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Celebrating Music's Biggest Night with a Message of Equality


After covering The GRAMMY Awards up close for six years in a row (and watching the show on TV before that), I can honestly say that last night’s show was one of the most moving and emotional GRAMMY telecasts I have experienced. The show managed to impact culture in a big way with a number of performances that conveyed a message about equality. It wasn’t political by design, it was simply a theme that lingered through many of this year's nominated songs.

One of the night's stand out moments was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' ground-breaking performance of "Same Love" that featured fellow Seattleite Mary Lambert plus special guests Madonna and Queen Latifah. "Same Love" is a song that explicitly addresses the importance of equal rights for all regardless of age, race, sex and sexual orientation.

Following their win for Best New Artist earlier in the evening, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage towards the end of the CBS telecast. The duo performed the song together with Mary Lambert before Queen Latifah entered the stage to officiate a mass wedding of 33 couples in the audience. Madonna gave the newly-married couples a proper wedding gift with an impromptu performance of her classic "Open Your Heart" mashed up with "Same Love" that gave a whole new meaning to the phase, “It's not that hard/If you just turn the key.” It was a truly powerful performance that didn't leave a dry eye in the room.

Kacey Musgraves' poignant performance of "Follow Your Arrow" also promoted a message of equality and individuality.The young Nashville singer won two GRAMMY statues for “Merry Go ‘Round” (Best Country Song) and Same Trailer, Different Park (Best Country Album). "Follow Your Arrow" promotes equality for everyone in not so subtle terms: "Kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls If that's something you're into/Love who you love/ 'Cause you just get so many trips 'round the sun."

Musgraves was visibly emotional when she received the GRAMMY for Best Country Song during the pre-telecast for “Merry Go ‘Round.” “That song means so much to me,” she told the audience. “It changed my life. I’m so happy to make country music that I feel represents the genre.”

GRAMMY nominee Sara Bareilles added her own twist to the theme of equality with her performance of "Brave" alongside legendary singer/songwriter Carole King who was honored as MusiCares’ Person of the Year. Bareilles sings, "You can be the outcast/Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love/Or you can start speaking up." Bareilles harmonized beautifully with King that resulted in another memorable GRAMMY moment.

Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar fired up the crowd with their powerful mashup of "Radioactive" and "m.A.A.d. City." The performance was released as a single just moment after the show concluded.

Beyonce stunned the crowd with a show-stopping opening number that mimicked the album visuals of her recently-released, self-titled album.

This year's GRAMMYs also facilitated the reunion of two Beatles: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. They performed together to celebrate the 50th year anniversary of The Beatles' historic performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Bruno Mars did not perform at the show but he was in attendance to receive a GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album for Unorthodox Jukebox. A very well-deserved win for a solid and cohesive pop album that continues Mars’ winning streak following his meteoric rise to fame. Mars also introduced Pink’s daredevil performance of "Try" followed by "Just Give Me A Reason" with Nate Ruess. The pop singer once again was pulled high up into the air to perform up side down and in rotation while never skipping a beat.

With performances that were both meaningful and fun to watch, this year’s GRAMMYs fully lived up to its reputation as the year’s Biggest Night in Music.

January 27, 2014 | Permalink

Introducing Beats Music: A New Way to Experience, Discover and Share Music (Plus More about the Future of This Blog)

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Pop music means everything to me. It's my life and joy. It's what I stand for and what I believe in. Pop has always been there for me and it's what I want to share with others. Those are the reasons why I decided to start writing this blog twelve years ago. I launched ArjanWrites.com in March 2002 as a way to tip friends about new music. There was no big business plan or lofty vision. None of that. I just wanted to share great music with people that cared as much about pop music as I did. This blog organically has grown into one of the first prominent music blogs on the web that has taken me on an incredible journey since then. From The GRAMMYs to CNN, and from ARTIST#TALK to making the Out 100 list. Today, all that love for pop music culminates in my new adventure as the Head of Pop/Dance Programming at Beats Music, a brand-new music streaming service that arrived today.

I moved out to Los Angeles last year to write my first book. After being in California for two weeks and just getting my feet on the ground, I received a call from Brian Frank at Beats by Dr. Dre to come talk about an exciting new project. I met with him and Scott Plagenhoef, and was instantly sold on the vision laid out by Jimmy Iovine, Trent Reznor, Dr. Dre and Luke Wood to usher in a new era of music streaming. I put all my plans on hold to join Project Daisy (later renamed to Beats Music) and its editorial team to be the lead programmer for everything pop and dance. Now I work together with the best in the business to program Beats Music including Carl Chery, Suzy Cole, Mason Williams, Ken Tucker, Jerry Pulles and our tireless and inspiring editor-in-chief Scott Plagenhoef (my new personal hero whose book I used to gift to friends). Radio veteran Julie Pilat joined the Beats Music team in the summer to connect us to the artist community in exciting (and always creative) new ways. (Meet my entire editorial team here)

Beats Music is unlike any other music streaming service out there. It recognizes that music is an emotion and that music carries memories that last forever. We respect those qualities of music, and instead of just giving listeners access to 20 million songs (no worries we do that too), we've build carefully-curated listening experiences around activities, moods, events and artists. Love Robyn and want more of that sublime Swedish pop? We have you covered. Need something to wake up to on a lazy Sunday morning? We got that. Are you in the mood for some deliciously campy dance-pop songs? We have all of that and more. With its panel of trusted sources, Beats Music brings back personalized music recommendations to a mobile app that is fun and easy to use. 


