Arjan Writes Newsletter #4
👋 Hello, Saturday! I’m excited to share another newsletter packed with brief music updates, my quick takes on new songs, and early GRAMMY predictions. I’ve been getting into the swing of writing this email and having a lot of fun with it. I appreciate the support from all of you. It means the world to me. Feel free to spread the word. Thank you!
🚨 Something important: Last week’s newsletter wasn’t received by everyone, and it may even have been marked as spam. That’s pretty frustrating as I put great care into writing this email. It would be tremendously helpful to add the email sender to your contacts to avoid the newsletter getting misrouted in the future. Thank you!
🏆 This week marked the eligibility deadline for the 64th GRAMMY Awards that takes place on January 31, 2022. September 30 was the deadline for songs, albums, artists, and other creators to be considered for the upcoming GRAMMY Awards. This means that prediction season is officially here! The time has come to start placing bets.
🥇 Let me begin with some of my topline takes. It’s very safe to predict that Olivia Rodrigo and Doja Cat will have a big night in January. Rodrigo’s debut album Sour was the breakout story of the year, along with singles “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U.” I expect Rodrigo to lead in all major categories, including Best New Artist. Her collaborator Dan Nigro seems poised to get a nod in the Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) category. Doja Cat is likely a major contender across multiple categories as well. She really took things to the next level this year with her fantastic Planet Her album and a slew of evergreen hit singles (“Kiss Me More” featuring SZA is total Record of the Year material). Albums that will likely receive a nod as well include Kacey Musgraves Star-Crossed, Taylor Swift Evermore, Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever, Drake Certified Lover Boy, and Ariana Grande Positions. I’m also rooting for H.E.R. Back Of My Mind and Lil Nas X Montero to get considered in the Album category. Also, I don’t rule out Bruce Springteen, Justin Bieber, and Lorde to make the cut in the Album category.
🌟 A few more notes on the upcoming GRAMMYs. I’m hoping we see “Butter” by B.T.S. considered in the main song categories. It’s a massively successful song that warrants a look beyond the Pop categories (where it will likely end up). I’d love to see Blake Slatkin and Omer Fedi getting recognized on the songwriter and producer side of things. In many ways, they helped define the sound of 2021, along with people like Y2K and Max Martin. There are so many great pop writers to note (and I love all of them), but I specifically want to call out Sarah Hudson. She has had incredible success with “Levitating” by Dua Lipa (the remix is eligible). I have a lot of thoughts on what may happen in the Best New Artist category, but I’ll save that for a later newsletter.
🎤 The great Spencer Sutherland kicked off his U.S. tour this week at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. See him while he’s trekking the nation. And while you’re at it, go see Alec Benjamin as well, who will be all over the country.
😂 For a good laugh, check out the “redesign” of the Jonas Brothers logo by TikTok sensation Emily Zugay. So many LOLz.
❤️ I want to spend more time with the new Brandi Carlile album, but I immediately gravitated to “Broken Horses” (also the name of Carlile’s memoir). It makes me want to jump in the car and hit those “wide open spaces.” I adore this woman and all her work.
📅 I did an impromptu Office Hours on Twitter earlier this week as I was looking to refresh the playlist a bit. I received over 30 submissions from new artists, plus lots of great suggestions from fans. Thank you! I found some new gems that I added to the Office Hours playlist on Apple Music. More on that below.
The state of Pop is strong—lots of great music out this week. Let’s dig in!
💬 There’s so much to love about “Waited” by Traces. It’s an exceptional song ruled by Traces’s powerful delivery and storytelling. I wrote earlier about the track after meeting up with Traces (aka Tim Dehner) to get to know him and understand what fueled the making of the song. This week, he released a new version of “Waited” that features none other than Oston, who adds a whole new dimension to the music.
To the uninitiated, “Waited” tells the story of a loving yet broken relationship that’s past the point of fixing. Traces explained earlier that he wrote “Waited” right before a breakup while dealing with depression following a health issue. “I wasn’t sure how to fix the problems with myself, and I didn’t know what to do with the problems in my relationship as well,” he told me. “I kept a journal during that time, and while writing ‘Waited,’ many of the words from that journal just started coming out.”
Traces tells me in a voice note that he’s a big fan of Oston and was hoping that she would be open to adding her perspective to “Waited.” Oston was excited to collaborate with Traces after hearing the song. “[Oston] wrote her new verse, and we got together a week later to record it. The whole process was really synergetic. She nailed the spirit of the song. It’s about this moment of clarity and seeing yourself from an outside perspective. I’m really happy she’s a part of the song.”
Thank you for sharing, Traces!
Listen to “Waited” featuring Oston by Traces on Apple Music.
Office Hours Playlist Updates
📅 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.
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.
🔥 My quick takes on some of the tracks I added this week:
“Into The Fire” by Tyler James Bellinger. TJB is one of the most gifted writers and vocalists on the scene right now. An incredible, goodhearted talent with an innate sense for timeless pop. “Into The Fire” is an enduring, sync-ready gem bursting with optimism. (listen)
“The Long Way” by Mark Ambor. Ambor encourages us to take whatever route is necessary to pursue our dreams. Shortcuts or not, Ambor inspires with a deliciously catchy chorus that will make the ride a little easier. (listen)
“Bluebonnets” by Austin George. The Dallas, TX native turns heartbreak into a massive anthem that exposes his raw songwriting talent. I’m into it. (listen)
”Anthony Kiedis” by Remi Wolf. Remi is a breath of fresh air. Her writing doesn’t sound anything that’s out there right now. I can’t wait for her album to drop on October 15. It may just usher in a whole new era. (listen)
“Waited” featuring Oston by Traces. Traces and Oston practice proper self-care on this excellent remake of an already exceptional track. “I wish I’d make time for myself, instead of room for everyone else,” Oston encourages herself and all of us. (listen)
“Hypocrite” by Annika Rose. Annika Rose keeps it real and shares that even though she has good advice for everyone, she “doesn’t practice what she preaches.” It’s a fun point of view for a fun little pop number. (listen)
“We Look So Good Together” by Chaz Cardigan. Don’t let the rocky guitars fool you, this is a massive bop with a sparkly pre-chorus that is magic. Handclaps and cowbell included. Released via Nvak Collective. (listen)
“Pluto” by Jake Wesley Rogers. It should come as no surprise that Elton John is Jake Wesley Roger’s number one fan. There’s a classic and timeless quality to Roger’s performance. My favorite track on his new EP Pluto is its title track. Just wonderful. Released on Facet Records with the blessings of Justin Tranter and Katie Vinten. (listen)
“Lose Somebody” by Merchant. I have to admit that I’m a sucker for big, sweeping choruses and a crisp ‘80s synth pulse. Michael Merchant delivers all that and more on this new single. A great follow-up to his previous collaboration with Duran Duran’s John Taylor. (listen)
“Main Character” by Zach Hood. The young TikTok star sings like he means on it this rocky, yet still very poppy track. His fans will eat this up.(listen)
“Someone Like You” (feat. Joy Oladokun) by Noah Kahan. A gorgeous, beautifully performed track by a perfect pairing of dynamite songwriting talent. More of this please. Much more. (listen)
The state of Pop is strong.
Thank you for tuning in to my newsletter this week. I had fun compiling this issue and make a few GRAMMY predictions. I appreciate all the artists for sharing their music and ideas via social media. You inspire me every day. Look for 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 🔥
(All words in this newsletter are my own.)