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Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

Author: Vulture

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A podcast all 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.

412 Episodes
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There’s many things to love about Los Angeles: low-rider cars, roadside taco stands, and, come awards season, the omnipresent “For Your Consideration” billboard. Nobody knows this better than lifelong L.A. resident Lorely Rodriguez, also known as Empress Of. The indie-pop darling’s latest record, aptly titled For Your Consideration, is her take on what it means to have your full self considered, in all of its guises. The almost genreless record is so wildly catchy and remarkable in scope (all of the percussion on the record is actually Rodriguez’s voice) that Switched On Pop host Nate Sloan and producer Reanna Cruz had to consider For Your Consideration with Empress Of herself, live in person, in the City of Angels. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Bootsy Collins is, perhaps, the funkiest man of all time. Over the course of his nearly six decade career, Collins has given up the funk in the iconic Parliament Funkadelic, helmed Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and lended his slaparific talents to songs from everybody from James Brown to Dee-Lite to Fatboy Slim. His new album, aptly titled Album of the Year #1 Funkateer, is on the way, so in celebration of his illustrious career, we invited Bootsy Collins – aka Casper the Funky Ghost – onto Switched on Pop to reminisce on some of his greatest hits. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
There is no contemporary pop music without Nile Rodgers. Born in 1952, Rodgers grew up playing classical music on flute and clarinet before picking up jazz guitar. And at age 20, alongside bass player Bernard Edwards, Rodgers formed the band Chic. They wrote the biggest disco hits of the 70s, like: “Dance Dance Dance,” “Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak," and "Good TImes," which formed the core of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper's Delight”. In his music career spanning six decades, Rodgers has produced and played on some of the biggest pop songs in history, for artists like Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk, and Beyoncé. He is also the chair of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, so with the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony taking place this June, we invited him onto Switched on Pop to talk about the making of a great song. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
There's no music writer like the essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib: whether he's narrating the beautiful awkwardness of a Carly Rae Jepsen concert or talking jazz and eastern spirituality with Andre 3000, he manages to coax stories and insights out of songs in a way that never fails to surprise. His latest book, There's Always This Year, is a free flowing meditation on basketball, childhood, his home state of Ohio, and of course, music – so on the precipice of the NBA finals, Hanif returns to Switched On Pop to discuss classic soul, sports, and sound with musicologist Nate Sloan. You can buy Hanif's work through his website here. Songs discussed: Boyz II Men, "On Bended Knee" Otis Redding, "My Girl" The Temptations, "My Girl" Joy Oladokun, "My Girl" Stevie Wonder, "My Girl" Stevie Wonder, "Knocks Me Off My Feet" Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, "Challengers: Match Point" Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
On her latest album, Taylor Swift “declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” No one was more surprised by this than Charlie Puth himself: the singer, pianist, and songwriter whose career has always straddled pop stardom and behind the scenes anonymity. After three albums, billions of streams, and numerous songwriting credits – including one on the award-winning number one track “Stay” from the Kid Laroi – Puth has been busier than ever. His new song “Hero” comes on the heels of the Swift mention, and takes him in a new direction, with acoustic guitars and hushed, contemplative vocals. On the heels of this song’s release, Nate sat down with Charlie Puth himself at Conway Studios in Hollywood to discuss the new track, aided by a piano and all of “Hero”’s isolated stems. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
On Billie Eilish’s third album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, Eilish finally graduates from her signature anti-pop persona into full blown pop stardom. This record finds Eilish experimenting on the themes from her earlier records, while crafting an economic ten tracks that position themselves for mainstream radio consumption. There’s “L’amour de ma vie,” her five-and-a-half minute beat-switching eulogy for a failed relationship, or “Birds Of A Feather,” where she contrasts the soft, dreamy melodies we’ve come to know Eilish for with hauntingly dark lyrical content. This duality is a recurring motif throughout Hit Me Hard and Soft, with each song offering a unique blend of vulnerability and strength. These tracks, along with the rest of the album, develop a satisfying and diverse creative arc that speaks to the album’s title: they hit both hard and soft. This week’s episode of Switched On Pop explores Eilish’s new record track by track, unpacking the sonic duality of her new sound. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
