After Twelve Years, I'm Taking An Indefinite Break...
Wow. What a ride it has been.
After twelve years of blogging and tipping all of you about exciting new pop music, the time has come to take an indefinite break and focus on exciting new projects. Following my stint at CNN, The GRAMMYs and Beats Music, I'm now curating songs at Apple Music. Everything that I was doing on this blog for all of those years, I now do at Apple with a great team of like-minded people passionate about music. It's an exciting move for me. To present and contextualize new music at a global scale is a dream come true. All of the years of writing this blog (6772 posts to be exact) has led to this amazing opportunity that takes my personal and professional life on an exciting new adventure. (If you're curious, this what arjanwrites.com looked like when it launched in 2002.)
I want to thank all of my loyal readers who have been following this blog for all those years. Your response and feedback meant the world to me. I cannot thank you enough for tuning in every day to get your new music fix. I also want to thank the artists who shared their music with me and allowed this blog to be a platform to debut their music. From Lady Gaga to Lana Del Rey, and from Ellie Goulding to Bebe Rexha, and many others, they all stopped here first to tell their story. I'm truly humbled and thankful for the opportunity and trust you've given me.
What has always been important to me is that this blog was never about critiquing music. It was about telling the stories about the music, offering perspective, contextualizing an artist and giving them a home to serve up the music as it was intended. My goal was to celebrate pop music in all of its glory.
This blog has led to so many incredible opportunities that are memories of a lifetime. From doing my first phone interview with Pet Shop Boys in China to being the first credentialed blogger to attend the MTV Video Music Awards, and from coordinating Lady Gaga's first television performance to covering the The GRAMMY Awards for five years in a row. Somebody pinch me! All of those special experiences never got old. I still cherish each and every one of them. I never stopped being a music fan, first and foremost. I just happened to write about the stuff I was listening to and excited about.
The passion for music will continue to drive me on my new endeavours. Perhaps one day, I will return here but for now I'm 100% focused on my new gig at Apple where I can fully apply my enthusiasm for music. If you'd like to stay in touch, feel free to reach out on Twitter. Say hey or tell me about your new music!
For now, I'm signing off. See you on Apple Music!
Thank you! x
[REPORT] Inside the Making of Afrojack's 'Forget The World' with Sting, Matthew Koma, Wrabel, Spree Wilson and D-wayne
After producing smash hits for people like Ne-Yo, Pitbull, Beyonce, David Guetta and Chris Brown, double GRAMMY-winning DJ/producer Afrojack releases his highly-anticipated debut artist album Forget The World today. It's a moment that's been long in the making and represents a milestone achievement for the Dutchman. Afrojack (born Nick van der Wall) delivers a strong point of view that will move and inspire people. "It's a new side of. It's the purest form of my music," he explains in an EPK video introducing the album.
The story of Afrojack is as impressive as his new music. After falling in love with house music as a teenager, he started toying around with music and developed a strong passion for DJing. While on summer vacation on the Greek isle of Crete, young Nick started to play local clubs to help him finetune his craft and, more importantly, learn how to read crowds and entertain an audience. Eventually, DJ and production heavyweights like David Guetta and Laidback Luke took him under their wing that helped him to gain momentum on the club circuit and find success on his own.
One of Afrojack's most inspiring qualities is that despite his fame and success he has stayed humble. He may be flashing his fancy cars, private jets and mega mansions on Instagram, but despite all the show and tell, he continues to preach that if he can do it then you can do it too.
His experience as a self-made man is very much the story that drives Forget The World. In fact, the release of the album after years of hard work embodies his exact point of view. "I want to people to know that everything is possible in life," Afrojack explained to me earlier. "Follow your dreams and don't let the world judge you and tell you what to do. Sometimes you have to forget the world to follow your heart and make your dreams come true."
Forget The World explores different genres of music that reflects Afrojack's rich taste in music. One of the standout tracks on the album is "Catch Tomorrow" that features none other than the legendary Sting. While preparing the musical production based on his most recent album The Last Ship in New York, Sting took some time out of his schedule to talk about working with Afrojack. "I’ve always loved the idea of blending different sounds and genres, and that sense of exploration continues to be one of my main driving forces," Sting said.
