👋 Hello, Saturday! There’s tons of great new pop out this week that I’m excited to share with you in this newsletter. I will also quickly review all the songs I added to the Office Hours playlist, plus I wrote about my chat with Marisa Maino, who is my Artist of the Week. We had a fun hang and bonded over our love for pop music. I appreciate everyone spreading the word about this pop newsletter. It means the world to me. If you received this email as a forward, sign up for yourself!
🍭 Bop of the Week: “Chapstick” by Hastings. “Chapstick” is Hastings’s second single, and wow, it makes a big statement. Hastings was discovered at a Nashville taco shop a few years ago. Since then, he has been writing and working with producer Mike Robinson non-stop to develop an absolutely irresistible pop sound. “Chapstick” is solid proof of that. The instrumentation is mildly (yet deliberately) frenzied to creatively emphasize the brilliant pop melody that’s the song's foundation. The pre-chorus is a melody of dreams. Goosebumps. I think we have a new pop star among us. (Coincidentally, Mike Robinson also produced last week’s Bop of the Week by Marisa Maino. Mike is pop’s best new friend.)
🎤 Out and About in Los Angeles. Concerts and showcases have completely rebounded in Los Angeles. In fact, I’ve been getting double and triple-booked for shows. On Tuesday, for example, I ran from Madame Siam to The Fonda to Hotel Cafe to see three different shows. Sorry, but they were all important. I finally saw Grant Knoche showcase and I was excited to see him. He’s a true showman born for the stage. I admire his pivot from being a Kidz Bop lead to developing into a proper pop star. I also JP Saxe perform on his current tour. The crowd at The Fonda was hanging on to his every word. It felt like he was having a conversation with the entire audience at once. Magic! I saw lots of old friends at the show, including the great Spencer Sutherland and Sabrina Carpenter. Over at Writer’s Block at Hotel Cafe, I saw many new artists showcase, including Chaz Cardigan (a solid set of songs and powerful delivery) and Sophia James who blew me away with her vocals and intricate storytelling. On Thursday, I stopped by Grant Owens’s We Found New Music at Bar Lubitsch to see rising Dutch pop sensation Mia Nicolai and Hey Boy who closed the night. There’s an infectious and joyful quality to Hey Boy’s performance that is very compelling.
🌟 Mimi Webb Releases Debut EP. Last week was a big one for major new releases with much-anticipated music from Adele and Coldplay. One EP release to definitely check out this week is Mimi Webb’s Seven Shades of Heartbreak. It’s filled with gorgeous balladry that’s ruled by Webb’s powerhouse vocals. My favorites include “Little Bit Louder,” “24/5,” and the very moving “Lonely In Love.”
😀 On a personal note. I added a new tagline to this newsletter: Celebrating the state of Pop since 2002. Obviously, I have not been publishing this newsletter since then, but I’ve been writing, blogging, and curating the state of Pop since 2002. Here’s a little throwback to see my pop writing in 2002.
The state of Pop is strong—lots of great music out this week. Let’s dig in!
Artist of the Week: Marisa Maino
💬 If there’s one thing to know about Marisa Maino’s “Growing Up Can Go To Hell” is that it’s a gloriously perfect pop song. The track has been stirring up a storm of interest among pop fans who adore the pop purity of the song and instantly relate to Maino’s story of teenage nostalgia. I met up with the pop singer and songwriter to chat more about the song, her move to Nashville, her work with Tramp Stamps, and the thrill of songwriting.
Marisa Maino was born and raised just outside of Detroit, MI, and moved to Nashville a few years ago to pursue a career in music. “I think I just went there because I knew I could sing, and I didn't really know what else to do,” she smiles. “I remember watching Bea Miller on X-Factor, and I was like, that's the coolest thing ever. I want to do that.”
She quickly settled in Nashville and became a respected go-to pop writer who now releases music as a solo artist and as part of pop outfit Tramp Stamps. Both projects are a priority for Maino. “I’m a Gemini so I have a split personality,” she smiles. “No, I’m kidding, but seriously, it really depends on the concept and lyrical idea if it’s good for me or a better fit for Tramp Stamps.”
Her new single “Growing Up Can Go To Hell” is a superb slice of brilliant pop writing that shows Maino’s knack for big, hooky melodies and vivid, relatable storytelling. “My lyricism is witty and honest,” she explains. “I like a lot of words, and I like putting a little humor in my lyrics too. I cope through humor, so there's gotta be a little tinge of funny in there.”
