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Switched On Pop

Vox Media

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Location:

United States

Networks:

Vox Media

Description:

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Language:

English


Episodes

What Happens When Justin Bieber Samples Your Music

2/25/2020
When Bristol-based producer Laxcity logged onto Twitter to find out that Justin Bieber sampled his music, he was at first unphased. The sampled material came from a royalty-free sample pack on Splice.com, free for Splice users to add to their track. Then accusations of theft started rolling in. Another artist, Asher Monroe, had used the same sample just a few weeks earlier and he accused Bieber of copying the idea. Laxcity inserted himself into the argument to show that the so-called...

Duration:00:36:48

Return Of The Guitar: Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Joji

2/18/2020
In 2019 guitar made a comeback in the top 10. According to analysis from Hit Songs Deconstructed, about a third of all songs featured the electric guitar, a nearly 10% jump from the year before. In 2020 this trend isn’t stopping. Recent releases by Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer and Joji all prominently feature electric guitars tones. They reference 90s nu-metal, grunge and metal genres. More than a nostalgic nod, these songs draw from an era that was self-consciously “alternative” to convey...

Duration:00:28:12

Look At Selena Gomez Now with Justin Tranter & Ian Kirkpatrick

2/11/2020
Selena Gomez has her first #1 song on the Hot 100. “Lose You To Love Me” is a confessional look at her past five years of heartbreak and health challenges. By contrast, her single “Look At Her Now” is a testament to moving on and moving up. Each of these songs inhabits a different musical and lyrical world and we were lucky to get to speak with her collaborators on the songs to take us behind the scenes of how they came to be. Justin Tranter and Ian Kirkpatrick are two of today’s most...

Duration:00:38:10

Five Directions: How do the solo efforts of One Direction stack up?

2/4/2020
The boy band One Direction has been on hiatus for nearly five years, yet only now have all of the members of the group released a solo album. But how do these efforts from Niall, Liam, Harry, Louis and Zayn stack up? Vox Writer (and One Direction fan) Alexa Lee compares albums as a challenge for each member to rise to their greatest artistic potential. SONGS DISCUSSED Zayn - Let Me Zayn - Entertainer Niall Horan - Nice To Meet You Niall Horan - Put A Little Love On Me Liam Payne - Strip That...

Duration:00:37:49

Post Malone has us Running in Circles

1/28/2020
Post Malone has confounded your hosts since he emerged on the scene, so this week we sit down to try and get to the bottom of our cycles of attraction and repulsion through deep analysis of his current hit, "Circles." Along the way, we discuss trenchant questions such as: How is the minor IV always the saddest of all chords? Why does Posty tend to sound like a certain ruminant mammal? And, what happens when you plug Tchaikovsky into a Wu Tang name generator? Songs Discussed: Post Malone -...

Duration:00:40:32

Hopes and Fears of Mac Miller, Future, Drake, and Billie Eilish

1/21/2020
Mac Miller, Future and Billie Eilish all have good and bad news to share. On Miller’s posthumous album, Circles, he exposes personal struggles with fame, addiction, and mental illness — sobering topics given his unintentional drug overdose last year. Yet at the same time we hear him searching for “good news,” practicing self care and accepting that “there's a whole lot more” waiting. Future & Drake’s celebration of material excess also finds them “working on the weekend” just to keep up...

Duration:00:44:26

Dua Lipa’s Disco Fever

1/14/2020
Dua Lipa remembers the disco era in her hit “Don’t Start Now.” What may sound like just another dance floor track, upon deeper listening unfolds as a celebration of the genre. References to Gloria Gaynor, Chic, Giorgio Moroder and The Bee Gees are all waiting here for the curious listener to uncover. But so are the Italian and Daft Punk inspired bass lines. Yet the song is more than just one big disco ball cliché. It is brilliantly written too. We asked our listeners to help us highlight the...

Duration:00:39:12

ICYMI: Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, & The Shifting Sound of R&B — with Oak Felder

1/7/2020
The sound of R&B is difficult to pin down. Since the 1950s, the label has been used both as a genre and as a catch-all for the entirety of black popular music. Soul, funk, disco and even hip-hop have at times been covered by this "R&B" umbrella. On Chance The Rapper's new album, The Big Day, all of these influences come through—and he's not alone. On recent Kehlani records, 90s R&B and 2000s trap both play a role. But both these artists are a far cry from the 50s R&B sounds of Sam Cooke. To...

Duration:00:55:07

ICYMI: Billie Eilish is a Different Kind of Pop Star (ft. FINNEAS)

12/31/2019
On a trajectory to be one of the biggest pop stars for this generation, seventeen year old Billie Eilish is not, however, your typical pop star. Her music speaks to the real anxieties of young people without any veneer. She sings from the perspective of monsters and villains. Her hushed voice, baggy style, and direct demeanor subvert the norms of the pop princess. And her music is dark, but still catchy. Billie co-writes and produces her sound with her older brother Finneas O’Connell....

Duration:00:47:10

Dolly Parton's America (with Jad Abumrad)

12/24/2019
There are icons, and then there’s Dolly Parton. The country singer-turned-actress-turned-cultural phenomenon has produced a nearly unparalleled body of work, in both quantity (Parton is the sole or co-author of more than three thousand songs) and in legacy. Despite releasing her first album over 60 years ago, Parton’s songs are still covered and performed live by today’s pop artists. Presidential candidates are still selecting her songs as official walk-on music. So what is it exactly that...

