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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.

253 Episodes
CHVRCHES is well-known for their comprehensive use of synthesizers and their updated take on “synthpop”, a subgenre of pop we most closely associated with the 1980s. While gearing up to make their second album in 2015, CHVRCHES members Iain Cook and Martin Doherty spent much of the recording budget buying up many of the original synthesizers used to make those iconic 80s dance tracks. Contemporary replicas of those synth sounds are now commonplace with pop acts like Dua Lipa and The Weeknd. But CHVRCHES has been wielding these sounds for more than a decade, and their newest project is a great reminder of how closely we link that synth sound with not just to a bygone era, but specifically to the eerie sound of horror film.  Screen Violence is their new album. It draws inspiration from classic horror films like John Carpenter's Halloween. With its horror frame, the lyrics explore dark themes, like the violent online abuse CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry has endured for much of the band’s existence, a hyper consciousness of her own mortality brought on by that abuse, and fears of losing her grip on reality. Switched On Pop’s co-host Charlie Harding spoke with Lauren, Ian, Martin from CHVRCHES about the making and meaning of Screen Violence. MORE Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry: 'I will not accept online misogyny' SONGS DISCUSSED CHVRCHES - Never Ending Circles Dua Lipa - Physical The Weeknd - Blinding Lights CHVRCHES - California CHVRCHES - Lullabies CHVRCHES - Final Girl CHVRCHES - Violent Delights CHVRCHES - He Said She Said CHVRCHES - Asking For A Friend  John Carpenter - Halloween Theme Suspiria - Markos John Carpenter - Christine John Carpenter - Turning The Bones (CHVRCHES Remix) CHVRCHES - Good Girls (John Carpenter remix) CHVRHCES - How Not To Down (with Robert Smith) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
On August 27th Big Red Machine, the joint musical project of Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner - artists known for their work as Bon Iver and in the rock band The National, respectively - returned with new music. You’ve most definitely heard Dessner’s production work elsewhere, like on Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums evermore and folklore. The Big Red Machine album, titled How Long Do You Think it's Going to Last, celebrates the fruits of creative partnership and the importance of family and community. At least, that’s what we took from our conversation with Dessner. “A lot of my favorite music - usually there's something elusive about it, in that whatever is elusive is coming from this weird cocktail of different people's input. There's just this weird, swampy alchemy, and you can't easily put your finger on why it's so moving.”  Dessner told us he draws much of his creative inspiration from the kinetic energy generated by multiple musical brains working in tandem, which makes sense given the list of features on this album - everyone from Swift to Sharon van Etten to Anaïs Mitchell to The Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold. “I'm such a born collaborator. I'm definitely interested in this exchange where you make something and you send it out into the ether and then it comes back slightly changed or radically changed. Then you work on it and send it again. I like this handoff, this communal approach to music making.” The musical collective fostered by Vernon and Dessner on How Long Do You Think It's Going to Last is a testament to the power of musical communities in a year of intense isolation. We’re so pleased to bring you Nate’s conversation with Aaron Dessner in this week’s episode. Songs Discussed Big Red Machine - Birch, feat. Taylor Swift Big Red Machine - Phoenix, feat. Fleet Foxes & Anaïs Mitchell Big Red Machine - Magnolia Big Red Machine - Renegade, feat. Taylor Swift Big Red Machine - Mimi, feat. Ilsey Big Red Machine - The Ghost of Cincinnati Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Recently the hosts of Switched on Pop kept seeing the same byline next to their favorite pieces of music writing. A moving profile of Bad Bunny? There was the name. A searing critique of West Side Story? There it was again. An elegy on love, loss, and an Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson duet? By now it was committed to memory: writer and translator Carina del Valle Schorske. So we knew we had to invite Carina to participate in our Modern Classics series and learn what this brilliant writer would place in her modern pop pantheon.  Carina’s pick, the 2012 song “Manhattan” by Cat Power, presents an opportunity to analyze an artist we’ve never discussed on the show before, and a song that sparks associations with New York City’s rich musical history. Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, released “Manhattan” on her 2012 album Sun, and the song—on which Marshall recorded every instrument herself—has become an unlikely sleeper hit in the Cat Power catalog. Perhaps that’s because, as Carina tells it, the song is a celebration and elegy at once, trying to capture the beat of a city that is constantly in flux, but with an inescapable iconicity.  “Manhattan” isn’t the only piece of urban musical alchemy Carina brought to the show. Cat Power’s ode to the borough syncs up in surprising ways with the 1978 salsa track by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades, “Buscando Guayaba.” Together, the songs stake out a twisting path across genre, time, and language, but along on the same streets. Songs Discussed Cat Power - Manhattan Rubén Blades and Willie Colón - Buscando Guayaba, Pedro Navaja Ella Fitzgerald - Manhattan Stevie Wonder - Livin’ for the City Alicia Keys and Jay Z - Empire State of Mind Check out Carina’s profile of Bad Bunny, her essay on Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, and more writing at her website. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
For the past two weeks, our series on summer music festivals has uncovered the interplay of festival fashion and music and examined festival subcultures. But we've so far overlooked an essential reason that people attend music festivals: to experience transformational joy. At the start of summer 2021 it seemed like the pandemic was waning and that live music was coming back. But now, heading into the fall with the Delta variant, the fate of live music is once again in question. Caught in this limbo, we thought it might be a good time to get nostalgic and reflect on joyous music festival moments as we hope for more live music in the future.  This week's episode features seven stories from listeners about their most surprising and wonderful moments at festivals past. The first story comes from musician and producer Dave Harrington of the band Darkside, who was once helped out of a musical rut by a Phish festival set Songs Phish (live Aug 4, 2017) - Everything In Its Right Place, Axis Bold As Love, Prince Caspian Darkside - Only Young Music scored by Zach Tenorio of Arc Iris Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Gathering of the Juggalos is the music festival centered around the rap duo Insane Clown Posse. Their songs are hyper-violent and profane; their stage show features grotesque clown makeup and blasting the audience with their favorite drink, Faygo soda; and their fandom has even been designated by the FBI as a loosely organized gang. Musically, they’ve historically been rejected by critics: The Guardian has called them “a magnet for ignorance;” Allmusic has called them a “third rate Beastie Boys,” and Blender called them “the worst band in music.” Nate became fascinated with them after watching the 2011 documentary American Juggalo — that’s when he realized that there’s more to Insane Clown Posse and its fans than he previously thought.  For the second episode of our summer festival series, we dig into the sound of Insane Clown Posse to ask: Is their music really as bad and offensive as all the critics say? What is the general public missing that ICP’s fans are hearing? To answer these questions, we talk to Nathan Rabin, the author of You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music's Most Maligned Tribes, and 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, the Gathering of the Juggalos and The Summer Everything Went Insane. Songs Discussed Insane Clown Posse - House of Horrors, Hokus Pokus, My Axes, F*** the World, Miracles, Down with the Clown Esham - The Wicketshit Will Never Die Eminem - Stay Wide Awake More Check out more of Nathan Rabin's writing Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The co-hosts of The Cut, Jazmin Aguilera and B.A. Parker, think deeply and incisively about fashion. For this special episode of Switched on Pop — the first in our three-part miniseries about summer festivals — we invited the hosts of The Cut, Jazmin Aguilera and B.A. Parker, as our honorary co-hosts to help us break down the connections between festival fashion, music, and culture. With the additional help of Dr. Lorynn Divita, Associate Professor of Apparel Merchandising at Baylor University, we dissect the commercialization of festival fashion, and how it could lead to some festival goers feeling alienated from the musical experience they love. And, of course, we all discuss the iconic looks -- and performances -- of two of the most quintessential music festivals: Woodstock and Coachella. MORE 3 Days of Peace & Music & Fashion : A History of Festival Dress from Woodstock to Coachella Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mark Ronson has a CV too long to list