DiscoverSwitched on Pop — THE 5TH
Switched on Pop — THE 5TH

Switched on Pop — THE 5TH

Author: Vox

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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. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.

196 Episodes
When we listen closely to the Fifth, we hear a testament to self-expression and determination. Which means that we get to decide how to honor this symphony today, whether that means taking a break from Beethoven to commission new works from underrepresented composers, bringing new audiences into the fold by staging concerts in communities outside of the concert hall, or re-writing Beethoven’s works to make them reflect our present moment.  Featuring: Anthony McGill, Clarinet Andrea Moore, Musicologist Deborah Borda, CEO and President David Lang, Composer Jaap van Sweden, Conductor Leelanee Sterett, Horn Sherry Sylar, Oboe Music Featured: Carlos Simon, Loop Talia Leon, Stride David Lang, Prisoner of the State Recoding of Beethoven Symphony 5 by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Sweden used by permission from Decca Gold. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Before Beethoven’s time, classical music culture looked and sounded quite different. When Mozart premiered his Symphony 31 in the late 1700s, it was standard for audiences to clap, cheer, and yell “da capo!” (Italian for “from the beginning!”) in the middle of a performance. After Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony debuted in the early 1800s, these norms changed — both because the rising industrial merchant class took ownership of concert halls and because of shifts in the music itself. As we explored in episodes I and II of the Switched On Pop podcast series The 5th, the musical complexity of Beethoven’s symphony required a different kind of listening. The Fifth’s four-note opening theme occurs and recurs in variations throughout the symphony, slowly shifting from minor to major keys and mirroring Beethoven’s experience with deafness. The Fifth’s creative rule-breaking — subverting the classical sonata form in the first movement, for example — requires close listening to fully grasp. Over time, these norms crystallized into a set of etiquette rules (e.g., “don’t clap mid-piece”) to enhance the new listening experience. In the third episode of The 5th, we explore how Beethoven’s symphony was used to generate the strict culture of classical music — and the politics that undergird those norms of behavior. Music Discussed Recording of The New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Jaap van Zweden used by permission from Decca Gold. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In the first movement of his famous symphony, Beethoven sets up a battle between hope and despair. The dark side of that spectrum is represented by the anguished opening notes of the first movement: DUN DUN DUNNN. Over the course of the next three movements, Beethoven keeps trying to overcome his dark fate with bright major melodies, and keeps getting defeated. With each high and low, we begin to understand that this battle isn't just about major and minor keys, it's about the will to live in the face of adversity. How do you perform such an emotional rollercoaster? We talk to the members of the New York Philharmonic about what it's like to sound a symphony whose stakes are life and death. Jaap van Zweden, Conductor Leelanee Sterrett, Horn Kyle Zerna, Percussion Frank Huang, Violin Anthony McGill, Clarinet Sherry Sylar, Oboe Recording of The New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Jaap van Zweden used by permission from Decca Gold. Hear new episodes of our four-part miniseries The 5th every Tuesday and Friday starting September 8th. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
You know Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. You’ve heard it in films, advertisements, parodied in Saturday morning cartoons and disco-ized in Saturday Night Fever. The Fifth Symphony is a given, so much so that it blends into the background. You know this piece, but how well? Of all the symphonies of the bewigged classical "greats," why is this one still stuck in our heads over two centuries later? To answer these questions, we’re giving Beethoven’s famous symphony the same treatment we give to pop songs. And we’re doing so with the help of an orchestra that’s been performing this piece since 1842, the New York Philharmonic. In Movement I, we hear how the famous opening notes of the symphony aren't just melody: they’re the main character in a drama that will unfold over four movements. Featuring: Frank Huang, Violin Anthony McGill, Clarinet Sherry Sylar, Oboe Recording of The New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Jaap van Zweden used by permission from Decca Gold. New episodes of our four-part miniseries The 5th drop every Tuesday and Friday starting September 8th. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
A podcast mini-series in IV movements explaining and reconsidering Beethoven’s game-changing symphony. Episodes air Tuesdays & Fridays starting Sept 8th. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Our Switched on Summer Throwback Series continues with “Dancing in the Street,” the 1964 Motown hit by Martha and the Vandellas that was co-written by none other than Marvin Gaye. Over 50 years and countless covers later, we explore how this song still manages to get people off their feet and onto the streets—not just to dance, but also to raise their voices in joy, catharsis, and protest. SPONSOR We use Reason Studios to make music on Switched On Pop. You can use Reason too free for 30 days: SONGS DISCUSSED Martha and the Vandellas – Dancing in the Street Marvin Gaye – Stubborn Kind of Fellow The Mamas and the Papas – Dancing in the Street The Grateful Dead – Dancing in the Street Van Halen – Dancing in the Street Mick Jagger and David Bowie – Dancing in the Street Kendrick Lamar – Alright Pharrell Williams – Happy Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
How does it feel to become a global pop star under lockdown? Benee’s “Supalonely” had been out for over 5 months when in March of 2020, it quickly became the second most popular song on TikTok. The song’s hook “I’ve been lonely… Supalonely” clearly reflected a global collective malaise about the pandemic—and people wanted to dance to it. She wrote this “sad banger” to help get over a breakup. And now the song changed her life. Not along before she’d dropped out of college to make music while working at a pizza place. Her first EP had found an audience in her home country, New Zealand. Now, with her TikTok success Benee has ascended the top 100 in 30 countries. All of this happened from the solitude of her childhood bedroom, where like so many people, she’s taking zoom calls all day. She tells Switched On Pop about using levity to overcome personal difficulty and what’s like to achieve global recognition from home. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
90s Music Canon

