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Arjan Timmermans
A blog about music and more. Since 2002.

Late last year, I wrote about Role Model’s terrific ‘Alive,’ which is one of my favorite songs of 2020. It’s a wildly unique, pioneering pop production that seamlessly blends elements from across the genre spectrum. Role Model (born Tucker Pillsbury) returned last week with a brand-new single, titled ‘forever&more,’ that further details the artist’s burgeoning brand of pop. Accentuated by jangling, slightly distorted guitars and a steady drum groove, Role Model keeps the vibe carefree and hopeful with a tender story about new-found love. ‘forever&more’ hits fever pitch in the chorus with the help of a candy-coated string section that injects the song with just the right dose of pop euphoria. Role Model continues to carve out his own unique niche by innovatively combining compelling pop writing with forward production stylings that have tons of artistic merit.


Interview with the emerging pop artist about his new single “Beautiful Stranger”

Finn Matthews doesn’t like to worry. “I have learned to appreciate what I have and enjoy the moment,” he smiles. The pop singer and I are catching up at a West Hollywood coffee shop to talk about his new single, “Beautiful Stranger.” Our chat about his new music sparks a conversation about his love for production, the honesty in his music, and letting go of fear and anxiety.

“Beautiful Stranger” is a song that follows a string of releases that the New Jersey native, 21, has released over the last year. Songs like “Running Away,” “Closing In,” and fan-favorite “Low…


The emerging songwriter chats about his creative process

Photo by Dave Berg

IIt’s never too late to rave about a great song. “Waited” by TRACES is one of those exceptional songs that deserve more time in the spotlight. Admittedly, I’m a bit late to the party. The song was released almost a year ago as a stand-alone single, and it was included on TRACES’s debut album that he unveiled earlier this year.

I love learning about the stories behind great songs from the people that made them. Songwriters stir up magic with their ability to capture a complexity of emotions in neat, little packages that have the power to comfort, inspire, and…


(Swedish House Mafia publicity photo)

It would have been easy for Swedish House Mafia to ride their legacy and return to the scene with new music that picks up exactly where they left off. Their comeback single could have been a safe and proven EDM-styled pop stomper that would have spurred nostalgia but not come close to the wild potential of the trio’s mastery. Swedish House Mafia has always had an appetite for exploring the rougher edges of popular dance music. Classics like “Antidote” and “Greyhound” are prime examples of that. Their new single, brilliantly titled “It Gets Better,” is an equally adventurous tour-de-force. It’s…


Sophie Rose is an exciting pop newcomer you should know

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.

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…


(Sanni “Lately” single cover)

Sanni is bursting with optimism, and so is his music. The singer has big plans and if his new single, “Lately,” is a sign of things to come, his future is looking bright. “Lately” is an infectiously cheery, happy-go-lucky pop number that gives listeners some solid clues about the type of pop Sanni plans to unleash upon the world. It’s pop music that’s upbeat, honest, and incredibly well-crafted.

I first came across Sanni scrolling up and down TikTok while heading down the magical rabbit hole of its insanely effective algorithm. It’s always a bit of a guess how things get…


(Greyson Chance publicity photo)

Greyson Chance writes music that heals the soul. There’s an immense healing quality to Chance’s music that resonates far and wide. Written and performed straight from the heart, his new single, “Holy Feeling,” is a perfect example of that. It’s an uplifting, soul-baring number that Chance crafted following a mental health struggle last year. “I fell into mind-numbing anxiety,” Chance candidly shared on Twitter. “And I didn’t think I was good enough to continue as an artist.” They say the only way out is through, and that’s exactly what “Holy Feeling” represents to me. It’s like the moment when you come back up for air and reconnect to all the wonder in the world. “Holy Feeling” underlines Chance’s innate artistry. He’s creating music for all the right reasons, selflessly and truthfully, to uplift himself and others. Greyson Chance is the light we can turn to when we need it most.


(Annika Wells publicity photo via Facebook)

Annika Wells is full of surprises. The pop newcomer, who recently signed to Vol. 1/Epic Records, keeps the vibe playful on her new single, “F**k Being Sober.” Wells refers to “red cups,” “pouring it up,” and “drinking money away” that may lead you to believe that she’s solely interested in stirring a little ruckus. But she has a surprise for you: When you listen more closely and absorb the song’s melancholic sonics, a poignant message surfaces that’s thoughtful and timely. Wells encourages us to be present in the moment and live it up a little. Time is precious and celebrating happy little moments with people close to us can make a world of difference while we’re all stuck at home. Wells’ rebellious spirit and gift for writing unveil a promising pop debutant who surely has more surprises up her sleeve.


(ZAYN photo by Nabil)

ZAYN is the king of pillow talk. The R&B crooner is bringing sexy back on his new album, titled Nobody Is Listening, which is filled with hot and bothered R&B that will have fans swooning. True to form, ZAYN combines escapist, contemporary R&B with his penchant for pop that results in an album worth playing on repeat. Highlights include the falsetto-licious “Outside,” the upbeat “When Love’s Around” (with Syd, who is terrific), and the climactic “Sweat” that serves as the beating heart of the record. ZAYN’s most significant achievement is that he stays true to his instincts no matter what people want or expect from him. One of music’s most-gifted male vocalists continues to chart his own course, sharing stories about his insecurities, falling in and out of love, and making the occasional stumble. ZAYN is not afraid to be vulnerable and himself, and for that alone, I’ll be listening.


Olivia Rodrigo “drivers license” is taking off like a rocket on streaming platforms. The record is massive. It’s the first bonafide viral moment of the year and it’s exploding around the globe. Just a quick observation: The reason for the song’s overnight success is not the High School Musical-related drama that supposedly inspired the music. The record is way bigger than that and reaches far beyond the Disney fanbase. It’s all due to the emotional quality of the song itself. It was beautifully written and performed by Rodrigo, and expertly produced by Dan Nigro. He recently also produced songs for Conan Gray, Finneas and Lewis Capaldi. Nigro knows how to capture great poppy melodies and give them a slight bend to provide more character. Rodrigo and Nigro accomplished something special, and I hope we get to hear of what they cooked up.

Arjan Timmermans

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