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

May 28, 2024 39 mins
On her latest album, Taylor Swift “declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” No one was more surprised by this than Charlie Puth himself: the singer, pianist, and songwriter whose career has always straddled pop stardom and behind the scenes anonymity. After three albums, billions of streams, and numerous songwriting credits – including one on the award-winning number one track “Stay” from the Kid Laroi – Puth has been busi...
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On Billie Eilish’s third album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, Eilish finally graduates from her signature anti-pop persona into full blown pop stardom. This record finds Eilish experimenting on the themes from her earlier records, while crafting an economic ten tracks that position themselves for mainstream radio consumption. There’s “L’amour de ma vie,” her five-and-a-half minute beat-switching eulogy for a failed relationship, or “Birds ...
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When you go out for a meal, it’s not just what's on your plate that matters, it's what's in your eardrums, too. From dining rooms so loud you have to shout to be heard, to playlists that sound like a generic Millennial Spotify account, it's not surprising that sound is the single most complained about aspect of restaurants. A few years ago, Charlie and Nate explored this in an episode on restaurant playlists. This week, they joined...
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Where were you when you learned that the McDonald's jingle "I'm lovin' it" was originally part of a full-fledged pop song by Justin Timberlake and Pharrell that flopped on the charts but found staying power as a slogan? For us, it was recording our live episode about sponsored content in pop back in March 2024, and we have not been the same since. Shaken by this revelation, we found ourselves asking, "What else don't we know about ...
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May 10, 2024 23 mins
Tongue twisters that mock techno-optimism and cite critical theory don’t usually make for catchy song lyrics. But indie rocker Rosie Tucker’s Utopia Now! finds beauty in the dross of late capitalism. Over 13 songs backed by distorted guitars and blazing drum fills, Tucker’s searing vocals bemoan the inherent dislocation of our modern world while searching for moments of truth and human connection. The night before Tucker embarked ...
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It’s that time of year again when the entirety of Europe (and a few other countries) come together to celebrate kitschy, bombastic songwriting through the Eurovision Song Contest! This year’s competition, held in Malmo, Sweden, features everything from rave-pop on behalf of the Netherlands, to folk-rapping hybrids courtesy of Ukraine – and Charlie and Nate are here to musicologically unpack the craziest tracks that have the potenti...
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May 4, 2024 41 mins
Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of the French electronic duo Justice speak with cohost Charlie Harding about their new album Hyperdrama. Song Discussed Justice - Phantom Pt II, D.A.N.C.E., Neveender, New Jack, Genesis, Horsepower, Civilization, One Night-All Night, Dear Alan, Incognito, Moonlight Rendez-vous, Audio Video Disco, Afterimage, The End, Generator, Pleasure The Who - My Generation The White Stripes - Black Math T...
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The beginning of 2024 has brought new music aplenty. Some big releases are in the form of big-ticket albums by the world’s biggest superstars (shoutout Taylor and Beyoncé); some are in the form of soon-to-be radio-friendly staples (we love you, "Espresso"); and some are in the form of personal earworms (Justice! Rosie Tucker! Dua!). This episode of Switched on Pop, we take a look at the records that we can’t stop listening to from ...
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April 23, 2024 46 mins
The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, finds the songwriter in the world of literature. She interweaves personal romance with mythical creation and quotations from high and low culture: Genesis, Peter Pan and even Playstation. Despite calling herself a "modern idiot," less-than-subtle nods to Sylvia Plath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dylan Thomas, and Patti Smith reveal the artist’s literary aspirations and “...
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Lost Notes by KCRW explores how Fela Kuti’s time in LA in 1969 was instrumental in the creation of his legendary Afrobeat sound. Hosted by Michael Barnes and Novena Carmel. Find a full transcript of Lost Notes at KCRW. And subscribe to the show. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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There are few artists pushing the boundaries of their respective genres like Maryland rapper Rico Nasty and German-Iraqi electronic producer Boys Noize. The two have run in the same circles for over half a decade, but their joint collaboration has reached an apex with their three song EP, HARDC0RE DR3AMZ, a dance-floor ready project that owes as much to Berlin techno as it does to Dutch gabber music. Rico and Boys Noize – a.k.a. Al...
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Joe Keery is best known for his acting roles, such as the reformed jock Steve Harrington in "Stranger Things" and his chilling performance in season 5 of "Fargo." But he's also a spectacular musician. Rising through the Chicago music scene in college, he has self-released two albums under the moniker 'Djo.' His latest work, "Decide" from 2022, serves as a coming-of-age story and a meditation on navigating modern life. Despite stron...
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April 2, 2024 39 mins
Beyoncé's Cowboy Carter is her foray into country music, but this isn't just dirt roads, blue jeans and whiskey. Her country music distills all of American pop: blues, gospel, R&B, soul, house, hip-hop and yes, country. If this ain't country, what is? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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March 26, 2024 42 mins
Hip-hop is in a weird place right now. Research says that the genre, in both streaming and chart performance, has declined over the last decade. And while rap artists can still get number one songs on the Hot 100, it’s a far cry from the peak of trap circa 2017, when Nielsen data named hip-hop as the most popular genre in the U.S. So what does that mean for the future of rap? To find out, producer Reanna Cruz spent all weekend repo...
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March 22, 2024 30 mins
What do Duke Ellington, United Airlines, and the K Pop group Red Velvet share in common? They've all covered George Gershwin's piano concerto, Rhapsody in Blue. First premiered in 1924, the piece became an immediate hit for the way it blended American jazz with the European symphonic tradition. Gershwin had a number of successes as a composer in his day—his aria "Summertime" from the opera Porgy and Bess is by some measures the mos...
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Sidestep the gossip and focus on the music in Ariana Grande’s latest album Eternal Sunshine. The music is an exercise in nostalgia: 70s Disco, 90s R&B, and 00s pop and dance music. As she moves through the musical past, her lyrics tear through past relationship. But its the way her lyrics interweave with the deft melodies and harmonies that reveal the meaning of the record.  Sign up for the Switched On Pop Newsletter Songs Discus...
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In a landscape where the music industry seems designed to stifle creativity and independence, Amelia Meath stands as a beacon of resistance. Through her involvement in bands like Sylvan Esso, Mountain Man, and The A's, and as a founder of label Psychic Hotline, Meath defies the narratives that label success in music. This conversation dives into the systemic challenges musicians face today—from the pitfalls of streaming economics t...
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Live from On-Air Fest in Brooklyn, Nate and Charlie investigate listeners’ burning musical mysteries, such as: Is Beyoncé’s reference to Lexus in “Texas Hold ’Em” product placement? And, could we be tuning all our music the wrong way? These stories have twists, turns, and a live parody performance that no asked for. Thanks to Steve Stoute, Lucas Keller, Samer Ghadry, Helen Zaltzman, and Phil Pappas for contributing to this episode...
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March 5, 2024 60 mins
One of the most inventive and gifted musicians working today is none other than Jacob Collier. Maybe you know him from his YouTube videos, or co-writing SZA’s “Good Days,” or even performing alongside Joni Mitchell at this year’s Grammys. Jacob is a musician with thunderous chops, proficient on multiple instruments and with a voice that ranges from bass to soprano. over the past few years, he’s managed to release several records, n...
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February 27, 2024 44 mins
Renaissance Act II truthers, your time has come: There’s new music from Beyoncé, and boy, is it country. Her two new singles dropped two weeks ago, and in the time since, they’ve both climbed up the chart and taken the internet by storm. There’s the barnstorming stomp and holler ditty “TEXAS HOLD 'EM,” which just notched the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and the dark horse “16 CARRIAGES,” a autobiographical work song detailing...
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