90s Music Canon


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 forgotten, he found that just a few songs had staying power across generations — what he defined as the emerging 90s music canon. Find out what songs make it and which have fallen to the wayside.  MORE The Pudding’s study on Defining the 90s Canon Take The Pudding’s quiz yourself SONGS DISCUSSED Spice Girls - Wannabe  Mariah Carey - Fantasy! Lou Bega - Mambo #5 Los Del Rio - Macarena Boys II Men - Motown Philly Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You Savage Garden - I Want You The Barenaked Ladies - One Week Jewel - You Were Meant For Me Jennifer Lopez - If You Had My Love Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On Britney Spears - Baby One More Time Smash Mouth - All Star Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Bruno Major blends old song structures from The Great American Songbook with contemporary production on his new album “To Let A Good Thing Die.” The result is a nostalgic, yet contemporary collection of love songs for the Netflix and chill generation. We speak with Bruno Major about how he draws inspiration from the past to craft something new. He breaks down his songs "Nothing," "To Let A Good Thing Die," and "The Most Beautiful Thing," which he wrote with Finneas. And we unpack how Bruno Major found success only after being dropped from his record label. SONGS DISCUSSED Bruno Major - Nothing Autumn Leaves - Nat King Cole Fly Me to The Moon - Frank Sinatra Stella By Starlight - Tony Bennett There Will Never Be Another You - Nat King Cole Like Someone in Love - Chet Baker Deep in a Dream - Frank Sinatra All The things you are - Ella Fitzgerald Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years Wes Montgomery - In Your Own Sweet Way Bruno Major - Wouldn't Mean A Thing Bruno Major - Bad Religion (Live) Bruno Major - I'll Sleep When I'm Older J Cole - KOD J Dilla - La La La Bruno Major - The Most Beautiful Thing Bruno Major - To Let A Good Thing Die Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Beyoncé' has released "Black Is King," a visual album based off of music that she released last year. We're rerunning that piece so that you can place the visual component of "Black Is King" in context to the music. For the live action remake of the Lion King, Beyoncé, (who voices Nala in the film), recorded and curated a companion soundtrack called The Gift. She worked with leading Afropop stars to expose the music of the continent to a global audience. In her piece, “Diversity Is in the Details: What Beyoncé’s ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ Gets Right and Wrong,” Okayplayer music editor Ivie Ani argues that the album highlights music while unintentionally treating the continent as a monolith. Ani joins Switched On Pop to break down this album and what it means for Afropop. SONGS DISCUSSED Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Oumou Sangaré – MOOD 4 EVA Oumou Sangaré – Diaraby Nen Burna Boy – JA ARA Fela Kuti – Water No Get Enemy Fena, MDQ, Mayonde, Kagwe, Blinky Bill – PARTY NATION BONUS Listen to Blinky and Ivie’s East African playlist recommendations Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Taylor Swift has released folklore, her unexpected eighth studio album. It is an understated work that firmly puts celebrity gossip behind her (there are no who's-dating-who easter eggs to be found). Instead we're gifted Swift's greatest strength: songwriting. The lyrics blur "fantasy and reality." There are imagined teenage love trysts, recreated dynasties and intimate reflections on modern love. We break down the sounds and lyrics that make up Swift's strongest album yet. SONGS DISCUSSED Taylor Swift - the 1, illicit affairs, my tears ricochet, august, epiphany, cruel summer, this is my trying, hoax, peace, you belong with me, mirrorball, epiphany, our song, cardigan, the last great american dynasty, betty The National - Light Years Bon Iver - 666 BONUS The correct term for the piano line is a "turn" Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Nu-Metal, the mid 90s creation that blended metal, rap and pop, is one of the most critically derided pop genres. So it is strange that this genre is having a comeback. But whereas its first incarnation was dominated by men, now women are leading the way. Artists like Poppy, Grimes and Rina Sawayama have recast the heavy guitars, sung-rap lyrics and gaudy aesthetic to fight back the patriarchy. CORRECTION: Charlie does not play pinch harmonics, but rather natural harmonics SONGS DISCUSSED Korn - Freak On A Leash Rina Sawayama - STFU! Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff Poppy - I Disagree Nine Inch Nails - Head Like A Hole Grimes, Hana - We Appreciate Power Rina Sawayama - XS Britney Spears - Gimme More Britney Spears - Toxic MORE Check out Finn McKenty's YouTube channel The Punk Rock MBA starting with his video on what killed Nu-Metal Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Listen closely to the start of the 2015 hit "Hey Mama" by David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, Afrojack, and Bebe Rexha and you'll hear voices intoning a chant: "Be my woman, girl, I'll be your man." It's sample from a 1948 recording called "Rosie," and it's the propulsive hook of "Hey Mama," driving the song to over a billion views on YouTube. The voices in the sample belong to CB Cook and ten other unidentified prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, aka Parchman Farm. These men never got credit for their work, even though it's been reused by everyone from Guetta to the Animals to Nina Simone. We investigate the story of "Rosie" to understand an inequity that lies at the heart of the music business and our national consciousness. Songs Discussed David Guetta ft Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, and Afrojack - Hey Mama CB Cook and Axe Gang - Rosie The Animals - Inside Looking Out Grand Funk Railroad - Inside Looking OUt KRS-One - Sound of Da Police Jay Z - Takeover Nina Simone - Be My Husband Check out Kembrew McLeod's and Peter DiCola's book Creative License to learn more about the law and culture of digital sampling. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The 2020 song of summer competition is underway. We asked you for your favorite songs and put them in a head-to-head tournament. Find out which is the song for this very unusual summer.  ROUND 1 - TikTok Jams SAINt JHN - "Roses" Imanbek Remix  Megan Thee Stallion - Savage Remix (Feat. Beyoncé) The Weeknd - Blinding Lights ROUND 2 - Protest Anthems Beyoncé - Black Parade Anderson .Paak - Lockdown  YG - FTP ROUND 3 - Breezy Bops Dua Lipa - Physical Chloe x Halle - Do It Harry Styles - Watermelon Sugar ROUND 4 - Bummer Bangers Taylor Swift - Cruel Summer Lana Del Rey - Summertime Sadness HAIM - Up From A Dream Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Lady Gaga’s 6th album is a conceptual release about a future that is neither utopian nor dystopian. Despite its sci-fi visuals, the album looks more to the past and present than the future. Chromatica gives us a world that sounds like 90s house music made for this summer’s cancelled Pride parties. It is lyrically somber, but musically upbeat, a productive tension that inspires hope. Gaga shared that she made this album to help her and her ‘little monsters’ dance through the pain. So we called on our listeners to dig up the most meaningful moments on the album and help us tour the world of Chromatica. SONGS DISCUSSED Lady Gaga - Chromatica I, 1000 Doves, Alice, Bad Romance, Stupid Love, Fun Tonight, Paparazzi, The Fame, Rain On Me, Since From Above, Babylon Gwen McCray - All This Love Cassius - Feeling For You Avicci & Sebastien Drums - My Feelings For You MORE "Welcome To Chromatica" playlist: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Shea Diamond has experienced so many facets of America as a black trans woman, and with songwriter Justin Tranter, she's woven those experiences into "I Am America," a blistering, funky anthem about community and belonging. Her track is also the theme song for the new HBO show "We're Here," which follows a team of a drag queens bringing drag shows to small towns across the country, challenging our assumptions about who makes up the "real America." We sit down with Diamond and Tranter to discuss singing as preaching, what it means to release this track during Pride month, why the flat seventh hits so good, and how the horns on the song feature producer Eren Cannata's dad Richie on sax, making this bop a true family affair. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In 1999 filmmaker Baz Luhrmann released the song “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen,” a 7-minute-long graduation speech set to downtempo electronic music. It was a highly unlikely hit that made its way across continents and eventually into the ears of a young Avery Trufelman via the album NOW That’s What I Call Music Volume 2. For over 20 years, Trufelman has applied the song’s advice to her daily life: “wear sunscreen… be nice to your siblings… do one thing every day that scares you.” This unusual song has left a lasting impression, and yet for Trufelman, it makes no sense that “The Sunscreen Song” was commercially successful. We investigate the song’s many architects — novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich and Baz Luhrmann himself — to unpack one of the internet’s first conspiracy theories that turned into Billboard’s greatest outlier.  