Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

A podcast all about the making and meaning of popular music. Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work magic on our ears & our culture. From Vulture and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Episodes

January 31, 2023 34 min
In 1988, Bobby McFerrin recorded a song a cappella with a simple message: not to worry, and just enjoy life. That song, aptly titled “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” topped the charts and become one of the most well known one-hit wonders of all time.  In doing so, it also propelled McFerrin into the spotlight, winning him three Grammy awards and an eternal place in pop culture. His career, though, is more than just the Big Mouth Billy Bas...
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Six years after their last record, Paramore is back with new music, and their upcoming record seems to have an uncanny connection to the era of new wave. But what is “new wave” anyway? Is it just a period of time in music or something more?  In this episode of Switched on Pop, we explore some of the tracks from This is Why, out February 10th, and connect them to the works of everyone from Talking Heads to Joy Division. Songs Disc...
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Streaming feels like it's both at its height and on a precipice. Musicians are fed up at getting paid fractions of a penny, and the whole business model seems precarious. Switched On Pop co-host Charlie Harding was talking about the challenges for streaming future with my friend Nilay Pattel, editor in chief of The Verge and host the podcast Decoder - a show about big ideas. And they taped a conversation about what’s next for s...
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January 18, 2023 29 min
Why does SZA's latest album SOS hit different? It's the way her melodies don't repeat where you expect them to, defying all the rules of pop songwriting. We break down how her endless melodies echo the intimate themes of her most recent release, and how they connect to genres ranging from gospel to Wagnerian opera. Songs Discussed SZA - Kill Bill, SOS, Shirt, Notice Me, Seek & Destroy, Gone Girl, Low, Smoking on My...
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Over the past few months, you may have heard your favorite song pop up on the Internet – just slightly faster. You’re not alone: the phenomenon of the “sped-up” remix has taken over social media, with everyone from Lady Gaga to Thundercat getting the tempo treatment. The popularity of the craze has led to millions of TikTok videos, Billboard number ones, and songs becoming relevant again, decades after release. Ever since the proli...
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January 3, 2023 38 min
Matt Daniels, editor of the publication The Pudding, wanted to find out what songs from his youth would last into the future. So he designed a study that would test if Gen-Z had a grip on 90s culture. Hundreds of thousands of participants provided over 3 million data points. Daniels parsed through the data for insights. Sadly, the majority of his most beloved songs have not survived even one generation. Though most had been forgott...
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December 27, 2022 27 min
The number one song on the charts is a bit of a mystery. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is the unlikely hit from Disney’s sleeper animated musical Encanto. Set in a mountainous village in Colombia, the film was a middling commercial success when it was released in Nov 2021. But in recent months it has become a pop culture phenomenon for a confluence of reasons: an expansive discourse on Colombian representation in media, fan videos on...
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When it comes to distinguishing what exactly Latin music is, what makes the cut? To some, it’s simply music from the Latin American region, and to others, it’s any music that is sung in Spanish – but much like the pop canon, the phrase encapsulates so many different eras, styles, and genres. Like any distinction, there’s also music on the periphery: specifically, the music of Brazil, where the sounds are similar but the main langu...
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December 13, 2022 34 min
For Switched On Pop’s end of year coverage, we just have one superlative: who won 2022? The answer, of course, is Bad Bunny. This year alone, the prolific Puerto Rican artist has topped charts worldwide, became Spotify’s most streamed artist globally, and his record Un Verano Sin Ti has obtained many accolades including being the first Spanish-language album nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. The record itself serves ...
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Through crafting a unique, cross-cultural sound, Kali Uchis has emerged as one of indie music’s most promising talents. From playing in jazz band as a kid to collaborating with Bootsy Collins and Kaytranada, the Grammy Award-winning artist has managed to take her bilingual, one-of-a-kind music to the Billboard charts while still keeping her DIY ethos. At this year’s Vulture Fest live in Los Angeles, host Charlie Harding talked with...
