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Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

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What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.
147 Episodes
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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 Minnesota Orchestra - ChaconneEnrico Caruso - Vesti la GiubbiaMario Lanza - Because You’re MineWendy Carlos - Prelude and Fugue in C MinorJackie Evancho - Nessun DormaJackie Evancho - BurnLindsay Stirling - UndergroundVitamin String Quartet - ShallowFlorence Price - Symphony 1Nas - I CanBlack Eyed Peas - Back 2 Hip HopVictoria - ImpropreiaKanye West - GoneCheck out more of James's writing here: https://www.wqxr.org/people/james-bennett-ii/Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 back then, and what keeps us coming back. With the help of New York Times Magazine writer Marcela Valdes, we break down key elements of the flamenco tradition, like the hard-to-define magic of duende, and count out some of the diabolical rhythms that keep us dancing. Songs DiscussedRosalía - Si Tú Supieras CompañeroRosalía - BAGDAD (Cap.7: Liturgia) Rosalía - PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ (Cap.3: Celos)Episode Spotify Playlist:https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4zRce31m3RhCjVwmSSMz2QRead “Rosalía’s Incredible Journey from Flamenco to Megastardom” by Marcela Valdes: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/08/magazine/rosalia-flamenco.htmlWatch Rosalía performing “Me quedo contigo”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32d1bq-kG5cMore coverage of Rosalía from The FADER magazine: https://www.thefader.com/artist/rosalia**A previous version of this episode claimed that Alicia Key's "Fallin'", Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man", "Marvin Gaye's "Here, My Dear" and Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" were all written in 3/4 time. That was in error, and we've edited the episode to reflect that.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 album (R9), join us for a virtual* blunt-smoke-laced tour through the hit songs that defined her early sound, and a delectable deep dive into her most recent album, ANTI.*Zero blunts were enjoyed at the time of recording.Songs DiscussedRihanna - Pon de ReplayRihanna ft. Jay-Z - UmbrellaRihanna - What’s My NameRihanna ft. Calvin Harris - We Found Love Rihanna - Cheers (Drink to That)Rihanna - You Da OneRihanna - B*tch Better Have My MoneyRihanna ft. Drake - WorkRihanna ft. SZA - ConsiderationRihanna - Needed MeCheck out Jenny Gathright's NPR article “Rihanna Is The 21st Century's Most Influential Musician” here: https://www.npr.org/2018/08/15/638551793/rihanna-is-the-21st-centurys-most-influential-musicianAnd find even more work from our wonderful contributors this week down below:Gina: http://ginadelvac.com/Ivie: https://ivieani.contently.com/Zoe: https://zoehaylock.com/Cate: https://www.cate-young.com/Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 ways to change his sound without ever sacrificing his integrity. We’re only beginning to understand Prince’s legacy, but Anil takes us one step closer to fully appreciating the ahead-of-their-time talents of a once-in-a-century artist. Songs featured:Prince - 1999Kraftwerk - The RobotsTalking Heads - Once in a LifetimeGrandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - The MessageThe Human League - Don’t You Want Me BabyPrince - Little Red CorvetteMichael Jackson - ThrillerSantana ft. Rob Thomas - SmoothPrince ft. Eve - Hot Wit UPrince ft. Ani Difranco - Eye Love U, But Eye Don’t Trust U AnymorePrince - How Come U Don’t Call Me AnymorePrince - Black SweatPrince - THIS COULD BE USLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 as long as pop itself. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
NPR's Sam Sanders stops by to break down the tracks that Switched On listeners have been loving. Swedish dancefloor confessionals, songs that stop time, the specificity of Lana Del Rey, and the awkwardness of descending fourths: it's all on the table in this freewheeling conversation of deep musical nerdiness.Songs DiscussedTove Lo ft Kylie Minogue - Really don’t like uCamila Cabello - LiarAce of Base - All That She WantsTyler the Creator - EARFQUAKETaylor Swift - Cruel SummerLana Del Rey, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus - Don’t Call Me AngelLana Del Rey - Happiness is a butterflyKing Princess - ProphetKim Petras - Hillside BoysIDK - PornoJai Paul - Str8 Outta MumbaiJai Paul - Genevieve (Unfinished)Many thanks to everyone who called in for this one: Amanda, Jackie, Melanie, Alec, Madeleine, John B, Steve, Courtney, Julia, Zach, Lee, Tara, Habbi, and of course - John from Baltimore.For more of Sam's great takes on culture, check out It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. CORRECTION: A version of this episode incorrectly stated that Jack Antonoff was a writer on the song "Lover." Taylor Swift was the sole credited songwriter on that song, while Jack Antonoff has a production credit on the piece.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Dallas Taylor, host of the stellar sound design series Twenty Thousand Hertz, stops by to fill Nate in on the science and style of mastering: the subtle art that explains why Metallica had to re-release a controversial album, Kanye sounds so crisp, and why the best pop really pops.  Songs DiscussedLizzo - JuiceKanye West - HeartlessLed Zeppelin - Stairway to heavenPink Floyd - MoneyDaft Punk - Get LuckyMetallica - The Day That Never ComesDJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - He's the DJ, I'm the RapperThe Beatles - Lucy In The Sky With DiamondsIntrigued by mastering? Get your fix with the Twenty Thousand Hertz episode The [Compressed] History of Mastering.We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://voxmedia.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ewVXHPZIsQNlxCR?Source=noteLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jazz 1959

