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Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

Author: Vulture

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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.

219 Episodes
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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 Starker who was awarded a Grammy in 1997 for a recording of Bach’s cello suites. We wanted to speak with JP not just because of the song's success, but also because he has a way of thinking about the practical implications and even morality of songwriting in this track as well as his song "Line By Line" with Maren Morris. Songs Discussed JP Saxe with Julia Michaels - If The World Was Ending JP Saxe - 25 In Barcelona, A Little Bit Yours, The Few Things, Same Room Lennon Stella - Golf on TV (with JP Saxe) JP Saxe, Maren Morris - Line By Line Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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.” A short film, T.A.N., and podcast, Invisible Blackness, accompany the album The American Negro (available Feb 26). Younge tells Switched on Pop how his experience as a law professor and his all-analog approach to recording resulted in a sound he describes as “James Baldwin hooked up with Marvin Gaye.” Music Discussed Adrian Younge - Revolutionize, The American Negro, Revisionist History, Black Lives Matter, Margaret Garner Gil Scott Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised More Additional production by Megan Lubin Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 solemn. In its time, it trafficked in the same scandal as modern pop. Alongside these classical-pop mashups, Bridgerton serves up its own ravishing score from composer Kris Bowers, who joins to break down how he made the past pop. Songs Discussed: Vitamin String Quartet - Thank U, Next, Bad Guy, In My Blood Kris Bowers - When You Are Alone, Flawless My Dear, Strange Maurice Ravel - Tombeau de Couperin, Prelude Clara Schumann - Der Mond Kommt Still Gegangen Johannes Brahms - Symphony No 3 in F Major Op 90, Mvt 3 (for Four Hand Piano) More Read Maria Popova on the letters of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann and Adrian Daub on Four Handed Monsters Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 mainstream status, even his most commercial material is hardly PG — the 2015 hit “Can’t Feel My Face” is an 80s throwback laced with on-the-nose cocaine metaphors.  But over the last year his subversive image has been rewritten by the song “Blinding Lights,” from his 2020 album After Hours. The song vaulted up the charts in March 2020, supported by a viral TikTok challenge: Using the song’s opening instrumental as inspiration, countless families performed the dance together while sheltering in place. Since then, seemingly every radio format, adult contemporary included, has played this song on repeat, making it the longest running song in the Hot 100 top five and top ten (given the songs success, The Weeknd is justly aggrieved by the Grammy’s recent snub). On Switched on Pop’s first episode as part of Vulture, we break down how “Blinding Lights” blends lyrical relatability with musical familiarity, earning The Weeknd the biggest and perhaps most misunderstood hit of his career. Songs Discussed The Weeknd - Blinding Lights Michael Sembello - Maniac a-ha - Take on Me Bruce Springsteen - Blinded By The Light Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Blinded By The Light The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face The Weeknd - Faith The Weeknd - In Your Eyes The Weeknd - Save Your Tears The Weeknd - Until I Bleed Out More Read Chris Molanphy's "Why the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” Is the First Chart Topper of the Coronavirus Era" Thanks to Arc Iris for the theme song reharmonization Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 the creation of the album, but first first ethnomusicologist Youngdae Kim shares a short history on the development of Korean hip hop.  SONGS DISCUSSED Epik High - Rosario, Go, Fly, Map the Soul, Harajuku Days, Born Hater, Lesson Zero, Based On A True Story, Leica, Wish You Were Seo Taiji and Boys - I Know Verbal Jint - Overclass MORE Read Youngdae Kim and T.K. Park’s “A Brief History of Korean Hip-hop”  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 British Columbia, we break down how “Drivers License” sticks to an age-old formula, and how it deviates from a well worn musical path.   SONGS DISCUSSED Olivia Rodrigo - Drivers License Barry Manilow - Mandy Roy Orbison - It’s Over Clyde McPhatter - Without Love There Is Nothing  Etta James - I’d Rather Go Blind  Journey - Open Arms  Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day  Seal - Kiss From A Rose Hootie & The Blowfish - Only Wanna Be with You  Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven  MORE Professor David Metzer’s The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé Aiyana Ishmael for Teen Vogue “Olivia Rodrigo Song "Drivers License" Sparks Fan-Made TikTok POV Covers” Olivia Rodrigo’s Instagram demo Richard S. He Twitter thread  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 to our favorite songs, but this is a big deal—the last time pop experienced such a seismic shift was when the chorus first came into fashion, back in the 1960s. What does this mean for modern musicians and listeners? Emily Warren, songwriter for new-guard stars like Dua Lipa and Khalid, joins to break down why the sea change in pop form represents a new horizon of creative possibility. Songs Discussed Bad Bunny - Si Veo a Tu Mamá Future & Drake - Life Is Good Billie Holiday - Blue Moon Beyonce - Formation Travis Scott - Sicko Mode Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman Drake - Laugh Now Cry Later (ft. Lil Durk) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 the pop-drop. And PC Music, a rising art-music label out of London, skewers the whole of pop cliché on their mixtape collaboration with Charli XCX. After this episode, we promise you’ll be ready to move on to new sounds. Luckily, listeners have collaborated to create a new favorites playlist to help you cleanse your palette. This episode was originally published May 2017. SONGS DISCUSSED The Chainsmokers – Closer Kygo & Selena Gomez – It Ain’t Me Lady Gaga – The Cure Fall Out Boy – Sugar We’re Going Down Fall Out Boy – Young And Menace Jay Z – D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune) Ariana Grande – Into You Katy Perry feat. Skip Marley – Chained To The Rhythm Drake – Passionfruit Postmodern Jukebox – Sugar We’re Going Down Swinging Britney Spears – Oops! I Did It Again Skrillex – Bangarang DJ Snake – Middle Beyoncé – Love On Top Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charlie XCX) Iggy Azalea – Fancy ft. Charli XCX Selena Gomez – Same Old Love Charli XCX – 3AM (Pull Up) (feat. MØ) Hannah Diamond – Every Night Bronze – Thy Slaughter Danny L Harle – Super Natural (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen) SOPHIE – JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE A.G. Cook – Superstar Ariana Grande – Side To Side Coon Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra – I’m Gonna Charleston Back To Charleston Spotify Playlist Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Auto-Tune may be the most divisive effect in music. Artists have protested it publicly at the Grammys, and critics have derided the effects for its inauthentic reproduction of the voice. And yet, nearly a decade since Jay-Z prophesied the death of Auto-Tune, the sound is alive and thriving in contemporary pop and hip-hop. Journalist Simon Reynolds has written a definitive history of Auto-Tune for Pitchfork that fundamentally changed how we hear this sound. This deep dive criss crosses geology, technology, and the evolution of pop as we know it. Songs Discussed: Cher - Believe Katy Perry - Firework Rihanna - Diamonds Future - F*ck Up Some Commas Emma Robinson - Stay (Cover)  Imogen Heap - Hide And Seek  Zapp & Roger - Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)  T. Pain - Chopped N Screwed ft. Ludacris  Lil Wayne - “How To Love” Kanye - “Heartless” The Black Eyed Peas “Boom Boom Pow” Jay-Z - Death Of Auto-Tune Elvis - Mystery Train The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows Whispering Jack Smith - Baby Face Kesha - Tik Tok Bon Iver - Woods Future & Juice WRLD - Jet Lag ft. Young Scooter  Shek Wes - Mo Bamba The Carters - Apeshit Further Reading: Simon Reynolds - “How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music" Simon Reynolds -Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Wham’s 1984 contribution to the holiday cannon, “Last Christmas,” has surprising staying power. When Grammy-winning pianist Chilly Gonzales set out to record a holiday album, “A Very Chilly Christmas,” most of the selections were over a half century old. That’s because most of our favorite seasonal songs come from the 1960s and earlier. But in addition to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” Wham’s “Last Christmas” reliably returns each winter. Despite the cheesy 80s synths and drum machines, the song’s harmonies are remarkable resilient, a testament to George Michael’s auteur songwriting method. Celebrated artist known for his solo piano works, collaborations with Feist and Daft Punk, and his musical masterclasses series, Chilly Gonzales—musical genius—AKA “Gonzo,” sits down at the piano to share in the beauty of this nu-classical Christmas love song, as well as a few selections from his new album “A Very Chilly Christmas.” MORE Get tickets for A Very Chilly Christmas Special airing Dec 23rd at www.chillygonzales.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Just five months after releasing her Grammy-nominated album “folklore,” Taylor Swift surprised fans with a continuation of sorts — her ninth studio album “evermore.” Working with many of her “folklore” collaborators, Swift says that the team “couldn’t stop writing songs.” Like its sister album, “evermore” shies away from over-the-top pop production, and leans into Swift’s craft. Stripped of the highly produced synth layers from her “Lover” and “Reputation” era, Swift’s lyrics and vocal performance shine in their unvarnished restraint. On this hour-long album, Swift shows her ingenuity with the building blocks of songwriting, giving us more of her signature Swiftian strengths: Lyrics, melody and story.  More Read "Figure It Out: The Linguistic Turn in Country Music" by Jimmie N. Rogers and Miller Williams in Country Music Annual 2000 Listen to Jenny Owen Youngs album Night Shift for more rubber bridge guitar and great songs Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Producer Bridget Armstrong shares her top tracks from women who are running hip-hop in 2020: Megan Thee Stallion, Tierra Whack, Rico Nasty, Flo Milli, and CHIKA More Listen to the Drake episode on In My Feelings: https://switchedonpop.com/episodes/93-drake-vs-drake Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 1990 John Carlin and Leigh Blake pioneered a new kind of charity album. Together they co-founded Red Hot, a non-profit music label that uses music to raise money and awareness to for the fight against AIDS. This year is the 30th anniversary of their record: Red Hot + Blue, a platinum tribute album to Cole Porter, featuring artists like U2, Jody Watley, David Byrne, k.d. lang and Annie Lennox. Having released 20 projects and raised over $15M for AIDS charities, Carlin reflects back on Red Hot's idiosyncratic approach to reaching music audiences with a public health mission. And ten time Grammy nominee Red Hot collaborator Meshell Ndegeocello discusses how her contributions informed her own prolific music activism. More Listen to Red Hot's records at redhot.org Listen to Meshell's Chapter & Verse by calling 1-833-4-BALDWIN or visiting www.meshell.