here. Suffice to say he’s a musician who’s worked with everyone from Amy Winehouse to Lady Gaga to Dua Lipa, has one of the highest selling singles of all time with Bruno Mars in “Uptown Funk,” and has been making just really good music since the turn of the millennium. He’s also the presenter of one of our all time favorite TED talks on the history of sampling, and he’s been continuing that journey of musical curiosity with the Apple TV show “Watch The Sound,” which explores the untold stories behind music creation and the lengths producers and creators are willing to go to find the perfect sound, and the FADER Uncovered Podcast, where he interviews artists ranging from David Byrne to HAIM. Today, Mark is the guest for another episode of Modern Classics, in which he brings Ginuwine’s classic 90s jam “Pony,” produced by Timbaland and Static Major, as an example of the ways that innovation and radical experimentation undergird even the biggest of pop smashes.  Songs Discussed Ginuwine - Pony Rakim - Juice (Know the Ledge) Mobb Deep - Shook Ones Part II Notorious B.I.G. - Juicy Aaliyah - Are You That Somebody? 10cc - I’m Not in Love Shangri-Las - Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand) Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson - Valerie Paul McCartney - Get Enough Usher - Climax Beatles - Maxwell’s Silver Hammer Stevie Wonder - You Are the Sunshine of My Life Cher - Believe Gang Starr - Work Nikka Costa - Like a Feather Stevie Wonder - Superstition Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We’ve been wanting to speak with Jack Antonoff since we started Switched On Pop back in 2014. We've had countless hours of conversation sound tracked to his productions with artists like Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Ray starting in just our second episode. When we wrote a book about 21st century pop, we devoted a chapter to the song “We Are Young” by his band, Fun.   And so we're excited to finally sit down with him to hear about how he approaches his own work. He has a new album out with his band Bleachers called Take the Sadness out of Saturday Night. And for our series on Summer Hits, we wanted to start our conversation with Jack Antonoff about the song “Stop Making this Hurt.” More Episodes ft. words or music by Jack Antonoff Chained to the Green Light: Katy Perry + Lorde The Oeuvre of Taylor Swift folklore: taylor swift's quarantine dream "evermore" of a good thing Total Request Live! Taylor, Lana, Kim, and More (with Sam Sanders) Song of Summer 2020: TikTok Jams, Protest Anthems, Breezy Bops & Bummer Bangers Carly Rae Jepsen: Meeting The Muse Songs Discussed Bleachers - Chinatown (feat. Bruce Springsteen) Bleachers - How Dare You Want More Bleachers - Secret Life Bleachers - Stop Making This Hurt Bleachers - What'd I Do With All This Faith? Bruce Springsteen - Jungleland Dexys Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen Fleetwood Mac - Bleed to Love Her (Live at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA 52397) Fleetwood Mac - Bleed to Love Her Lana Del Rey - Mariners Apartment Complex Television - 1880 Or So The Strokes - New York City Cops Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In this installment of Modern Classics we speak to the amazing four-time Grammy Nominee musician, singer and songwriter Yola about her new record, Stand For Myself, and how hearing Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” and all its references to 1970s funk encouraged Yola to unlock her own unprecedented mix of symphonic soul and classic pop. As Yola tells it, it’s not just a sound from the past that she’s conjuring, it’s a sense of possibility. The way that progenitors like Funkadelic, Minnie Ripperton, and the O'Jays combined political protest with deep grooves, what Yola calls “the Mary Poppins philosophy of music” (the groove being the spoonful of sugar to help the socially-conscious medicine go down). With this marriage of sound and statement, Yola makes retro sounds relevant again, as on the title track “Stand For Myself,” where she uses throwback slap bass, fuzz guitar, and orchestral strings to craft a distinctly modern messages about her identity as a Black woman, cultural allyship, and UK politics. Also, why she likes mixes that sound like they have a “big old booty.” Songs Discussed Yola - Stand For Myself, Diamond Studded Shoes, Starlight, Barely Alive, Be My Friend, If I Had to Do it All Again Childish Gambino - Redbone, Riot Bootsy Collins - I’d Rather Be With You Funkadelic - Can You Get to That The O’Jays - Back Stabbers Queen Latifah - U.N.I.T.Y. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