Jazz 1959

2019-09-2400:51:152

Charlie's out on parental leave, which means no one is here to stop Nate from going off the rails. And you know what means... JAZZ! As soon as dad left the room, Nate enlisted his favorite journalist, jazz and sports writer Natalie Weiner, to come on the show and discuss her incredible 1959 Project — a day-by-day chronicle of jazz during one of its most pivotal years. We listen to classic 1959 albums Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Dave Brubeck's Take Out, discuss the complex legacy of Billie Holiday, and dig into some of the year's forgotten gems. Sixty years later, jazz is no longer the cultural juggernaut is once was — but it still has much to teach us about pop culture of the present. Playlist:•Miles Davis - So What•Dave Brubeck - Take Five•Billie Holiday - Blue Moon•Billie Holiday - Billie's Blues•Erykah Badu - On & On•Amy Winehouse - There Is No Greater Love•Muriel Roberts - Sleigh Ride•Terry Pollard - Laura•Willene Barton and her Trio - Rice Pudding Check out the 1959 and 2019 jazz cuts we're listening to.We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://voxmedia.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ewVXHPZIsQNlxCR?Source=noteLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The pace of new music releases these days is dizzying. Sometimes it’s like watching someone do a magic trick--we *swear* those songs weren’t there a second ago! But then, there they are, popping up in batches right out of thin air. Of course, behind each individual release sits months of decision-making by the artist: who to collaborate with and when, how to structure the musical product of that collaboration, what to call it, how to release it, when, and on what platform. The list is long, and each of those choices has a big impact on how we hear the song.The Verge’s Dani Deahl recently sat down with reigning Princess of Pop, Charli XCX, to discuss how she approaches those decisions, and how that approach is bucking long-established norms in popular music. In this special bonus episode of Switched on Pop, Dani rings up Charlie (not XCX) to recap that conversation and put Charli (XCX)’s artistry in context. Via Dani, we learn that for Charli collaboration is more than just an artistic choice; and release strategy is much more than a major label playbook. There’s a total freedom in the way Charli releases music, and we love it. Huge thanks to Dani for bringing us this peek into her world.Songs discussed:Charli XCX - Boom ClapCharli XCX, Christine and the Queens - GoneCharli XCX ft. Lizzo - Blame It On Your LoveLizzo - Truth HurtsCatch the rest of Dani’s conversation with both Charli/es in the newest episode of The Verge’s ‘Future of Music’ video series,We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://voxmedia.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ewVXHPZIsQNlxCR?Source=noteLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
For most parents, “Baby Shark” is the nightmare that will not end. Ever since the South Korean educational company Pinkfong released the song earlier this year, it’s almost impossible to avoid. The infectious children’s tune has more than 2.3 billion views on YouTube and made it onto the Billboard Top 40 list. So what makes this song so catchy and irresistible to children? And how do the rest of us cope with the unavoidable hit while keeping our sanity?Andrea Silenz, host of the parenting podcast The Longest Shortest Time, and Charlie explore the phenomenon that is “Baby Shark.Songs DiscussedPinkfong - Baby SharkFrank Zappa - Baby SnakesStevie Wonder - Isn’t She Lovely Suzanne Vega - Tom’s DinerBaby Shark/ Tom’s Diner mashup “Baby Diner”The Weeknd - I Can’t Feel My FaceRadioheadPinkfong - The Penguin DancePinkfong - Lions in LoveDrake - God’s PlanMicheal Jackson - Billie JeanWhitney Houston - I Wanna Dance With SomebodyBruno Mars - Uptown FunkBeastie Boys - Brass MonkeyVanilla Ice - Ice Ice BabyJosh Groban - River The Beatles - All You Need Is LoveHarry Potter theme Raffi - Baby Beluga Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (17)

rh92

I wish they wouldn't have so many guests on. It's cool every now and then but it's a disruption to the formula of the show. Especially when the guests are just there to be interviewed, it's better when they are there to bring analysis like the latest Rihanna episode guest

Nov 2nd
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cbeautyam

I never thought I would see you guys cover K-Pop.

Jul 11th
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tbh

"bragging about her songwriting prowess" oh my god give me a break she didn't produce the song!!

Jun 28th
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Seluvaia Po'Uha

great song

Jun 5th
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Byron Drake

It's like Pearl Jam got famous, then you get Days of the New and Stabbing Westward ect...

Jun 4th
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mattters

to wit: fuck no

Jun 2nd
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Tone Ravnå Bjørnstad

buuuut- the original of Don't Kill My Vibe by Norwegian young artist Sigrid is sooo much stronger vocally 😮! (+ she wrote the song)

May 12th
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Steven G

I liked your comments and explanations. Looking very much forward to the next episodes. I think I can learn a lot about how music is created and what the magic behind the songs is.

May 5th
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Whitney Rodden

Cool concept! Another great episode, guys.

Apr 2nd
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Whitney Rodden

Post Malone journey LMAO

Mar 28th
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Amanda Please

this discussion is so well done. They analyzed great angles with a really broad perspective. I think these guys are great at communicating and listening, especially when it comes deconstructing complex controversies in music and pop culture.

Mar 21st
Reply (2)

Eoin G

No NIN - Closer? For shame

Feb 28th
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Dave Lawlis

A mere two songs from one decade does not a deep dive make. Anyway to sum it up, the music industry completely dropped the ball and failed to cash in on "alternative" music and college rock in the 1980s. Encouraged by Nirvana's popularity they basically went apeshit in the 90s, taking any act that wasn't quite mainstream and flinging them like so many turds at the wall in the hopes that some of them would stick.

Sep 20th
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Julie McLaughlin

it's a clicky pen, with which she'll write your name. duhhh.

Aug 2nd
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Sofia Zepeda

The episode on "The Deep" was amazing!

Jun 15th
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