Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

Best Arts & Culture podcast Webby 2020 winner 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 11, 2021 32 min
Willow Smith has a new Paramore-inspired emo-slash-pop punk track with a formidable drum groove powered by Travis Barker. Over churning guitars she sneers at fake friends: "smile in my face, then put your cig out on my back." As Nate and Charlie headbanged along to we found ourselves asking "why did we sleep on Willow Smith?" Maybe because we had not taken Willow seriously, knowing her only as the nine (!) year-old ...
Share
Mark as Played
For nearly a decade, Julia Michaels has penned hit songs for the biggest acts in pop music. She is adept at turning people’s vulnerabilities into memorable hooks — think Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” or Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me.” There are countless others, but all of them share distinctive traits. Where many songwriters might turn to the simplest, almost nursery-rhyme-level lyrics to get the message across, Michaels does the ...
Share
Mark as Played
The story of the hitmakers behind Lil Nas X’s “Montero” Sheck Wes’s “Mo Bamba” and many more Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Share
Mark as Played
Lil Nas X has a talent for creating productive controversy. First with “Old Town Road,” he challenged expectations about blackness in country music. Now with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” he takes aim at anti LGBTQ+ messages propagated by the religious dogma from his youth (he came out as gay during Pride 2019). The song describes a romantic encounter without innuendo. Sure it’s raunchy, but the song doesn’t especially stan...
Share
Mark as Played
Earth Day 2021 gives us the chance to pause our usual programming and consider the role pop music plays in our deepening climate emergency. On Side A, we listen to artists who have confronted the climate crisis head-on. Side B considers the environmental cost of streaming music with Kyle Devine, author of Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music. Songs Discussed: George Pope Morris - Woodman, Spare That Tree! Joni Mitchell - Big ...
Share
Mark as Played
On Switched on Pop we talk to songwriters and artists about how they make great songs. Most songs are written with two or more people in the room. Something we've never done before is pair two of the best songwriters in the business to explain how they create a successful collaboration. Teddy Geiger is a Grammy nominated songwriter who's written countless number ones. You've likely heard her work with Sean Mendes, Leon ...
Share
Mark as Played
Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars have joined forces as the duo Silk Sonic, and their first release “Leave the Door Open” suggests that their collab is as natural as peanut butter and jelly. The song exudes throwback vibes through its lush harmonies and sensuous lyrics. But this isn’t any run-of-the-mill exercise in empty nostalgia. Silk Sonic have a very specific sound in mind that they’re reviving for 21st century audiences: Philly So...
Share
Mark as Played
Adam, Jack and Ryan Met, better known as AJR, started playing gigs on the streets of New York City. The sidewalk hustle taught them how to grab the attention of the least forgiving audience. Now on their fourth studio album, OK Orchestra, they’ve honed an ear-stopping sound that combines modern pop with broadway bombast.  Their platinum-certified single “Bang” pairs a carnival-like horns section with skittering trap style hi-hats. ...
Share
Mark as Played
Cory Wong is a Minneapolis native and Vulfpeck collaborator known for pushing rhythm guitar from a background instrument to the star of the show. Wong’s a walking encyclopedia of funk guitar, and he takes us through the riffs and styles—from Nile Rodgers to Quincy Jones—that power modern bops such as Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” and Jessie Ware’s “Step Into My Life.”  For Cory, rhythm guitar isn’t just a source of propulsive joy, but a ...
Share
Mark as Played
The 63rd Grammys was as unprecedented and unusual as last year. Backdropped by the pandemic, the show was delayed and had to be taped in multiple locations in front of a bare bones audience. Echoing the public cries against injustice, standout performances by Mickey Guyton, DaBaby, and Lil Baby decried racism to the nation and to the Grammys—the academy made multiple public statements throughout the night promising to do better. Th...
Share
Mark as Played
Ten years ago the Australian artist Gotye asked New Zealand musician Kimbra to feature on his song “Somebody I Used To Know.” At the time Kimbra had no idea it was going to be a hit. No wonder—the song lacks the trappings of a conventional pop song. The chorus shows up late and it only repeats once in a track composed of an obscure Brazilian guitar sample and nursery rhyme xylophones.   But this slow burner about opposing sides in ...
