Talking Pop with Arjan Timmermans, founder of ArjanWrites.com

Arjan Timmermans and Me at ArjanWrites.com's Superfraiche Pop Night in Brooklyn's Galapagos Art Space on 4/1/11

Superfraiche is a pop concert series that showcases up-and-coming pop acts. Since its launch in 2009, the show has taken place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York. The sixth edition, held in Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space on April 1st, featured Sky Ferreira, Simon Curtis, Databoy, and She’s the Queen. Backstage, I spoke with its founder, Arjan Timmermans of the popular music blog ArjanWrites.com. He was the first credentialed blogger to cover the Grammy Awards and he’s also been featured on CNN. Here is the interview, where we chatted about the origins of his blog, the concert series, and what makes a pop song “pop.”

  1. You launched your blog, ArjanWrites.com, in 2002. What was your goal with the website?

My goal with the website was to bring fresh new pop to people, so it was really all about sharing new music that I found, whether it was from independent artists in America or exciting new music from Europe, and share that with my friends. What happened is that a lot of people found my blog and started reading it. That’s how it grew to what it is now, which is a platform for pop music in America, so the original idea was about sharing great pop music. Read the rest of this entry »


Q&A with Jason Lipshutz, Editorial Assistant at Billboard.com

A few days after my interview with Simon Curtis, I spoke to Jason Lipshutz, the editorial assistant at Billboard.com who wrote a feature on the rising pop star. Here are some excerpts from the interview, where we talked about Simon, as well as the Internet’s costs and benefits for artists trying to make it in the music industry.

1.     What types of topics or genres do you cover at Billboard?

I work for both the magazine and mostly the website. It deals with a lot of different genres: pop, rock, mostly popular music. We don’t specialize in emerging bands as of now, but we focus more on established artists.

2.     So it was rare that you featured someone like Simon Curtis, an independent act. How did you become aware of him?

We did a feature on Simon because first off, his music is compelling, and second, because he has a following. We saw that he has a fan base, and he’s performing pretty well in terms of social media. Read the rest of this entry »


Introducing…Simon Curtis

Simon Curtis and Me at ArjanWrites.com's Superfraiche Pop Night in Brooklyn's Galapagos Art Space on 4/1/11

To start this post, let me throw out some numbers: over one million downloads of his debut album, almost one million plays on Last.fm, more than 400,000 YouTube views, and about 21,000 followers on Twitter. Up-and-coming pop artist Simon Curtis boasts these numbers without a recording contract. After starring in Nickelodeon’s made-for-TV musical “Spectacular!” and nabbing a guest spot on “Hannah Montana,” he set his sights on pop superstardom. Last March, he independently released the album, “8Bit Heart,” for free through his website, and he’s since been one to watch on the pop music scene. Filled with top-notch production by his sole collaborator, Jeff “Jadion” Wells and infectious choruses, the album rivals those topping the Billboard charts today. This spring, Curtis will release his follow-up, “RΔ” (pronounced Rah), named after his fan base, the Robot Army, on iTunes. Snippets of some of the album’s tracks can be found here.

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Q&A with Entertainment Weekly’s Tanner Stransky

Tanner Stransky, Entertainment Weekly, provided by Stransky

For a press person’s perspective, I chatted with Tanner Stransky, correspondent staff writer for Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, who reviews the latest servings from pop divas in addition to writing about TV shows, books, and movies. He also wrote the book, “Find Your Inner Ugly Betty: 25 Career Lessons for Young Professionals Inspired by TV Shows,” about taking career advice from the show as well as other programs on the air then. Here are some of the highlights from the interview, where we dished about the latest trends in pop music and what it takes to get noticed by the media.

 1. Have you noticed any trends within pop music?

Music is more dancey and poppier than it has been in a long time. Music now is really clubby, like Britney’s new album is club music. Rihanna launches with her “Only Girl (In The World) single, and it’s a total club jam. It’s a Gaga effect: her first single was “Just Dance” and it cascaded from there when everybody jumped on that. It’s cyclical – we’ll be in this a little while longer and then we’ll do something else. America is the only place where pop music gets dancey, then it doesn’t, and then it gets dancey again. Read the rest of this entry »


Q&A with Jocelyn Vena, Pop Writer at MTV News

I recently spoke to Jocelyn Vena, the pop writer at MTV News. Whether it’s the newest music video by Britney Spears or Lady Gaga’s latest antic, Vena has it covered. She notes how these ladies, leaving no room for male pop acts, are running the show with their slinky dance songs. Here are some of the highlights from our chat.

Jocelyn Vena, MTV News, photo provided by Vena

 1. As the pop writer at MTV News, is your beat only pop music?

It’s pop music, fashion, TV, and movies. It’s gossip, like I’ve been reporting on the Chris Brown drama in light of his Good Morning America appearance. I’m also working on the Britney Spears album that’s coming out next week. It’s pop culture, more than just pop music.

 2. Who are the most talked about artists on MTV.com today?

Britney, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, and Justin Bieber. Those are the people that I write about most regularly.

 3. How have you seen the music industry change in the last 2-3 years?

People are consuming music in different kinds of ways than they used to. They’re not going to the record store like they were 5 to 7 years ago. Instead, they’re going online, on iTunes, downloading it for free illegally, and streaming it on different websites. Read the rest of this entry »


USC Sociology Professor on pop music

Dr. Mathieu Deflem, USC professor of “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame,” Photo by Michael Brown/provided by Dr. Deflem

Seeking the definition of pop music, I contacted Dr. Mathieu Deflem, a sociology professor at the University of South Carolina who teaches the course “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame.” This is the insight that he had to share on how pop music compares to other genres.

1. In terms of music production and cultural significance, how does pop differ from other music genres?

Culturally, pop is more popular, by definition, and therefore more significant in terms of reaching people. As music is always a form of communication (or, music is not music until it has an audience), pop music is more socially significant than any other genre. Music production has mainly changed over the years because of technological advances (synthesizers, digital recording etc).

2. How does the current pop music scene compare to that of previous decades? If not, how is it similar?

Not sure, but as always, musical genres go through waves of popularity, and right now pop is at the top of popular music, absent any decent rock music except those rock genres that stay underground.

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