SONGS DISCUSSED Baz Luhrmann - Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) Think - Once You Understand MORE The BBC documentary on “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" Another speech set to music, Byron MacGregor/Gordon Sinclair’s “Americans,” peaked at #4 in 1974 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Quarantined in his family’s music room, musician Jacob Collier has been remarkably productive. Known for his polymathic musical talents, Collier has used this time to reflect on, and release new music. His latest song “All I Need,” was created with new technology that let him record remotely with his collaborators Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign. The song is uplifting. It modulates into arcane keys that evoke the euphoria of newfound love. Collier’s also been convening live streams with artists like Tori Kelly and Chris Martin where Collier seemingly defies the laws of physics to collaborate, in time, over long-distance video chat. Collier is a hopeful voice, demonstrating how music can boost our spirits in dark times. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The pandemic has upended the art and business of making music. Producing, performing and releasing — every aspect is new and uncharted. The need for social distancing means that it’s unsafe to collaborate in small studios or perform for large crowds — not to mention finding the right thing to sing about in such a charged moment. We’re telling three stories about how artists are working within these constraints: Ricky Reed and John-Robert have found a way to generate a creative spark remotely, Jacob Collier has defied the laws of physics to master live performance over the internet, and Dua Selah has released a powerful new track that helps support the protests in Minneapolis. Everything is radically different than it was a few months ago, but these stories shine a light on why making music matters more than ever in 2020.  SONGS DISCUSSED Lizzo - Juice John-Robert, Ricky Reed, Zach Sekof - Favorite Boy Bill Withers - Lean On Me performed by Ty Dolla Sign & Jacob Collier Jacob Collier - All I Need D’Angelo - Feel Like Making Love Stevie Wonder - You And I performed by Tori Kelly and Jacob Collier Dua Saleh - Body Cast Dua Saleh - Sugar Mama Dua Saleh - Moth Dua Saleh - Smut Sister Rosetta Tharp - This Little Light Of Mine MORE Watch Nice Live on YouTube: Dua Saleh's "Body Cast" BandCamp campaign: Listen to Dua Saleh's new album Rosetta: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In a Rolling Stone article titled “He Shook The World: George Floyd’s Legendary Houston Legacy”, writer Charles Holmes reveals the musical past of the man who has become an international symbol for justice since his murder. Known as “Big Floyd” in his Houston community, he was part of the city’s Screwed Up Click, a hip-hop collective centered around the now-legendary producer DJ Screw. This underground scene created a style of slowed-down “chopped and screwed” hip-hop that seeped into mainstream hip-hop, and has even been appropriated by bubblegum Top 40. In this episode we unpack how this chopped and screwed sound took over pop and shine a light on George Floyd’s involvement with the Screwed Up Click. MORE Read Charles Holmes’ Rolling Stone article: '”He Shook the World': George Floyd's Legendary Houston Legacy” SONGS DISCUSSED DJ Screw - Sittin On Top Of The World ft. Big Floyd Mike Jones - Still Tippin’ Mikes Jones - Back Then Chamillionaire - Ridin Chamillionaire - Roll Call Paul Wall - Sittin Sidewayz Nelly - Grillz ft Paul Wall Kanye West, Paul Wall - Drive Slow Drake - November 18th A$AP Rocky - Purple Swag The Weeknd - Initiation Beyoncé - Bow Down THE SCOTTS - THE SCOTTS Travis Scott - Sicko Mode Travis Scott - R.I.P. Screw DJ Screw - In The Air Tonight E.S.G. DJ Screw - Swangin and Bangin DJ Screw - Screwed Up Click - Red pt 2 DJ Screw - 3 In The Morning DJ Screw - June 27th Freestyle DJ Screw and Lil’ Keke - Pimpin Tha Pen Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (42)

Yasmine C

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

Feb 17th


nice podcast

Feb 13th

Whitney Rodden

Another great episode.

Feb 5th

Cristofer Dorante

buttcheeks bumping?? 🤣🤣🤣

Jan 15th

Owen Ball

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

Nov 20th

Claudio Rodriguez Valdes


Nov 20th
Reply (1)


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


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

Jul 11th


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

Jun 28th

Seluvaia Po'Uha

great song

Jun 5th

Byron Drake

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

Jun 4th


to wit: fuck no

Jun 2nd

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

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

Whitney Rodden

Cool concept! Another great episode, guys.

Apr 2nd

Whitney Rodden

Post Malone journey LMAO

Mar 28th

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

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

Julie McLaughlin

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

Aug 2nd
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