Share
Mark as Played
Kaytranada has what every producer strives for: an in-demand signature sound. His records glide fluidly between four-to-the-floor house beats, hip-hop sample-flipping, and P-Funk style 808 bass lines. He honed the technique as a teenager, and it has since grabbed the attention of some all-star collaborators: Pharrell Williams, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Anderson .Paak, and Kendrick Lamar. This year, he’s nominated for three Grammy...
Share
Mark as Played
JP Saxe wrote the song “If the World was Ending” with acclaimed songwriter Julia Michaels in 2019 about a fictional cataclysm. The record was released in the before times in a way that seemed to presage lockdown. In the early months of the actual pandemic the song resonated so widely that it catapulted up the charts. It’s now been nominated for a Grammy for song of the year — an award JP Saxe could share with his grandfather János ...
Share
Mark as Played
Adrian Younge is a producer for entertainment greats ranging from Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar to the Wu Tang clan, a composer for television shows such as Marvel's Luke Cage (with A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Mohammad), and owner of the Linear Labs record label and analog studio. Younge has a new mixed media project that breaks down the evolution of racism in America that he calls his “most important creative accomplishment....
Share
Mark as Played
The Netflix series Bridgerton has hooked audiences with its bodice-ripping sex scenes, a colorblind approach period drama casting, and a soundtrack featuring recreations of modern bangers from pop stars like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish arranged in the style of a classical string quartet. By bringing modern melodies into the proper world of Regency England, the show reminds us that classical music wasn’t always so stuffy and sol...
Share
Mark as Played
This Sunday, The Weeknd will perform his distinctly dark brand of pop at the Super Bowl halftime show. On the surface, the alter-ego of Abel Tesfaye is a strange pick for the ostensibly family-friendly main-stage — for more than a decade, The Weeknd has fused the sounds of pop, R&B, and trap into a cinematic horror-thriller about drugs, sex and the excess of fame. While his sheer volume of Hot 100 hits have rightly earned him m...
Share
Mark as Played
Epik High are elemental to Korean hip hop. DJ Tukutz, Mithra Jin and Tablo’s underground style boom bap beats with dexterous rapping helped bring this music from its underground roots to a global scale. On their latest release, Epik High Is Here Part I, the textures are subdued but paired with heavy drums and aggressive vocals, a contrast that matches our collective anxiety arising from the pandemic. Charlie speaks with Tablo about...
Share
Mark as Played
Power ballads used to top the charts regularly, from 80s rock to 90s R&B. But then in the 2000s, the formula of constant escalation gradually fell off the Billboard. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Olivia Rodrigo’s single “Drivers License” is breaking streaming records as listeners yearn for the emotional catharsis from this contemporary power ballad. With the help of David Metzer, professor of music history at the University of...
Share
Mark as Played
Listen to Top 40 pop over the last decade and you’ll notice something weird is happening. The chorus—the emotional apotheosis of a pop song, its dizzying high, its cathartic sing-along center—is disappearing. In its place, artists from Bad Bunny to Taylor Swift are toying with new, chorus-lite song forms that introduce a new musical grammar to the sound of contemporary pop. We may not think much about pop structure when listening t...
Share
Mark as Played
Is it true that all pop music sounds the same today? For the past year the “pop-drop” has dominated the airwaves. This new form of EDM infused pop came out of DJ culture and has infused its sound with every mainstream act like Lady Gaga and Coldplay. Tiring of this sound, some artists are finding creative ways to parody this pop trope. The rock outfit Fall Out Boy’s “Young And Menace” demonstrates equal parts mastery and mockery of...
Share
Mark as Played

Chat About Switched on Pop

Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Crime Junkie
Dateline NBC

Dateline NBC

Current and classic episodes, featuring compelling true-crime mysteries, powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations.

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

For You

    Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeartRadio App.

    Connect

    © 2021 iHeartMedia, Inc.