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Every song Cyndi Lauper writes is pop perfection according to Sam Sanders, host of NPR’s “It’s Been A Minute.” Many fall for “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” but Sanders's favorite song is the slow burner “All Through The Night,” save for one moment: the synthesizer solo. For Sanders, this solo never fit in. Charlie investigates the source of his musical malady and uncovers how the 80s got its groove.  Songs Discussed Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun Cyndi Lauper - Time After Time Cyndi Lauper - She Bop Cyndi Lauper - All Through the Night Janet Jackson - When I Think Of You Janet Jackson - The Pleasure Principle Janet Jackson - Nasty Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone Whitney Houston - Greatest Love Of All Queen - Who Wants To Live Forever Tina Turner - What's Love Got To Do With It Cyndi Lauper - Change Of Heart Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes Tom Petty - You Got Lucky Cars - Lets Go Talking Heads - Burning Down The House Parliament Funkadelic - Atomic Dog The Weeknd - Blinding Lights Dua Lipa - Physical Little Mix - Break Up Song Miley Cyrus - Heart of Glass (Blondie Cover) More Read Dr. Megan L. Lavengood's research on the DX7: https://meganlavengood.com/research/ Listen to Dave Smith's (recently re-released) Sequential Prophet 5 synthesizer: https://www.sequential.com/product/prophet-5/ Learn about William Wittman's production credits on Discogs: https://www.discogs.com/artist/170639-William-Wittman Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Cultural critic Ivie Ani breaks down how Missy Elliott broke into the pantheon of anthems, and how she changed the scope of who could belong. Songs Discussed Missy Elliott - Work It Blondie - Heart of Glass RUN-DMC - Peter Piper Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three - Request Line Snoop Dogg - Y'All Gone Miss Me Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back Trace Adkins - Honky Tonk Badonkadonk Missy Elliott - The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) Lil Kim - Not Tonight (Remix) Missy Elliott - Lose Control (feat. Ciara & Fat Man Scoop) Missy Elliott - Sock It 2 Me Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
When Smash Mouth wrote "All Star,” they knew that it was going to change their lives. But they never expected it would become an anthem played in sports arenas, soundtracked by Hollywood, and embedded into seemingly every internet meme. Darryn King joins the show to break down "The Never-ending Life of Smash Mouth's 'All Star.'" Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 1995, ESPN launched Jock Jams Volume 1, a compilation record that would define the sound of sports for the next quarter century. We listen to the album's biggest songs to define what makes a "Jock Jam," and tell the story of how this record came to define the sound of the stadium. MORE Read Emily VanDerWerff's article: “The Jock Jam” megamix inadvertently plays out ESPN’s inner tensions Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Freddie Mercury and team made one of the most unusual anthems of all time. “We Are The Champions” has a somber beginning, an uncertain ending and a sprinkling of operatic allusions. Yet more than 40 years after this slow burners debut, it continues to be a staple at sporting events. In the first episode in a four part series, ANTHEMS, Nate and Charlie break down the song’s fundamental elements that place this song in the anthemic pantheon.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Cory Henry is a remarkably gifted multi-instrumentalist. Growing up in the church, he started playing the Hammond B3 organ at age 2 and played his first gig at Apollo theater in NYC at age 6. As a professional musician he’s played along side Bruce Springsteen, Boyz II Men, The Roots, Kirk Franklin and many others including the acclaimed group Snarky Puppy which earned 3 Grammys during his tenure playing keys. Now he leads his band Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles who are releasing an album on Oct 30th called Something To Say, which features all of Henry’s gifts, but especially his voice in an album that makes you want to get up and dance as much as it makes you want to take action.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Shawn Mendes, BTS, Alicia Keys, 24kGoldn, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber & Chance The Rapper are all in the Hot 100 with songs that attempt to cope with the state of the world. What do they tell us about the sound of popular music and our collective psyche? Charlie is joined by writer, critic and friend of the podcast, Lauren Michele Jackson to offer a meteorological reading of music in late 2020. MORE Read Aja Romano's article "With 'Dynamite,' BTS beat the US music industry at its own cheap game" on Vox.com SONGS DISCUSSED Shawn Mendes - Wonder Alicia Keys - Underdog Hamilton - My Shot Dua Lipa - Break My Heart INXS - Need You Tonight BTS - Dynamite Justin Bieber - Holy ft. Chance The Rapper 24kgolden - Mood ft. iann dior Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (46)