When you go out for a meal, it’s not just what's on your plate that matters, it's what's in your eardrums, too. From dining rooms so loud you have to shout to be heard, to playlists that sound like a generic Millennial Spotify account, it's not surprising that sound is the single most complained about aspect of restaurants. A few years ago, Charlie and Nate explored this in an episode on restaurant playlists. This week, they joined Cynthia and Nicky on their show Gastropod to help them explore the science behind the sonic experience of eating. Are restaurants really getting louder, and, if so, why? What does it take to create the perfect acoustic environment for dining? Can restaurateurs design their playlists to make customers order more or eat faster? Listen in now for the secrets to culinary acoustic bliss – and check out Cynthia and Nicky's guest spot on our episode of Switched On Pop. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Where were you when you learned that the McDonald's jingle "I'm lovin' it" was originally part of a full-fledged pop song by Justin Timberlake and Pharrell that flopped on the charts but found staying power as a slogan? For us, it was recording our live episode about sponsored content in pop back in March 2024, and we have not been the same since. Shaken by this revelation, we found ourselves asking, "What else don't we know about fast food jingles?" Turns out, it's a lot. From Taco Bell to Popeye's to Chili's, the music of fast food represent some of the most familiar melodies in society, across state lines and generations. But the stories behind those songs, and the way that fast food production and pop music production often move in parallel, was something we never saw coming once. Since we are music experts but amateur foodies, we invited the brilliant hosts of Eater's Gastropod podcast, Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley, to help serve up the history of fast food and its changing role in culture. Tune in and pig out with us as we listen and debate the artistic and ethical implications of the sounds of fast food. More Check out more episodes of Gastropod Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Tongue twisters that mock techno-optimism and cite critical theory don’t usually make for catchy song lyrics. But indie rocker Rosie Tucker’s Utopia Now! finds beauty in the dross of late capitalism. Over 13 songs backed by distorted guitars and blazing drum fills, Tucker’s searing vocals bemoan the inherent dislocation of our modern world while searching for moments of truth and human connection. The night before Tucker embarked on a tour, Nate visited their home studio to speak to them about the inspirations behind their latest album. Although it deals with “big” topics, Tucker stressed that it all comes back to the individual and that the world we have reflects the world we make. “I am trying to reckon with both processing personal resentment,” they told Nate, “and recognizing my own role in my own misery.” Songs Discussed: Rosie Tucker - All My Exes Live In Vortexes, Lightbulb, Paperclip Maximizer, Unending Bliss Erik Satie - Gymnopedie No 1 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
It’s that time of year again when the entirety of Europe (and a few other countries) come together to celebrate kitschy, bombastic songwriting through the Eurovision Song Contest! This year’s competition, held in Malmo, Sweden, features everything from rave-pop on behalf of the Netherlands, to folk-rapping hybrids courtesy of Ukraine – and Charlie and Nate are here to musicologically unpack the craziest tracks that have the potential to win it all.  For more on the controversy surrounding this year’s contest, check out Charlie’s appearance on Vox’s podcast Today, Explained. Songs discussed: Joost – Europapa Angelina Mango – La noia alyona alyona, Jerry Heil – Teresa & Maria Nemo – The Code Baby Lasagna – Rim Tim Tagi Dim Windows95Man – No Rules! Kaleen – We Will Rave Olly Alexander – Dizzy Bambie Thug – Doomsday Blue Ladaniva – Jako Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of the French electronic duo Justice speak with cohost Charlie Harding about their new album Hyperdrama. Song Discussed Justice - Phantom Pt II, D.A.N.C.E., Neveender, New Jack, Genesis, Horsepower, Civilization, One Night-All Night, Dear Alan, Incognito, Moonlight Rendez-vous, Audio Video Disco, Afterimage, The End, Generator, Pleasure The Who - My Generation The White Stripes - Black Math The Human League - Human John Carpenter - Night Serge Gainsourg & Jane Birkin - Je T’aime… moi non plus Michel Berger - Le Paradis Blanc Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You Chaka Khan - Fate Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The beginning of 2024 has brought new music aplenty. Some big releases are in the form of big-ticket albums by the world’s biggest superstars (shoutout Taylor and Beyoncé); some are in the form of soon-to-be radio-friendly staples (we love you, "Espresso"); and some are in the form of personal earworms (Justice! Rosie Tucker! Dua!). This episode of Switched on Pop, we take a look at the records that we can’t stop listening to from the past few months, from Metro Boomin to Kacey Musgraves to Willow Smith.  Songs discussed:  Metro Boomin, Future, Kendrick Lamar – Like That J Cole – 7 Minute Drill Drake – Push Ups Rick Ross – Champagne Moments WILLOW – Big Feelings Hozier – Too Sweet Sabrina Carpenter – Espresso Justice, Tame Impala – One Night/All Night Justice – Generator Rosie Tucker – All My Exes Live In Vortexes Lizzy McAlpine – I Guess Kacey Musgraves – Too Good To Be True Maggie Rogers – The Kill Dua Lipa – Illusion Kacey Musgraves – Deeper Well Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, finds the songwriter in the world of literature. She interweaves personal romance with mythical creation and quotations from high and low culture: Genesis, Peter Pan and even Playstation. Despite calling herself a "modern idiot," less-than-subtle nods to Sylvia Plath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dylan Thomas, and Patti Smith reveal the artist’s literary aspirations and “legendary” status. The full length Anthology version contains a bookshelf of many genres: pulp fiction, diary entries, period pieces, epic poems, and her very own genre, Taylor Swift. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Lost Notes by KCRW explores how Fela Kuti’s time in LA in 1969 was instrumental in the creation of his legendary Afrobeat sound. Hosted by Michael Barnes and Novena Carmel. Find a full transcript of Lost Notes at KCRW. And subscribe to the show. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
