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Switched On Pop

Vox Media

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.
More Information

Location:

United States

Networks:

Vox Media

Description:

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Language:

English


Episodes

A Brief History of Men Singing Really High

10/15/2019
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Men singing high is so ubiquitous in modern pop that we might take it granted, never pausing to ask: has it always been this way? Estelle Caswell, who makes the Emmy-winning Earworm series for Vox, decided to find out, and she stops by to share results from her painstaking study of male falsetto in pop music from 1958 to today. Some of her findings may surprise, like 1996 was the peak year for falsetto, Justin Timberlake doesn't sing as you high at might think, and falsetto has been around...

Duration:00:49:47

Total Request Live! Taylor, Lana, Kim, and More (with Sam Sanders)

10/8/2019
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NPR's Sam Sanders stops by to break down the tracks that Switched On listeners have been loving. Swedish dancefloor confessionals, songs that stop time, the specificity of Lana Del Rey, and the awkwardness of descending fourths: it's all on the table in this freewheeling conversation of deep musical nerdiness. Songs DiscussedTove Lo ft Kylie Minogue - Really don’t like uCamila Cabello - LiarAce of Base - All That She WantsTyler the Creator - EARFQUAKETaylor Swift - Cruel SummerLana Del Rey,...

Duration:00:44:43

Mastering Music (with Dallas Taylor of Twenty Thousand Hertz)

10/1/2019
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Dallas Taylor, host of the stellar sound design series Twenty Thousand Hertz, stops by to fill Nate in on the science and style of mastering: the subtle art that explains why Metallica had to re-release a controversial album, Kanye sounds so crisp, and why the best pop really pops. Songs Discussed Lizzo - Juice Kanye West - Heartless Led Zeppelin - Stairway to heaven Pink Floyd - Money Daft Punk - Get Lucky Metallica - The Day That Never Comes DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - He's the DJ,...

Duration:00:57:28

Jazz 1959

9/24/2019
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Charlie's out on parental leave, which means no one is here to stop Nate from going off the rails. And you know what means... JAZZ! As soon as dad left the room, Nate enlisted his favorite journalist, jazz and sports writer Natalie Weiner, to come on the show and discuss her incredible 1959 Project — a day-by-day chronicle of jazz during one of its most pivotal years. We listen to classic 1959 albums Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Dave Brubeck's Take Out, discuss the complex legacy of Billie...

Duration:00:46:29

BONUS: Charli XCX and The Future of Music (with Dani Deahl)

9/22/2019
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The pace of new music releases these days is dizzying. Sometimes it’s like watching someone do a magic trick--we *swear* those songs weren’t there a second ago! But then, there they are, popping up in batches right out of thin air. Of course, behind each individual release sits months of decision-making by the artist: who to collaborate with and when, how to structure the musical product of that collaboration, what to call it, how to release it, when, and on what platform. The list is long,...

Duration:00:34:46

The “Baby Shark” Phenomenon (with Andrea Silenzi)

9/17/2019
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For most parents, “Baby Shark” is the nightmare that will not end. Ever since the South Korean educational company Pinkfong released the song earlier this year, it’s almost impossible to avoid. The infectious children’s tune has more than 2.3 billion views on YouTube and made it onto the Billboard Top 40 list. So what makes this song so catchy and irresistible to children? And how do the rest of us cope with the unavoidable hit while keeping our sanity? Andrea Silenz, host of the parenting...

Duration:00:37:27

BONUS: Who are the Picassos of pop? (with Ross Golan)

9/13/2019
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Ross Golan is no stranger to Switched on Pop. This week, the songwriter and host of the hit podcast And The Writer Is… joins Charlie for a BONUS episode (cue siren) about the surprising lessons learned from a collective seven years behind the interview mic. Tune in as Ross and Charlie discuss the infinite shelf-life of classic songwriting techniques, the happy accidents behind some of your favorite hit songs, and the essential qualities of a good listener. Find more Ross on Switched on Pop...

Duration:00:47:43

Switched Off Book (with Jess McKenna and Zach Reino)

9/10/2019
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On this very special episode, we join forces with the hilarious podcast OFF BOOK. When our powers combine, Zach and Jess of Off Book, plus their killer backing band of Scott, Dana and Brett create an improvised musical, while Nate and Charlie break down the sound and structure of a Broadway show. Stay tuned for deep thoughts about what separates pop music from musicals, wild speculation about the origin of the word “vamp,” and an ENTIRE FREAKING MUSICAL COMPOSED FROM SCRATCH that will make...

Duration:01:33:05

ICYMI: How to 'Make Me Feel' with Lizzo

9/3/2019
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"Make Me Feel," is the first hit from Janelle Monáe's 2018 album Dirty Computer, and a sensual song about the fluidity of desire. In the pre-chorus, the singer proudly expresses that she is a "sexual bender." Fans have embraced the song for breaking free of normative sexual expectations. But these non-binary statements aren't limited to the lyrics. The message is reinforced with musical concepts drawn from the blues, Prince and Michael Jackson. To help break down this track, Nate and Charlie...

Duration:00:51:56

ICYMI: Why is 90s Pop so Bizarre?