Rui Pedro Pereira

black eyed peas I got a feeling is a sports anthem. this one is absolutely not.

Nov 20th
Reply

傅子轩

How I love the critics and the analysis!

Oct 29th
Reply

Fabio Gioia

have it a chance, and glad I did.

Oct 27th
Reply

Imperfectionist Podcast

hey guys...not sure if you guys get messages through this platform, but commercial placement and movie placement is likely the biggest reason the next generation knows a rune from before their birth... ;)

Sep 27th
Reply

Yasmine C

Kaleidoscopic pop, keyboard pop, korporate pop, Korean pop... what a great introduction to kpop.

Feb 17th
Reply

kondgeo

nice podcast

Feb 13th
Reply

Whitney Rodden

Another great episode.

Feb 5th
Reply

Cristofer Dorante

buttcheeks bumping?? 🤣🤣🤣

Jan 15th
Reply

Owen Ball

how did Freddie Mercury not get a mention in an episode about falsetto? great show!

Nov 20th
Reply

Claudio Rodriguez Valdes

no.

Nov 20th
Reply (1)

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
Reply

cbeautyam

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

Jul 11th
Reply

tbh

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

Jun 28th
Reply

Seluvaia Po'Uha

great song

Jun 5th
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

Whitney Rodden

Cool concept! Another great episode, guys.

Apr 2nd
Reply

Whitney Rodden

Post Malone journey LMAO

Mar 28th
Reply
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