Trent Reznor conveys Beats Music's vision perfectly in this TV spot

Over the past decade, more than 7000 posts later, I've written this blog to introduce you to young upstarts like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey and many others. ArjanWrites.com has been a labor of love that has provided me with so many opportunities and has given me many new friendships. I'm very grateful for that and I feel truly blessed. With the launch of Beats Music, I will continue what got this blog started. I will keep on highlighting new artists and music that I care about but now primarily on an exciting new platform that reaches people far beyond this blog.  

But no worries. This blog is not going anywhere.

I will continue to blog here and provide stories about my work at Beats Music and the pop that excites me. Plus, once in a while I may blog about some other things that interest me. In the meantime, I encourage all of you to follow me on Twitter and Beats Music to continue our conversation about everything pop.

The ArjanWrites.com community means the world to me. I want to thank you all for being part of my incredible journey. I hope you will join me on Beats Music so we can experience the future of music together. Thank you for tuning in!

January 21, 2014 | Permalink

A Few Words About Kylie Minogue's New Single 'Into The Blue' [Review]

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There's a curious case of Benjamin Button happening in the world of pop. Instead of getting older, our beloved Kylie Minogue appears to be getting younger by the minute. After a successful music career that spans over three decades (and surviving a battle with cancer), the Aussie pop princess is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, she's ready to work and seems more energized than ever. 

It's as if commercial success really doesn't matter that much to her anymore. Minogue just want to serve up great music for her fans. But surprise! By freeing herself from any stifling corporate expectations, she's making some very interesting artistic choices that actually put her ahead of the pop pack. Not only did she sign with a seasoned new management team in the US, she also started working with a new group of writers and producers that gives her music a fresh new elan. According to reports, she's been in the studio with Pharrell, Rodney Jerkins, and yes, Jay-Z.

Kylie probably figures that now that the stakes are manageable, it's a good time to take some creative risk and try new things. As a result, her music is better than ever and her new single "Into The Blue" is a perfect example of that. It's a mighty fine slice of pop brilliance that caters to her loyal fan base but also has potential to make many more new fans. Best of all, Kylie stays on brand by delivering a fun, upbeat and dancefloor-ready pop tune that shows today's pop debutantes how it's done. Bow down to Kylie! (Look for Kylie's "Into The Blue" on Beats Music soon.)

January 19, 2014 | Permalink

Watch Raleigh Ritchie's Stunning New Video for 'Stronger Than Ever' [REVIEW]

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Frequent readers of this blog may remember that I first alerted you about rising new British R&B pop singer Raleigh Ritchie back in July. He seemingly popped out of nowhere with some impressive tracks on SoundCloud that led to immediate critical acclaim. GRAMMY nominee Kendrick Lamar got word about the young crooner as well and invited the newcomers to open for him on his U.K. tour last summer.

Ritchie just premiered the video for his new single "Stronger Than Ever" that truly is his poppiest moment to date. It's a moving and defiant ballad that will surely help him to secure BBC Radio One airplay and a firm shot at success in the UK singles chart. 

A press release describes the meaning of the song in a bit more detail: "The film, like the song, encapsulates Raleigh's state of mind when he first moved to London at 17 and found the city so alienating that he started desperately yearning for the life he equally desperately couldn't wait to escape from in his native Bristol."

"Stronger Than Ever" neatly spotlights Ritchie's impressive songwriting savvy. It's a deeply personal song about moving on to brighter and better times by pursuing your dreams. It's a sentiment I'm sure many of us will be able to relate to. Think for example about how you felt when you first moved away from home to start a new chapter in life for work, school or to be with the one you love.

It's not about hating where you came from; it's about the need to spread your wings to embrace the opportunity of life. "Hate me when I'm gone, but I'll make it worth your while when I'm successful," he tells the people back in his hometown. "When I'm here I need your kindness because the climb is always stressful (. . . ) The world is at my feet and I'm standing on the ceiling."

The song is taken from Raleigh Ritchie's Black and Blue EP that you can stream on Beats Music soon.

January 15, 2014 | Permalink

Hot New Talent Alert: Listen to Paperwhite 'Got Me Goin' [First Listen]

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Prepare yourself to get hooked in the next few seconds. Meet rapidly-rising brother-sister duo Paperwhite who are about unleash some fantastic new pop. Check out a preview of their fantastic, synth-edged new single "Got Me Going" that has all the makings of something big. A little birdy just sent me the full single edit and it's a brilliant slice of lush and warming synth pop that you can file right next to Chvrches, Kate Boy and New Zealand's Broods (who coincidentally are also a teaming of brother and sister). "Got Me Going" will be released for streaming in the next few weeks. Make sure to check Beats Music.

January 14, 2014 | Permalink