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Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

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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.

213 Episodes
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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
There is a type of country song that loves flawed characters lost on a winding journey ... likely down a dit road. One of the best songwriters in this style is acclaimed artist Brandy Clark. Her credits include a whose-who of country music—Kacey Musgraves, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Lean Rimes—and her albums have received overwhelming critical acclaim. And her debut record, 12 Stories, earned her a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. We spoke with Brandy about her new album Your Life Is A Record, which asks what if your life’s journey fit on one LP. The songs are honest, and buck the all too familiar pop-country clichés. Clark writes songs about anti-heroes who make imperfect choices (“Who You Thought I Was,” “The Past Is The Past.”) All together her songs portray one whole life.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Keith Urban is a legend of country. He’s been releasing hit records for two decades now. Each album he describes as a portrait of his life in that moment. On his latest work, The Speed Of Now Part 1, has Urban disregarding country convention (as he’s known to do), and collaborating with a diverse roster of musicians who contribute an eclectic array of sounds funk guitar, breakbeat drums and even EDM style programming. The result is less straight ahead country and more the unique sound of Keith Urban. In this conversation, we discuss his music, how he stays creative, and why he believes music can still be a uniting force. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Mickey Guyton spent a decade of fits and starts trying to make a career in country music. But now in recent months she’s having a country music moment releasing vulnerable songs that use her experiences of rejection, exclusion and racism as inspiration. Charlie speaks with Guyton about her breakout songs “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and “Black Like Me,” as well as what it took for her to make it onto one of country musics most beloved stages, the American Country Music Awards. Songs Discussed Mickey Guyton - What Are You Gonna Tell Her Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers - Islands In the Stream Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors Mickey Guyton - Safe (Acoustic) Mickey Guyton - Heartbreak Song Mickey Guyton - Why Baby Why Mickey Guyton - Better Than You Left Me Mickey Guyton - Black Like Me Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Howard and Guy Lawrence, the brothers behind Disclosure, found global acclaim in 2012 with their song “Latch” ft. Sam Smith which blended house and dubstep in a doo-wop time signature. Since, they have collaborated with many of pop’s most sought after vocalists (The Weeknd, Lore and Khalid to name a few) in an ever evolving vision of dance music. On their latest album release, “Energy,” Disclosure channels sounds and samples from the global south. Listen to find out how they make the energy flow.  Survey 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: voxmedia.com/podsurvey.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 Tania Léon, 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 megaphone.fm/adchoices
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 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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