L’Rain is the musical persona of singer and multi-instrumentalist Taja Cheek, whose new album, Fatigue, begins with a lyrical quandary: “What have you done to change?” What follows is a journey of self-discovery, the songs interwoven with home recordings of practicing piano, clapping games, and everyday life. The first full length song, “Find It,” repeats the mantra “Make a way out of no way,” looking for a path out of darkness. An unexpected sample of a preacher at a friend’s funeral service — recorded with permission by L’Rain — interrupts the chant promising that “Good days outweigh my bad days.” But L’Rain doesn’t provide quick solutions for making change. Rather, she takes us on a journey that evades easy understanding. By avoiding conventional structures, L’Rain asks the listener to lean in close to the music. The sounds are at times unsettling — on “Blame Me,” the guitar warbles in and out of tune — though the uncomfortable moments are blanketed over on songs such as “Take Two,” where warm synthesizers mix with angelic voices. The melodic hooks and captivating rhythms on “Suck Teeth” reveal L’Rain’s command over the experimental work — she is meticulous about building layers of sound on her many instruments. Had L’Rain pursued a more traditional style of songwriting, or further fleshed out Fatigue’s catchiest moments, the record might be an easier listen — but not as rewarding. Instead, its undulating moods and nonlinearity mirror the unpredictability of human emotion and the up-and-down nature of personal change. To help decipher this album, Switched On Pop’s Charlie Harding spoke with L’Rain at JBL’s flagship store in Soho in front of a live audience.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
One of the songs we anticipate playing on repeat this summer is “Twerkulator” by Miami rap duo City Girls. It’s a track with enough sonic energy to power a small town, but that’s not all we dig. The song’s music includes a chain of samples that stretch back through pop music history—from 1990s house, to 1980s electro, to 1970s German krautrock—and poses an implicit challenge to some of hip hop’s most problematic figures. Meanwhile, the lyrics celebrate a tradition of movement that’s as culturally important as its controversial To break down the manifold cultural dimensions of twerking we welcome a very special guest: Kyra Gaunt, ethnomusicolgist and author of the forthcoming book “Twerking at the Intersection of Music, Sexual Violence, and Patriarchy on YouTube,” who explains why twerking is not what you think it is (and why the Oxford English Dictionary got it wrong). Songs Discussed City Girls - Twerkulator, Twerk (featuring Cardi B) Cajmere - Percolator Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock Kraftwerk - Numbers, Trans-Europe Express Juicy J featuring A$AP Rocky - Scholarship More Dr. Kyra Gaunt's TED Talk and her brilliant book, The Games Black Girls Play Estelle Caswell's Video, "The Sound that Connects Stravinsky to Bruno Mars" Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Lorde's new song "Solar Power" set the internet ablaze when it dropped from out of nowhere in June. Some fans found the song to be a buoyant departure from Lorde's last release, Melodrama, while others thought the track felt half-baked. On top of that, listeners questioned the song's provenance — had Lorde cribbed too closely from 90s hitmakers like Primal Scream and George Michael? To listen closely to "Solar Power" and unpack its polarizing sounds, we needed to speak to someone with an unerring ear and a razor-sharp mind: the author, poet, and host of Object of Sound, Hanif Abdurraqib. Hanif knows Lorde's catalog like the back of his hand, and he's got feelings about this latest release. But he also offers a word of caution: wait for the album before reserving judgment! Hanif doesn't just take us deep into "Solar Power," though, he helps us get philosophical on some trenchant musical questions, including: What is a summer song, anyway? Where's the line between stealing and inspiration? And most importantly, does Lorde's track end six minutes too early?? Songs Discussed: Lorde - Solar Power, Royals, Liability, Green Light, The Louvre Nick Drake - Bryter Layter Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil Roxy Music - In Every Dream Home a Heartache Primal Scream - Loaded George Michael - Freedom! '90, Faith Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley More Check out Hanif Abdurraqib's podcast Object of Sound Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Olivia Rodrigo’s summer breakup anthem “good 4 u” is filled with the kind of ebullient angst that makes us want to spontaneously dance around our house and belt the lyrics out with abandon. Whether it’s the creeping baseline that pulls us in, or the cathartic release of the chorus, we can’t get enough of this track. And we’re not alone, it seems. The song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and like its predecessor “Driver’s License,” has fueled and been fueled by viral TikTok memes that helped solidify the song’s position among 2021’s summer jams.  