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November 29, 2022 27 min
In case you missed it last year: why are there no new Christmas songs? One one hand, there's more holiday songs than we’ll ever need. Every year pop stars drop countless holiday-themed album. But despite the annual glut of Christmas releases, few of these new songs join the rotation of holiday classics. On Billboard's Holiday Hot 100 chart right now, there's only four songs from the past ten years that have made it to t...
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November 22, 2022 36 min
In hip-hop, what draws us to an artist is not just the content of their lyrics but how they deliver them. Along with tapping your foot to the rhythm, understanding something called “flow” is essential to understanding hip-hop as a whole. In this episode of Switched On Pop, we interview genre icon DJ Jazzy Jeff on the concept of flow: what it is, how it applies to all music – not just hip-hop – and how any rapper’s flow can be anal...
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November 15, 2022 26 min
Coping Mechanism, Willow's new album, is her heaviest music yet. Charlie and Willow chat about the making of the new record and the many multitudes of rock music. Music Discussed The Anxiety - Meet Me At Our Spot Willow - Maybe It's My Fault, UR Town, Human Leach, PrettyGirlz, Lipstick, Why, Breakout, Hover Like a Goddess, Curious/Furious, Ur A Stranger Yungblood - Memories (with Willow) Deftones - Sextape Radiohead -...
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November 8, 2022 33 min
Tegan & Sara and King Princess have found themselves placed under the banner, "sapphic pop," a term recently coined referring to music by and/or for sapphics (a.k.a. women or femme folks attracted to other femme folks). Journalist Emma Madden defines the folk-inspired sound as having a “soft tactile approach” that’s “more sensual than it is sexual.” This umbrella folds in everyone from indie pop veterans Tegan & Sar...
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Scary Pockets is the musical collective that has been transforming pop classics into funk anthems for over half a decade. Each week they release a new cover on YouTube featuring razor-sharp instrumentalists and a rotating cast of virtuosic lead singers. Amazingly, each of their 200-plus covers is arranged on the fly, in a span of about 90 minutes—capturing the talent and spontaneity of a group of musicians at the top of their game....
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 A Taylor Swift album is just not a collection of new music, it’s an exploration of a theme. For the last eight years, each release has embodied a single idea. Reputation marked a turn to the dark side, Lover a return to the light, and her pair of albums Folklore and Evermore painted acoustic, fictional landscapes. Each album propels fans to find covert lyrical connections to her personal life, and easter eggs to past compositions....
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It’s the song that launched a thousand TikTok videos – or over 500,000 to be exact: Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit.”  The track is a smooth, psychedelia tinged ode to yearning, currently spending its third week on the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Lacy is an artist dedicated to shifting form and convention, from his records with alternative R&B band The Internet to his productions for artists like Mac Miller and Vampire Weekend. Even...
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Earlier this year, the members of Sylvan Esso took a gamble, making their "most free and wild and strange" album yet: No Rules Sandy. And to add to the overall theme of lawlessness, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn decided to do something equally as free and radical: they decided to forgo the typical multi-year album cycle as well as a standard promo campaign. While wrapped in what Amelia calls a “PR cocoon,” she began to thin...
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October 4, 2022 26 min
After a four-year hiatus – and a name drop on a Beyoncé remix – musical polymath Santigold is back with a brand new album. Known for her signature blend of genre-defying songcraft, the artist’s fourth studio album Spirituals is one of her most artistically challenging projects yet. It’s another venture into what she does best: addressing heavy themes through toe-tapping melodies. From Nate’s personal favorite, 2016’s “Can’t Get Eno...
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September 27, 2022 33 min
In part 1 of our Vergecast: Future of Music series, Alex Cranz talks with Switched on Pop's Charlie Harding about the trends in music today that make new songs out of old material, and whether it's foreshadowing the future of pop. Further reading: Selena Quintanilla Will Sound Older on Her New Posthumous Album Michael Jackson songs removed from streaming services to 'move beyond' fake vocals controversy Shred with G...
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