Sting adds, "Collaborating with Afrojack on 'Catch Tomorrow' was an intriguing opportunity. He brought a great energy to the session and it was a lot of fun working with him." (Sting's The Last Ship premieres in Chicago's Bank of America Theatre on June 10 and will debut on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on October 26).
Sting and Afrojack in the studio (Photo by Martin Kierszenbaum)
Afrojack's passion for his craft is also echoed by his collaborators on Forget The World including Sting, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Matthew Koma, Wrabel, Tyler Glenn, Spree Wilson, Jack McManus, Shirazi and newcomer D-wayne. "Nick is truly driven by passion and his love for music," says Matthew Koma who worked with Afrojack on the songs "Illuminate" and "Keep Our Love Alive." "Everyone has their motives. What drives them, what keeps them excited, and for him it really is his desire to connect with his audience and deliver them his all. He's very talented and honest."
Koma says about the making of "Illuminate," "It's a song I started in New York last year. I had rented this studio in Midtown to have a creative space to go to between Dunkin Donut binges, and that song just sort of came about. I was in a really strange place mentally and that one felt like it was sort of 'delivered' more than it was written. After hearing some of Nick's other music, it felt really in line with what his vision was so I was confident when he heard the idea it'd be a fit."
He adds, "We started working on the production together, remotely at first, then met in Los Angeles to finish up. It was cool to sort of tag team it. Both of us come from different perspectives and influences and I feel like that song in particular ended up being an accurate reflection."
Afrojack's debut album also gave him the opportunity to introduce new talent to the masses. Much like he was mentored by David Guetta and Laidback Luke, he is now providing support and guidance to dance newcomer D-wayne. Together they worked on the track "Freedom" that features British singer/songwriter Jack McManus.
The two first met a couple of years ago when D-wayne sent him the track "Distance" for feedback. Nick was instantly impressed and encouraged him to continue working on his music. After finishing up the track "Ammo" last year, Nick decided to sign D-wayne to his Wall Recordings that is an imprint distributed via Spinnin' Records.
"We have a really good vibe together," D-wayne tells me via Skype about working with Nick. "We really inspire each other. We have a lot of back and forth in the studio to make the best music. What I really respect about him is that despite his success, he's just a normal guy who just want to have fun in life. I consider him a mentor and he's always there for me."
Also featured on the album is the very talented Wrabel who is the featured vocalist on Afrojack's current hit single "Ten Feet Tall." Written by Wrabel in partnership with Chris Braide, "Ten Feet Tall" is a wonderfully performed love song that perfectly captures that feeling of butterflies when you first fall in love. People everywhere will be able to relate to Wrabel's story about love making you feel so big that you feel that you can accomplish anything.
Driven by Afrojack's euphoric synths and Spree Wilson's happy go lucky delivery, "The Spark" is a feel-good, pop-savvy tune with universal message about believing in yourself no matter what your circumstances are." Ever think when it all goes right/You got things that can change your life/Crashing through the stars at night/I'm telling everybody/We all got the spark," self-proclaimed "midnight rambler" Spree Wilson sings.
Wilson writes me that he penned "The Spark" years ago. When he heard Afrojack was looking for new material, he reached out to the superstar DJ and offered to work with him. The rest is now history.
Back in March, when I quizzed Nick about Forget The World at a VIP listening party in Miami, one of the topics that immediately jumped out at me was his intent to make an all-inclusive album that his "daughter, mother and grandmother" could enjoy without compromising his musical vision. The result is that Forget The World is not just an EDM album, a pop record or a release with big club anthems. The record is a mash of different styles that is a reflection of the myriad of musical tastes today.
Afrojack knows first hand how important it is to forget the world, ignore the nay-sayers and stay true to the things you believe in. His rise to fame is an inspiring story that makes him a role model for everyone out there who wants to pursue their passion. While the world of dance music is splintering off into many other subgenres, production maestros like Afrojack help push the genre further into the American mainstream by combining sweeping grooves and hooky melodies with an authentic point of view and message that is instantly relatable and genuinely meaningful.
