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 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


Hot New Pop Alert: Iris "I'll Wait For You"


Debut single “I’ll Wait for You” by pop newcomer Iris shines like a beacon of hope for all of those who are looking for a glimmer of light in the dark days of winter.  

The song discusses that if you want something really bad and you’ll wait long enough for it that ultimately your dreams may come true. 

Iris speaks from experience. After battling poor health that almost took her life, she gained strength and used music to make a fresh new start. The result is a slice of pop heaven that is quirky, melodic and taken straight from the heart.

It’s the type of high-grade pop that fans of Robyn, Tove Lo and other left-leaning pop will salivate over.

Iris partnered with director Sebastien Duguay, cinematographer John Londono and producer Cult Nation on the video for the song "We originally intended to make a nice simple lyric video to support the single,“ she explains.

"But when I showed up on set and saw the wonderful team that we had and the iconic Panasonic anamorphic B series lenses, I knew we would have an awesome video. Way more than what we anticipated.”

She continues, “The whole video was pretty much improvised on set. I just felt the song and went with the flow. It was important to me to have the viewer feel the song through my emotions and my body language rather than having a storyline and acting. This music video is simple, visually beautiful, spontaneous and real.”

Hot New Pop Alert: "Verite "Strange Enough"


Hailing from New York City, newcomer Verite serves up an impressive pop sound that will capture you from start to finish. I first heard her demos a few weeks ago and was instantly blown away by her powerful and deeply emotive delivery.  

Whilst working hard in the studio with the producer Elliot Jacobson on her debut EP, Verite is sharing “Strange Enough” to give us a taste of what’s to come. Fans of Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding and other pensive pop will be in for a huge treat.

The singer (who still works as a waitress in a local Manhattan restaurant) explains in a press release that she wrote the song to contemplate “all the questions I’d ask myself about my relationship, and why we bother ourselves to try to make things work sometimes.” 

She adds, “The song goes back and forth between the nostalgia of what was. The reality of how things shift as time moves on, and how ultimately we romanticize moments that are fleeting.” 

P.S. Vérité is French for “truth” that is pretty darn perfect in this case.

Hot New Pop Alert: The Heydaze "City Girl"


The Heydaze serve up a slice of summer sizzle and heaps of happy vibes with their potent new single “City Girl” The group is the teaming of Jesse Fink (vocals), Andrew Spelman (lead guitar) and Andrew Underberg (production and keys) who formed this past year at the University of Pennsylvania. The three college pals sure bring an Ivy League quality to their infectious, crisp brand of pop as demonstrated by “City Girl.”

It’s an instantly catch pop stomper that is a happy-go-lucky love letter to the group’s favorite city girl and New York City. "Been around everywhere/Swear I have never seen such a pretty girl/Twinkle in the sky/Big apple in my eye,” charismatic frontman Jesse Fink cheers.

This song will have you tapping along the moment it hits. I guarantee you. The group is looked after by the fine folks who turned Maroon 5 into global superstars so make sure to keep a close eye on The Heydaze. [Facebook] [Twitter]

[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.

Afrojack behind the decks with Wall Recordings artist D-wayne

"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.