Maino is a skillful songwriter who enjoys getting the very most out of the classic song structure without forcing it. It’s important for her that it shouldn’t have to be explained how song parts fit together. She says, “It’s truly about making sure that all the parts of the song do what they are supposed to do. Intuitively, you need to feel what’s the verse, the rising action of the pre-chorus, and the big release chorus.”
She has a deep love for the bridge of a pop song that’s been making a return lately following an era of songs that emphasized one single sentiment and vibe throughout the song. “Bridges have been underrated,” she laughs. “It seemed people stopped wanting to talk. I love a good bridge because it gives me space to say more.”
“Growing Up Can Go To Hell” is all about the perfect song structure and a killer bridge reflecting the peak pop era of the late ‘00s, with artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga ruling the charts. It should come as no surprise that Perry is a big songwriting inspiration for Maino.
The pop singer worked with Sarah Troy and Mike Robinson on “Growing Up Can Go To Hell.” It took a moment for the track to take shape. But after Maino picked up a guitar during the writing session to inject the creative process with fresh new energy, the team started bouncing ideas back and forth, and the song quickly came together in a few minutes.
“Growing Up Can Go To Hell” is an excellent example of why the joy of songwriting drives Maino’s artistry. It’s not about writing songs for fame or wanting to be a pop star. She defines success differently. “[I love] the feeling that you get when you write a song,” she explains. “When you start with nothing and then all of a sudden you've pulled something out of thin air, and it feels and sounds exactly the way that it should. That’s success for me. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Thank you for the chat, Marisa!
This Week’s Office Hours Playlist Updates
📅 Office Hours is a hobby 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:
“Chapstick” by Hastings: It’s my Bop of the Week and tops this week’s playlist. Hastings is an exciting new voice on the scene. This is a great, crunchy pop track with a larger-than-life pre-chorus. (listen)
“Start Walking” by Tove Styrke: Masterfully produced by Lostboy and written with Caroline Ailin, Sly, and Pablo Navarro, Tove Styrke’s latest is a high-grade pop number that brings on the good feels. Love this! (listen)
“Cherry Lime” by Dalton Mauldin: Mauldin was out at LANY’s concert in Nashville when his single dropped on Thursday. It shows his commitment to great pop music even though he’s ventured out in both pop and country. I want to use this space to encourage Mauldin to pursue more pop. “Cherry Lime” is a fun and carefree pop song that fits his vocals and delivery well. Something is bubbling. Welcome to the pop club, Dalton! You will like it here. (listen)
“Custom Hell” by Grant Knoche: A moody bop by an artist who is usually all smiles. I’m impressed by Knoche’s talent. He has pop star written all over him with his strong musical point of view and heaps of stage presence. I cannot wait to see what he does next. (listen)
“Equal In The Darkness” by Steve Aoki, Jolin Tsai, and MAX: This superstar collaboration is a big deal for multiple reasons, including the fact that the always-incredible MAX was insisting on singing in Mandarin and doing it perfectly. His vocal on this track is perfection. Jolin Tsai is one of the biggest stars in Asia and this track will get her name out to a global audience. Steve Aoki does a fine job balancing pop and dance on this track that comes with a universally relatable and very timely message. (listen)
“Grow Up” by Ryan Nealon: Nealon submitted a demo of this track during one of my recent Office Hours, and I was excited to hear it and encourage him. The chorus immediately stood out to me. A big rising stunner that demonstrates Nealon’s knack for pop. Well done, Ryan. Keep going! (listen)
“Girls Like You” by Leezy: I saw Leezy at Hotel Cafe a couple of weeks ago and loved her voice and performance. The singer refers to this track as “an (unrequited) love song. It’s perfectly done. (listen)
“Illusion” by Moyka: This is my favorite song from Moyka’s debut album that dropped via Snafu Records this week. Fans of Sigrid, Tove Styrke, Robyn, and other high-quality Nordic pop will be in for a treat. (listen)
“Rockland” by Gracie Abrams: This is so precise and so pristine. A wonderfully moody song that’s perfect for the darker days of fall. Produced by Aaron Dessner who previously worked with Taylor Swift on the GRAMMY-winning Folklore. (link)
The state of Pop is strong.
Thank you for tuning in to my newsletter this week. I appreciate all the artists for sharing their music and ideas. You inspire me every day! ❤️
Look for a fresh new edition of this newsletter every Saturday. Subscribe, share, and spread the love. 🙏
And remember, always, the state of Pop is strong! 🔥