Listen to Afrojack Forget The World on Beats Music now.
May 18, 2014 | Permalink
Disclosure, Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes Discuss the Making of 'Latch' [VIDEO]
Good music wins and Disclosure's "Latch" is solid proof of that. After it was first released in October 2012 in the U.K., the song has slowly but surely gained momentum in America and it has turned the British duo into a bonafide chart sensation. The success of "Latch" has not only put deep house firmly back on the map, but the success of the song also serves as the perfect launching pad for Sam Smith's new music that is already getting loads of GRAMMY buzz. Guy and Howard from Disclosure, Sam Smith and songwriter Jimmy Napes sat down with Beats in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago to talk about the making of the song that started their movement. It's a great watch. (Make sure to also watch the previous episode of Beat by Beat featuring Rudimental.)
May 14, 2014 | Permalink
Hoodie Allen Premieres 'Show Me What You're Made Of' Video [First Look]
I have said this before and I will say it again: Hoodie Allen is a true role model for all aspiring artists out there. Without the power of a major label on his side, the rapper makes music, plays shows, and developed a loyal and passionate fanbase all on his own. Artists like Macklemore and Hoodie Allen are living proof that the game of music has changed. There are different and new ways to get your music out there in front of people. Besides being a huge talent with passion and drive, he writes me in an email that "no vacation days" may be the real secret to his success. It's true. If you believe in something so passionately, it's all you can put your mind to and you'll work tirelessly to accomplish your dreams.
His latest greatest effort is the video for his new single "Show Me What You're Made Of" that is the lead single from his upcoming debut fell length album. "It's been a minute since I put anything out -- honesty feel like I've either been writing or on tour non-stop all of 2013 till now," Hoodie writes me. "I'm really excited to finally be able to give you the first piece of the puzzle."
"Show Me What You're Made Of" is a fun hip-hop romp perfect for the season. Blending clever rhymes with a solid pop hook in the chorus, the song tells Hoodie's tale of a summer fling going to the next level. "Baby let me turn you on/I'll treat you like a new iPhone," he raps. "Girl you can be a star/fuck that cuz you already are/But show me what u made of? Can you show me what u made of?" The song was written by Hoodie and produced by RJF & Parrish Warrington
The video was inspired by Happy Gilmore, one of Hoodie's favorite videos of all time. Directed by Ariel Danziger, the video is happy ride around the golf course that not only features the legendary Tommy Lee but also Hoodie's pal DWhy. "It already makes for a pretty legendary music video as it is," he smiles. "Then to top it off, Tommy fuckin' Lee plays my drunk golf caddy." It's a whole lot of hilarity packed in a (Listen to Hoodie Allen "Show Me What You're Made Of" on Beats Music.)
May 8, 2014 | Permalink
Listen to Oliver Heldens feat. Becky Hill 'Gecko (Overdrive)' [Review]
Oliver Helden's bass-happy "Gecko" is without a doubt one of the finest house records released in 2013. In fact, alongside efforts by Disclosure, Duke Dumont and Clean Bandit, the track has helped to put deep house music back on the map. The 19 year-old Dutch DJ and producer is getting ready for a push in the pop charts with a flaming make-over of "Gecko" with the help of powerhouse vocalist Becky Hill and the infinitely-talented MNEK.
The latest edit "Gecko (Overdrive)," written and vocalled by Becky Hill during a late night recording session with MNEK, is being released by Parlophone's new dance imprint FFRR. Initially written for another vocalist, Becky's towering vocal on Gecko’s chorus was deemed the perfect fit.
Signed to Spinnin’ Records when he was just 17-years-old, the Netherlands-born DJ/producer has also released the tracks "Stinger" and "Juggernaut" as well as creating remixes for Marin Garrix. This new version of "Gecko" is an equally amazing look for Becky Hill who was recently featured on Rudimental’s "Powerless" and Wilkinson’s drum and bass track "Afterglow" last year, Becky Hill has been very much in demand. She has also been writing and recording with a host of talented producers and musicians, gathering material for her upcoming album, released later this year on Parlophone Records.
May 7, 2014 | Permalink