There are few artists pushing the boundaries of their respective genres like Maryland rapper Rico Nasty and German-Iraqi electronic producer Boys Noize. The two have run in the same circles for over half a decade, but their joint collaboration has reached an apex with their three song EP, HARDC0RE DR3AMZ, a dance-floor ready project that owes as much to Berlin techno as it does to Dutch gabber music. Rico and Boys Noize – a.k.a. Alexander Ridha – are also incredible friends with a lot of love for one another, and for producer Reanna Cruz, all of these reasons make the duo’s EP one of the best projects of the year. On the heels of Berlin techno being added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage for Germany, Reanna sat down with Rico and Alex for this episode of Switched on Pop. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Joe Keery is best known for his acting roles, such as the reformed jock Steve Harrington in "Stranger Things" and his chilling performance in season 5 of "Fargo." But he's also a spectacular musician. Rising through the Chicago music scene in college, he has self-released two albums under the moniker 'Djo.' His latest work, "Decide" from 2022, serves as a coming-of-age story and a meditation on navigating modern life. Despite strong initial reviews, the album only gained widespread attention two years later when its breakout hit "End of Beginning" became a soundtrack for youthful nostalgia on TikTok, casting Keery as an accidental pop star. Joe Keery joined "Switched On Pop" to discuss the creation and significance of "Decide." Sign up for the Switched On Pop Newsletter Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Beyoncé's Cowboy Carter is her foray into country music, but this isn't just dirt roads, blue jeans and whiskey. Her country music distills all of American pop: blues, gospel, R&B, soul, house, hip-hop and yes, country. If this ain't country, what is? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Hip-hop is in a weird place right now. Research says that the genre, in both streaming and chart performance, has declined over the last decade. And while rap artists can still get number one songs on the Hot 100, it’s a far cry from the peak of trap circa 2017, when Nielsen data named hip-hop as the most popular genre in the U.S. So what does that mean for the future of rap? To find out, producer Reanna Cruz spent all weekend reporting from Inglewood, CA, at the California edition of the world’s largest hip-hop festival: Rolling Loud. Through talking to attendees and catching the weekend’s hottest sets, they learned about the current state of hip-hop – the good and the bad – as well as what the future may hold. To read Reanna’s highs and lows from the festival, check out their Vulture article here.  Special thanks to Antonio Cruz for his production help on this episode. Songs Discussed: OsamaSon – Pop Nicki Minaj – BARBIE DANGEROUS ¥$, Kanye West, & Ty Dolla $ign – EVERYBODY (live) ¥$, Kanye West, & Ty Dolla $ign – BACK TO ME (live) Junior H – Y LLORO Natanael Cano – Pacas de Billetes Fuerza Regida – Enculado That Mexican OT, Lefty SM – Barrio (with Lefty SM) That Mexican OT – Cowboy Killer (live) KenTheMan – Not My N**** – Extended KenTheMan – Poppin Sh!t KenTheMan – Keep Going (live) Kaliii – Area Codes Action Bronson & Statik Selektah – Respect the Moustache Drake, SZA, & Sexyy Red – Rich Baby Daddy (live) Sexyy Red, Sukihana – Born By the River (feat. Sukihana) Sexyy Red, Chief Keef – Skee Yee (live) Nettspend – shine n peace (live) Nettspend – deftones snippet (live) Matt Ox – Overwhelming Nettspend – What they say SOPHIE – BIPP Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
What do Duke Ellington, United Airlines, and the K Pop group Red Velvet share in common? They've all covered George Gershwin's piano concerto, Rhapsody in Blue. First premiered in 1924, the piece became an immediate hit for the way it blended American jazz with the European symphonic tradition. Gershwin had a number of successes as a composer in his day—his aria "Summertime" from the opera Porgy and Bess is by some measures the most covered song ever—but the staying power of the Rhapsody make it a rare instrumental piece that's instantly familiar. Maybe too familiar. In 2024, there will be many centennial performances of this iconic piece, but pianist Lara Downes wanted to do something more than just the sound the notes of Gershwin's score for the umpteenth time. Downes commissioned Puerto Rican musician Edmar Colon to create a new version of Gershwin's composition, one that brought in the full spectrum of American life in 1924: fiery improvisation, Latin percussion, and dance rhythms. The resultant piece both pays tribute to an American icon while adding a new set of modern counterpoint. Nate sat down with Lara to ask her if she was nervous to rewrite such a canonic piece, why a concerto is like a musical kaleidoscope, and the surprising family connection to Gershwin's musical world she discovered while researching Rhapsody in Blue. Songs Discussed George Gershwin, Lara Downes, Edmar Colon - Rhapsody in Blue Reimagined Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue Gershwin - 3 Preludes: II. Andante con moto e poco rubato Sarah Vaughan - Nice Work if You can Get It Sam Cooke - Summertime Chet Baker - But not For ME Louis Armstrong - Aint Misbehavin Ella Fitzgerald - Blue Skies Red Velvet - Birthday Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sidestep the gossip and focus on the music in Ariana Grande’s latest album Eternal Sunshine. The music is an exercise in nostalgia: 70s Disco, 90s R&B, and 00s pop and dance music. As she moves through the musical past, her lyrics tear through past relationship. But its the way her lyrics interweave with the deft melodies and harmonies that reveal the meaning of the record.  Sign up for the Switched On Pop Newsletter Songs Discussed Ariana Grande - Eternal Sunshine, Bye, Don’t Wanna Break Up Again, True Story, The Boy Is Mine, We Can’t Be Friends, Imperfect For You Isaac Hayes - Theme From Shaft Barry White - Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe Britney Spears - Oops I Did It Again, Gimme More Brandy, Monica - The Boy Is Mine Aaliyah - Are You That Somebody Ginuwine - Pony Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend, Show Me Love Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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Comments (56)

