👋 Hello and welcome to the second issue of my new weekly newsletter! Thank you for all your encouraging and positive feedback following the first issue. It means the world to me. In this week’s newsletter, I’ll be serving up my quick takes on a few new releases, plus sharing an interview with pop newcomer Sam MacPherson. As always, I’ll also be listing new songs I added to my Office Hours playlist.
📺 It’s been quite a week for pop! The MTV Video Music Awards may have lost some of its past glory, but it generated tons of buzz and excitement. Show highlights for me were Lil Nas X (he continues to push boundaries, I’m in awe), Doja Cat (multi-talented, always fun, and surprising in all the right ways), and Kim Petras, who performed her glorious new single “Future Starts Now.” Petras conceived a high-grade production that checked every box of excellence and put her on the map as a major new force in pop.
🌟 It’s been a massive week for Lil Nas X. His red-hot MTV Video Music Awards performance was followed by a sensational appearance at the MetGala. At the same time, his social media activity hit a fever pitch in anticipation of his debut album Montero on Friday. I’m happy to report that all the hype is warranted. The album is extraordinary—a perfect marriage of style and substance that solidifies the former Minaj meme-maker as a bonafide global superstar. Never count out the underdog.
❤️ I’ve been spending a lot of time with Kacey Musgraves’s new album, star-crossed, that’s loaded with delicate little gems. It’s a gorgeous LP that is a fitting follow-up to Golden Hour and will undoubtedly be a contender during awards season. My favorite tracks are “Cherry Blossom,” “Hookup Scene,” and “There Is A Light.” Congrats to Kacey, Ian, and Daniel for producing a timeless record.
The state of Pop is strong—lots of great music out this week. Let’s dig in!
Office Hours Playlist Updates
First things first. Office Hours is a new passion project of mine to support and nurture new artists. Periodically, I will open up my Twitter DMs for official office hours to meet new artists, listen to pitches, and provide instant feedback. It’s been a gratifying experience to help out and lend an ear.
How it works. Every week, I add a selection of pitched songs to my Office Hours playlist on Apple Music. This playlist also includes tracks that I feel are extraordinarily great and fit the spirit of the Office Hours playlist: new, next, noteworthy, and very pop.
Thanks for all your pitches and suggestions for the Office Hours playlist. Here are some of the top new tracks I added this week:
“Older” by Alec Benjamin. An extraordinary coming-of-age pop gem totally on-brand for Benjamin. Co-written by Ryan Tedder and Charlie Puth. (Listen))
“That’s What I Want” by Lil Nas X. Song of the Year contender. One of Nas’s finest with a chorus of dreams. Expect this one to fill airwaves for months to come. Co-written by Blake Slatkin, Omer Fedi, KBeaZy, and Ryan Tedder. (Listen)
“Counts” by Sam MacPherson. Crisp, well-delivered pop from a promising newcomer with a knack for melody. (Listen)
“Never Ever Have I” by Blanks. Another glorious number by the up-and-coming Dutchman. Bursting with a bittersweet melody. This is what great pop is made of. (Listen)
“Pain” by Alexander Jean. Powerful number by two gifted songwriters about embracing adversity to make it through. (Listen)
“Closure” by Southernwade. The young crooner opens up and serves up a fresh yet familiar sound fit for the playlist generation. Keep an eye on him. (Listen)
“Enough” by Jeremy Shayne. Bittersweet done right. Goosebump-inducing chorus. Well done. (Listen)
“I Feel It” (with Burna Boy) by Jon Bellion. Breathtaking. Brilliant. Bellion. (Listen)
“When You Love Somebody” by Now United. Global pop at its finest. Don’t overthink it. Creator Simon Fuller knows what he’s doing. (Listen)
New Music: Alec Benjamin “Older”
The key take-away. Alec Benjamin does what he knows best on his new single, “Older.” He serves up a crisp, finely-tuned melody with lyrics that pull gently on your heartstrings. Benjamin co-wrote this coming-of-age stunner with Ryan Tedder and Charlie Puth, who helped amp up the song’s hit potential. “Older” is filled with hooks to make it memorable and irresistible to the ear. But, more importantly, it’s Benjamin’s poignant storytelling that draws you in and paints a perfectly relatable picture. It’s one of Benjamin’s best. Bravo!
Here’s what you should know. Newcomer Sam MacPherson has a gift for melody. Inspired by The Beatles, Frank Ocean, and Stevie Wonder, he aims to craft music that has the potential to resonate far and wide. This week, he released his new single, titled “Counts,” via Snafu Records, and he celebrated his new music with a headlining performance at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood.
Tell us about the making of “Counts.” “I wrote the song with Nicole “Kole” Cohen, who is an amazing writer, artist, and person. We wrote the song in its entirety in less than 2 hours. Adam Yaron produced it, and also executive produced my entire EP that ‘Counts,’ and my other releases this year will be on. He’s an endlessly talented guy and has become one of my closest friends. ”
What fuels your songwriting? “I’m constantly trying to bring the particular to the universal, and I think I’m most proud of my work when I write a song that allows the lyrics to travel freely back and forth between those two worlds. If I’m writing about falling in love in a New York City hotel room, it’s important to take a second to describe the color of the curtains too.”
What’s coming up next? “I’ve been releasing music over the last six months in the form of singles that will all collect and form my debut EP that will be out in early October. Besides that, I’ll be playing shows and getting on the road late this year, early next year.”
Thanks for the chat, Sam! 🙏
New Music: Spencer Sutherland “Paranoia”
The key take-way. Spencer Sutherland’s latest single is one of his smoothest to date. “Paranoia” packs a deliciously hooky, 80s-infused punch that makes it sound both timely and timeless. That was Sutherland’s exact intent. “I think I wrote the most perfect song for an 80s movie in 2021,” he says on TikTok.
What makes it special. Lyrically, Sutherland matches the breezy and upbeat sonics of the song, but there’s more to his story about letting love run free by exploring the world. There are not-so-subtle references to recent challenges with lyrics like, “We saw the world’s Armageddon, we saw it snowing in June.” That sentiment brings us back to the title of the song, “Paranoia,” which captures Sutherland’s desire to live it up, but worries are holding him back. These conflicting emotions acknowledge how many of us feel, making “Paranoia” a song that offers comfort and escape.
Make sure to tune in. Catch Spencer in Netflix’s Afterlife Of The Party together with Victoria Justice. Spencer will play The Troubadour in Los Angeles on September 29.
Why Sophie Rose's New EP Will Move You
The key take-away. I love when a songwriter finds an interesting new way to say something that has been said a million times before. Sophie Rose has that innate talent. She has a knack for turning seemingly trivial musings into poignant observations that are deeply meaningful.
Let me tell you more. Sophie Rose’s new EP, aptly titled This Is What 21 Feels Like, is full of examples of her songwriting talent. The five-song collection is written from the point of view of someone coming of age, thoughtfully embracing independence yet wondering where life’s path will lead to next.
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Sophie Rose knows exactly how to put her astute observations into beautifully crafted lyricism. She’s had plenty of practice. Her website explains that she’s a prolific songwriter who has written hundreds of songs over the last few years.
Thank you for tuning in to my newsletter this week. I had fun writing this issue. I appreciate all the artists for sharing their music and ideas via social media. You inspire me! I intend to send a fresh new edition every Saturday. Subscribe, share, and spread the love.
The best way to reach me is via Twitter DM.
And remember, always, the state of Pop is strong 🔥