Duration:00:41:58

Who's Afraid of the Sound of TikTok? (w Cat Zhang)

12/17/2019
Bass distorted to the edge of audibility; voices croaking out dark and violent lyrics; a hacked-together DIY aesthetic. This isn't a fringe musical movement, this is the sound of TikTok, the video app used by millions in Generation Z. And soon enough it might also be the sound of pop as we know it. Cat Zhang from Pitchfork stops by to clue us into the sonic reality of music's newest platform, from Gordon Ramsay to pumpkins screaming in the dead of night. Songs Discussed Savage Ga$p,...

Duration:00:37:21

Paper Planes, Chandelier & What the #@%! is Timbre? (with Constance Grady)

12/10/2019
We hand over the hosting duties to Constance Grady, book reviewer for Vox.com, to discuss our new book/baby - Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works and Why it Matters, and go deep on two specific concepts we haven’t touched nearly enough on the show: timbre (with the help of Sia’s “Chandelier) and sampling (via M.I.A.’s iconic “Paper Planes). The book of course goes further, devoting a full chapter each to sixteen different concepts we’ve explored on the show (think harmony, modulation,...

Duration:00:39:35

Prelude & Feud on a 'G' Thang: Biggie vs Tupac

12/3/2019
The East Coast / West Coast hip hop feud between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls is full of tragedy and conspiracy, but what did it really sound like? For the third season of of the hit podcast Slow Burn, host Joel Anderson and producer Christopher Johnson dig up untold stories about this infamous rivalry, and they join Nate and Charlie to break down boom bap, G Funk, and the surprising points of overlap between two titans of rap. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:45:57

Pop is the Sound We Need Right Now (with Electric Guest)

11/26/2019
Electric Guest (Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton) take a left turn towards pop on “Dollar" — a song about making more out of less, something too many people find themselves to do right now. The music follows the same principle, turning cheap synths and canned horns into a symphony of sound. We chat with Asa about how the track — equally inspired by Stevie Wonder and Bertolt Brecht —came to be and why pop can be a balm in dark times. Songs Featured Electric Guest - Dollar Stevie Wonder -...

Duration:00:42:51

The Past, Present, and Future of EMO (with Allegra Frank)

11/19/2019
Nate doesn’t know much about the musical style known as emo. Sadly, he was too busy nerding out on jazz during his youthful years to catch the moment. That’s a shame, because emo is experiencing a revival right now - most surprisingly within the world of hip hop. All of which leaves Nate in the awkward position of not really having any idea what’s going on, so thank goodness for some schooling by Vox culture reporter Allegra Frank, who spent her teenage years the right way: getting emotional...

Duration:00:54:53

When Pop and Classical Collide (with James Bennett II)

11/12/2019
Once upon a time, classical music was pop, so today it's worth stepping back and asking: where does one genre stop and the other begin? Can classical ever be popular again? And why do only some classical tracks makes for good samples? Luckily James Bennett II of classical station WQXR is on hand to break down these and other musical conundrums, including but not limited to: killer opera clowns, Bach hip hop hybrids, and the namesake album of this very podcast. Songs discussed: Dessa and the...

Duration:01:01:12

Unlocking the Rhythms of Rosalía

11/5/2019
Back in the fall of 2017, our producer Megan Lubin went for a stroll near her house, popped in earbuds, and heard a song that’s stuck with her ever since: “Si Tú Supieras Compañero” (“If you only knew, my friend”), by the Spanish pop star Rosalía. Since then, Rosalía’s star has continued, especially after the 2018 release of “El Mal Querer,” Rosalía’s genre-blending album of R&B and flamenco. On this episode, we dig into Rosalía’s sound to try and figure out what stopped Megan in her tracks...

Duration:00:51:38

Rihanna Party! (with Gina Delvac)

10/29/2019
Last year, NPR Music ran an audacious headline: "Rihanna Is The 21st Century's Most Influential Musician." Millions and millions of fans the world over agree, and while we try to avoid overt expressions of pop favoritism, we think they’ve got a strong case. It’s for that reason and a dozen others that we were thrilled to welcome Gina Delvac of the hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend back to the show to discuss the legendary career of one Ms. Robyn Rihanna Fenty. As we all await her ninth studio...

Duration:00:54:05

Why U Love 2 Listen 2 Prince (with Anil Dash)

10/22/2019
Anil Dash is obsessed with Prince. Since he’s the host of the tech podcast Function, he has a unique perspective on the Purple One’s complicated relationship with technology. Anil joins the show to break down the many ways that Prince predicted the sound and science of modern pop, from drum machines to online distribution to internet culture. We’ll discuss how Michael Jackson jacked Prince’s electronic experimentation for Thriller, why Prince liked to lurk in fan chat rooms, and how he found...

Duration:00:37:23

A Brief History of Men Singing Really High

10/15/2019
Men singing high is so ubiquitous in modern pop that we might take it granted, never pausing to ask: has it always been this way? Estelle Caswell, who makes the Emmy-winning Earworm series for Vox, decided to find out, and she stops by to share results from her painstaking study of male falsetto in pop music from 1958 to today. Some of her findings may surprise, like 1996 was the peak year for falsetto, Justin Timberlake doesn't sing as you high at might think, and falsetto has been around...

Duration:00:49:47