H

I love this podcast and both the hosts but this episode was super annoying.

May 5th
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H

Bring the other host back. This is so stupid.

Mar 25th
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Antonio Brown

so happy for your episode. just listened to this song and then opened up my podcast app (castbox) to see the song and group featured!

Nov 9th
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H

Such an amazing album, truly ✨

Nov 1st
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H

Human? Of all the songs to pick. Wow.

Sep 3rd
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Evan Parker

After the pandemic was over, the first thing I did was buy a ticket to a music festival because I'm a huge fan, and the atmosphere there is fantastic. I try to attend every festival I find, even if I haven't heard of the bands before, and it's still an amazing experience. I managed to find many great artists that way, and thanks to https://ww.mp3juice.link , it's not that hard for me to listen to them even if they don't upload their songs on streaming services.

Jun 7th
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Em H.

jfc why title it BTS when you spend 90% of it talking about other kpop groups? especially when a lot of aspects mentioned about the big3 don't even apply to BTS

Oct 23rd
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Heather YyY

Love them so much. So talented

Oct 1st
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Rui Pedro Pereira

This is very stupid. The truth is, unless you copy the same "song"/lyrics, there shouldn't be any copyright ownership.

Sep 21st
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Heather YyY

More music. Less talking. Most annoying guest.

Aug 14th
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Simona Hristova

Can you, please, talk about Marina (fka Marina and the diamonds)? Her most recent work is particularly interesting, and something worth exploring on a deeper level. Her lyricism is really what stands out. She has one of the rarest writing styles in the industry.

Apr 21st
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Rui Pedro Pereira

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

Nov 20th
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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
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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
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Yasmine C

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

Feb 17th
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kondgeo

nice podcast

Feb 13th
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Whitney Rodden

Another great episode.

Feb 5th
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Cristofer Dorante

buttcheeks bumping?? 🤣🤣🤣

Jan 15th
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Owen Ball

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

Nov 20th
Reply