‘Making It’ Pop: The ingredients for sweet success in the most addictive music genre

“The name is Simon, the game is P.O.P…” – Simon Curtis, “Laser Guns Up”

It’s a cool Friday night in April, and it’s show time for Simon Curtis. The 25-year-old up-and-coming pop singer from Tulsa, Oklahoma is performing his first New York City show before a sold-out audience of 220. On stage is not the usual legion of back-up dancers or fancy set, but only a microphone stand. For Curtis, the minimalism renders the stage a blank canvas. He captivates the crowd with choreography that’s more Britney than Justin, with plenty of twitching, snapping, and strutting. His moves are topped by syrupy vocals that evoke Darren Hayes of Savage Garden. Just as much as Curtis evokes the past, he also serves up new twists. Over a pulsating beat, he belts out one of his latest songs, an alternative to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” called “Don’t Dance”:

I’m not gonna tell you to dance, just gonna keep on doing my thing
I’m not gonna tell you to move, just gonna keep on playin’ the way I’m playin’
Don’t dance, don’t dance, don’t dance!

The message, however, doesn’t keep the crowd from dancing. The setting is Superfraiche Pop Night in Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space, where the tables, standing on concrete lily pads, are surrounded by water. Curtis is one of four acts taking the stage. Superfraiche, a pop concert series launched in 2009, also has been held in Los Angeles and Atlanta. As the name, a French play on “super fresh” suggests, the show provides pop hopefuls with a platform beyond the Top 40 Billboard charts.

Curtis enters the pop music scene without a record deal, publicist, or manager. But, that hasn’t mattered as much as it would have in the past because of the Internet and the way the music industry has changed. The Internet offers free online exposure for savvy social network pros on Facebook and Twitter. He’s also breaking into the industry at a time when CD sales aren’t the primary source of revenue. Emphasizing ticket sales, record companies are now investing in entertainers who can sell both Madison Square Garden tickets and iTunes singles. That often rules out the simply talented singers in favor of “entertainers,” with a niche that sets them apart like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Ke$ha at the helm. Note that they are all women, which presents an obstacle for Curtis as a male pop singer, a rare species in music today. Read more…


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 »


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 »