Swear to God these feelings are ancient / Swear to God it ain’t nothing new.”
Rogers gets the most personal with his song “Cause of a Scene,” a heartbreaking ballad about hiding his identity for the benefit of others and how much pain that caused him. He sings in the bridge, “Haven’t told my grandpa ’bout you / ‘Cause my parents told me not to / It might be a little too much at the end of his life.” Another emotional piano ballad, you can hear the intense pain in Rogers’ voice during the chorus.
Closing the EP is “Momentary,” a song dedicated to the LGBTQ people — both real and fictional — that Rogers cites as inspirations and heroes to the community. With credit to famous LGBTQ figures like Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk and Oscar Wilde, Rogers sings, “I suppose the yellow brick road / Is easier to navigate than it’s ever been before.”
Rogers will open for musician/actor Ben Platt during his North American tour starting Feb. 23, 2022. “Pluto” and more work from Rogers are available on Spotify and other streaming services.