Those TikTok memes range in format, but tend to play off of one unavoidable observable of Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” - just how beautifully it syncs up with Paramore’s 2007 pop-punk “Misery Business.” The two songs share some of the most common building blocks in pop music, from their 4, 1, 5, 6, chord progression to the opening note of their choruses. Those links have led critics and fans alike to wonder aloud if “good 4 u” indicates the emo-slash-pop punk revival we discussed back in May is here to stay.  In the second installment of our Summer Hits series, producer Megan Lubin goes searching for the musical roots of Rodrigo’s ebullient angst, and uncovers two histories - the first is the sound of emo as it branched off of punk music in the 1980s, and the second is of women raging on the microphone through time, from the blues to country, to Olivia’s chart-topping confessional.  Lubin gets help from the rock critic Jessica Hopper, who reminds us of emo’s gendered origins: “It became prescriptive. The narrative was always girls were bad and they never had names” and takes us on a journey through Rodrigo’s rage-full forebears. We’re still thinking about her lines about women in pop and the boxes we try to put them in. “People just need to stop trying to draw it back to something that a man did before, and realize that teenage women have completely remade the landscape of top 40 pop in the last 15 years.” More: Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection Of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic Helen Reddington “The Forgotten Revolution of Female Punk Musicians in the 1970s” nikjaay’s “misery 4 u” mashup Music Olivia Rodrigo - good 4 u Paramore - Misery Business Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the U.K. The Clash - London Calling Minor Threat - Straight Edge Rites of Spring - Drink Deep Dashboard Confessional - Screaming Infidelities Bessie Smith - Devil’s Gonna Git You Nina Simone - Break Down and Let it All Out Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know Miranda Lambert - Mama’s Broken Heart Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Modern Classics is the new series where Charlie and Nate invite their favorite musicians, journalists, and friends of the show to wax lyrical about a song that's important in their life. In the first installment of Modern Classics, Nate and Charlie sit down with the host of NPR’s hit news and culture program It’s Been a Minute, Sam Sanders. Sam is one of the best people to talk music with, not only because he has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the entertainment world, but because as a former music major he’s got knowledge for days. That knowledge makes Sam the perfect person to explain why Labrinth’s 2019 track “Sexy MF” might be one of the hidden gems of contemporary pop, a song that he hears as “fun and fantastical with all these wonderful tricks and bells and whistles.” Nate and Charlie had never heard “Sexy MF” before Sam brought it to them, and were immediately hooked by the song’s copious ear candy: sly references to Prince and James Brown, death-defying vocal harmonies, all scaffolded atop an indomitable piano groove. Labrinth, aka Timothy Lee McKenzie, is a U.K. singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who released his first single in 2010. Since then he’s gone on to compose the score for the hit TV show Euphoria, collaborated with Sia and Diplo as L.S.D., and worked with Beyoncé on the live-action Lion King soundtrack. Labrinth has racked up massive streaming numbers with tracks like “Jealous” and “Thunderclouds,” but “Sexy MF” is more of what one might call a “deep cut.” If you haven’t heard it yet, like Sam, you might find that it’s one you’ll play “perhaps a thousand times” after your first listen. Songs discussed Labrinth - Sexy MF, Still Don’t Know my Name, Mount Everest, Misbehaving Prince - Sexy M.F. James Brown - Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine) Lauryn Hill - Doo Wop (That Thing) Paul Anka - Put Your Head on my Shoulder Beach Boys - God Only Knows Harry Nilsson - Gotta Get Up Foreigner - Cold As Ice Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg - Still D.R.E. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Growing up is never easy. But pop songs about adolescence too often gloss over the complicated moments. The “teenage dream” archetype is just a pop culture fantasy. And no one really wants to be 17 forever.  On her new album “Home Video,” Lucy Dacus talks about youthful growing pains. She remembers the uncomfortable moments. Dacus says that “a lot of childhood is crisis mode… you get pushed around by the world and the rules that are set for you.” Her songs examine unequal power relationships between parents and friends and lovers.  