8/27/2019
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Today we're revisiting an episode inspired by a pair of classic VH1 shows: “Behind the Music” and “Where Are They Now?” Our subjects are two songs representing the lunatic fringe of 90s culture, “Cotton Eyed Joe” and “How Bizarre.” In the course of our musicological investigation, we uncover dark truths about these seemingly anodyne hits that will make you question everything you know about pop music. And in the end, we reach a definitive answer to a perennially vexing question: “WTF was 90s...

Duration:00:48:30

Songs of Summer Call-in Special

8/20/2019
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Every year, critics and media outlets the world over put out definitive song-of-summer guides based on... well, we’re not always entirely sure. Certainly popularity, as measured by streams and radio play; not to mention that bewildering feeling that creeps up some time mid-July, prompting whispered exclamations of: “man, this song is everywhere.” But the most ubiquitous track isn’t necessarily the one you’ll have on repeat on those steamy summer commutes to work, nor is it the song you’ll...

Duration:00:54:20

Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, & The Shifting Sound of R&B — with Oak Felder

8/13/2019
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The sound of R&B is difficult to pin down. Since the 1950s, the label has been used both as a genre and as a catch-all for the entirety of black popular music. Soul, funk, disco and even hip-hop have at times been covered by this "R&B" umbrella. On Chance The Rapper's new album, The Big Day, all of these influences come through—and he's not alone. On recent Kehlani records, 90s R&B and 2000s trap both play a role. But both these artists are a far cry from the 50s R&B sounds of Sam Cooke. To...

Duration:00:57:22

Beyoncé's Gift To Africa (with Ivie Ani)

8/6/2019
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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...

Duration:00:39:57

LCD Soundsystem and the Unbearable Sameness of Restaurant Playlists

7/30/2019
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Why is it that every hip restaurant plays the same music? When Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan kept hearing similar songs while dining for work assignments, she compiled a playlist of what she heard. It included songs by LCD Soundsystem, M83, Grimes, Biggie, Beck and the like. Her subsequent article about this music, “This Is Every Generically Cool Restaurant’s Playlist,” went viral. She’d captured the elusive sound of small plate dining. But what left her guessing was why...

Duration:00:37:41

The $50M Beat Marketplace That Broke the Billboard

7/23/2019
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Lil Nas X licensed the beat for “Old Town Road” from an e-commerce platform. He originally bought a non-exclusive copy of the backing track for just $29.99 from a 19 year old Dutch record producer called YoungKio. And he’s not the first hitmaker to do so. Desiigner, Bryson Tiller and Queen Naija have all made hit songs from internet beats. These beats are big business. The arguable market leader, BeatStars, has paid its producers over $50M since its inception in 2008. The platform allows...

Duration:00:31:23

Shawn Mendes and the Rhythm of Rhyme

7/16/2019
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Shawn Mendes’ hit song “If I Can’t Have You” is so ridiculously catchy that Charlie had it stuck in his head after the first chorus. How is that possible?! Declamation, or the way that text is set to music, is a big part of the song’s appeal—every word that Mendes sings is perfectly in rhythm. In this episode we use Mendes’ latest track to explore creative declamation throughout history. How do artists from Whitney Houston to Queen to Taylor Swift keep finding new ways to sing the word...

Duration:00:35:00

Space, The Final Frontier: Madonna, Stephen Puth and Street Studios

7/9/2019
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Find out how music creates a feeling of space in this three part episode. First, we may not realize it when we listen to Madonna's new record, but the location of her music is essential. In exploring her catalogue we hear the sound of different eras by just the space evoked in a song. Second, the same is true for Stephen Puth who uses spacial effects for brilliant creative purposes on his song "Look Away." When music is recorded in a studio with perfect acoustics, engineers manipulate that...

Duration:00:59:27

What BTS's "Boy With Love" ft. Halsey Can Teach Us About K-pop

7/2/2019
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How should we listen to K-pop? This music has become a global phenomenon, charting on the Billboard Hot 100, taking over social media feeds, and touring the world. In particular, the group BTS has captured the ears of millions, building an Army of fans along the way. As uninitiated listeners, the language and culture barrier left us uncertain about how to approach listening to, let alone breaking down their music. So we sought out the support of Dr, Suk-Young Kim, Professor of Critical...

Duration:00:40:03

"Prince Ali" and Why We're All Music Theorists

6/25/2019
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Fans are not happy with Will Smith's update of the classic Disney song "Prince Ali" in the live-action Aladdin. Their complaint? The new "Prince Ali" is slow, sluggish, and dull. Indeed, the Smith version is 8 BPM (beats per minute) slower than Robin Williams's 1992 original—a subtle musical detail. We dig into the properties of tempo and key to understand why people have such a visceral reaction to a relatively small change and consider whether it suggests that we—meaning all of us humans,...

Duration:00:29:55

Jamestown and the Quest to Build a Utopia in America (with Avery Trufelman)

6/23/2019
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Nice Try! is a new podcast from Curbed and the Vox Media Podcast Network that explores stories of people who have tried to design a better world, and what happens when those designs don't go according to plan. Season one, Utopian, follows Avery Trufelman on her quest to understand the perpetual search for the perfect place. Enjoy this special preview of the first episode, Jamestown: Utopian for Whom, and subscribe to Nice Try! for free in your favorite podcast app. Learn more about your ad...

Duration:00:23:46