On the lighter side, the album opens up with “Hot And Heavy,” which takes us back to the scene of an early romantic encounter on a basement sofa, red faced and awkward. But by the next song, “Christine,” the amorous feelings fade: “He can be nice, sometimes / Other nights, you admit he's not what you had in mind.” Bad dads, bible camp indoctrination, and perpetual peer pressure all take the stage in Dacus’ coming of age album.  Dacus says that writing about those years is “a process of extorting control over things that I didn’t have control over at the time.” With untethered teenage dreams safely behind her, Dacus now gets to reclaim the meaning of youth: “I am the narrator of my own life so I get to say what this meant.” Songs Discussed Lucy Dacus - Night Shift Frank Zappa - Sharleena boygenius - Souvenir Lukas Graham - 7 Years Kendrick Lamar - Beyonce Justin Bieber - Baby Mandy Moore - Fifteen Hilary Duff - Sweet Sixteen The Beatles - When I'm Sixty Four ABBA - Dancing Queen Sound of Music - Sixteen Going On Seventeen Avril Lavigne - 17 Kings Of Leon - 17 Lake Street Dive - Seventeen Sharon Van Etten - Seventeen Alessia Cara - Seventeen Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen Janis Ian - At Seventeen More Playlist of coming of age songs  Study on songs that references age Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In summer 2020, BTS released “Dynamite,” their first single recorded entirely in English. The song shot up the charts, became one of the most successful YouTube videos in history, and won over pop radio, which had stubbornly refused to play their songs in Korean. Now, in summer 2021, BTS have topped themselves again with “Butter,” yet another English-language bop that melts like … well, you get it. BTS member Jimin told Variety that they wanted to make an “easy-listening,” fun song, and it arrived as a much-needed distraction from the interminable global pandemic. With everyone constrained by travel restrictions, the song was written over WhatsApp, a collaboration achieved via text and voice notes sent between South Korea and the U.S. Jenna Andrews, one of the songwriters, says the track went through at least 50 rewrites to reach perfection. The final single is a tightly produced, less than three-minute song in which every moment is a hook. It shifts nostalgically from ’80s Prince to ’90s Michael Jackson through 2000s EDM, each second highlighting BTS’s musical savvy and distinctive vocal performance. In our kick-off episode of Switched on Pop’s Summer Hits series, Andrews spoke about how she worked with BTS to craft this song remotely and map out every throwback reference. In the second half of the episode, we speak with Bora, a prominent BTS translator who presents the case for why we should hear “Butter” as the first step down the BTS rabbit hole, especially into their Korean-language discovery. Songs Discussed BTS - Butter, Dynamite, Silver Spoon, Dope, Dis-ease Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal, Rock With You, Man In The Mirror, Remember The Time, Bad  Usher - “U Got It Bad” Daft Punk - Harder Better Faster Stronger More Bora’s BTS Rabbit Hole Playlist ARMY translators' lyric translations:  doolset lyrics – BTS Lyrics in English BTS TRANSLATIONS – (do you, bangtan / do you bangtan?) Lyrics — BTS-TRANS/BANGTANSUBS Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
In 1974 country music, singer songwriter, Dolly Parton got wind that Elvis Presley wanted to record her new song, “I Will Always Love You.“ According to Dolly, the deal fell through when Elvis's manager demanded 50% of the publishing revenue. Dolly refused, released the song herself, and years later arranged a more equitable deal with Whitney Houston, who of course made it a massive hit.  It's a juicy bit of industry history that actually speaks more to our current reality than you might think. What Elvis’s management did, demand a cut of the publishing revenue on top of the money he'd already make from album sales and live shows, is not an anomaly.  Songwriter, Emily Warren knows this all too well. Emily's a songwriter and performer in Los Angeles. You've heard her on the show before in part, because she's written some huge hits, including Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and The Chainsmokers “Don’t Let Me Down.”  What happened to Dolly in ‘74 has happened a lot to Emily. She says that countless times, after an artist decides to record a song of hers that she wrote without any involvement with the artist, she'll get an email from the artist's management team, asking for a cut of her publishing. She says the emails are polite, but the mask and implied arrangement: give us a cut of the publishing they say, or we won't put out the song.  So Emily's started talking to other established songwriters she knows, Tayla Parx, Ross Golan, Justin Tranter, and Savan Kotecha—they've all been asked to give up publishing. Together they decided they wanted to do something about this practice. So they formed an organization called The Pact, a group of music professionals who refuse to give publishing away for songs where artists do not contribute. Their goal is to make the music business more equitable for the creative laborers. Songs Discussed Dolly Parton - I Will Always Love You Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You Dua Lipa - New Rules The Chainsmokers - Don’t Let Me Down Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
If you listen to a lot of music on YouTube, you may have been recommended a video. The thumbnail image is a striking black-and-white photo of a Japanese singer named Mariya Takeuchi. The song, “Plastic Love,” is a lush disco track with deep groove, impeccable string and horn arrangements, and a slow-burn vocal performance from Takeuchi. When the song was released in 1984, it sold 10,000 copies. Today, it’s racked up over 65 million views since its posting in 2017.   How did the relatively obscure genre of Japanese City Pop, an amalgam of American soul and funk and Japanese songcraft from the 1970s and 80s, become the sound of the moment? For Pitchfork’s Cat Zhang, City Pop’s heart-on-its-sleeve emotions and slick production resonates with the nostalgic leanings of much contemporary pop. Sampled by artists like Tyler the Creator and inspiring original material from bands around the globe, City Pop has much to tell us about cultural exchange, technology, and the enduring universal power of slap bass.  Songs Discussed: Miki Matsubara - Stay With Me Mariya Takeuchi - Plastic Love Makoto Matsushita - Business Man Pt 1 Tatsuro Yamashita - Marry-go-round Anri - Good Bye Boogie Dance Boredoms - Which Dooyoo Like Toshiko Yonekawa - Sōran Bushi Takeo Yamashita - Touch of Japanese Tone Mai Yamane - Tasogare Young Nudy ft Playboi Carti’s - Pissy Pamper Tatsuro Yamashita - Fragile Tyler The Creator - GONE, GONE / THANK YOU 9 Sunset Rollercoaster - Burgundy Red Check out Cat’s article The Endless Life Cycle of Japanese City Pop on Pitchfork Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
J Cole is one of the most successful rappers of his generation, someone who racks up hits while sustaining critical acclaim. But that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Cole’s sixth studio album “The Off Season” finds a musician struggling to stave off complacency and keep his skills sharp. In a short documentary about the album, Cole describes the album as an attempt to “push himself,” a sentiment reflected in a line from the Timbaland-produced track “Amari”: “If you solo these vocals, listen close and you can hear grumbling.” Cole is never satisfied on this album, pushing his technique to the breaking point through verbal dexterity and rhythmic complexity. One way Cole stays on his toes is through the use of a trap beat melded with one of the oldest grooves in pop: the 12/8 shuffle. He’s far from the only artist to make use of an often overlooked, but iconic meter. Why does this pattern keep us moving? And where did its unique sound come from? We have a theory about that... Songs discussed: J Cole - Amari, Punching the Clock, The Climb Back, Interlude Brief Encounter - I’m So in Love With You Adam Lambert - Another Lonely Night Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me Disclosure ft Sam Smith - Latch  Steely Dan - Aja Toto - Roseanna  Led Zeppelin - Fool in the Rain Kanye West - Black Skinhead Billie Eilish - Bury a Friend Vulfpeck ft Bernard Purdie and Theo Katzman - Something Watch Bernard “Pretty” Purdie: The Legendary Purdie Shuffle Read more on The Off Season in Craig Jenkins in-depth review on Vulture. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
One of our favorites artists right now is Rina Sawayama. She works with her producer Clarence Clarity to make this mash up of sounds from the late 90s and early aughts. She in particular recasts Max Martin pop and Nu Metal — too styles that rarely converged — to make compelling songs with a strong anti-consumerist message. I spoke with Rina Sawayama last summer about her debut eponymous album Sawayama and she shared with me the stories behind her songs XS and STFU. We're rebroadcasting our interview with her from last summer. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (48)

Heather YyY

More music. Less talking. Most annoying guest.

Aug 14th

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

Rui Pedro Pereira

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

Nov 20th


How I love the critics and the analysis!

Oct 29th

Fabio Gioia

have it a chance, and glad I did.

Oct 27th

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

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
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