Switched on Pop-logo

Switched on Pop

Vox Media

What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.

What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.

Location:

United States

Networks:

Vox Media

Description:

What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.

Language:

English


Episodes

The Many Colors of Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’

6/30/2020
Lady Gaga’s 6th album is a conceptual release about a future that is neither utopian nor dystopian. Despite its sci-fi visuals, the album looks more to the past and present than the future. Chromatica gives us a world that sounds like 90s house music made for this summer’s cancelled Pride parties. It is lyrically somber, but musically upbeat, a productive tension that inspires hope. Gaga shared that she made this album to help her and her ‘little monsters’ dance through the pain. So we...

Duration:00:35:35

I Am America (w Shea Diamond and Justin Tranter)

6/30/2020
Shea Diamond has experienced so many facets of America as a black trans woman, and with songwriter Justin Tranter, she's woven those experiences into "I Am America," a blistering, funky anthem about community and belonging. Her track is also the theme song for the new HBO show "We're Here," which follows a team of a drag queens bringing drag shows to small towns across the country, challenging our assumptions about who makes up the "real America." We sit down with Diamond and Tranter to...

Duration:00:20:51

Baz Luhrmann’s “Sunscreen Song” — The 90s’ Most Unlikely Hit (with Avery Trufelman)

6/23/2020
In 1999 filmmaker Baz Luhrmann released the song “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen,” a 7-minute-long graduation speech set to downtempo electronic music. It was a highly unlikely hit that made its way across continents and eventually into the ears of a young Avery Trufelman via the album NOW That’s What I Call Music Volume 2. For over 20 years, Trufelman has applied the song’s advice to her daily life: “wear sunscreen… be nice to your siblings… do one thing every day that scares you.” This...

Duration:00:52:55

Jacob Collier on staying creative and his 646 track song “All I Need”

6/19/2020
Quarantined in his family’s music room, musician Jacob Collier has been remarkably productive. Known for his polymathic musical talents, Collier has used this time to reflect on, and release new music. His latest song “All I Need,” was created with new technology that let him record remotely with his collaborators Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign. The song is uplifting. It modulates into arcane keys that evoke the euphoria of newfound love. Collier’s also been convening live streams with artists...

Duration:00:35:03

What it means to make music in 2020

6/16/2020
The pandemic has upended the art and business of making music. Producing, performing and releasing — every aspect is new and uncharted. The need for social distancing means that it’s unsafe to collaborate in small studios or perform for large crowds — not to mention finding the right thing to sing about in such a charged moment. We’re telling three stories about how artists are working within these constraints: Ricky Reed and John-Robert have found a way to generate a creative spark...

Duration:00:35:34

Big Floyd And The Influence Of Houston Chopped N Screwed Music

6/9/2020
In a Rolling Stone article titled “He Shook The World: George Floyd’s Legendary Houston Legacy”, writer Charles Holmes reveals the musical past of the man who has become an international symbol for justice since his murder. Known as “Big Floyd” in his Houston community, he was part of the city’s Screwed Up Click, a hip-hop collective centered around the now-legendary producer DJ Screw. This underground scene created a style of slowed-down “chopped and screwed” hip-hop that seeped into...

Duration:00:31:12

Carly Rae Jepsen: Meeting The Muse

5/26/2020
They say you should never meet your idols, that you’ll only be disappointed. We had this possibility in mind going into our first interview with Carly Rae Jepsen, the pop star who inspired us to start our podcast Switched on Pop when Nate taught “Call Me Maybe” as a case study in music theory. Six years later and hundreds of pleading emails later, the time had come to meet the muse and unpack her latest offering, Dedicated Side B. In the course of composing her last two albums, E•MO•TION and...

Duration:00:41:33

Why lo-fi is the perfect background music

5/19/2020
Lo-Fi hip-hop has emerged as a hugely popular genre and internet subculture. Its millions of loyal fans rely on curated lo-fi playlists and live-streams to write to, study to and even fall asleep to. Heck, we even wrote a good chunk of our book to Spotify’s lo-fi beats playlists. There’s just something about those ambient, spacey, plodding beats that place us in a state of determined zen. But what of its musical roots? Who are its stars? And why, despite its mass following on YouTube,...

Duration:00:38:42

Eurovision Lives! (with Netta)

5/12/2020
Like many events, the international song competition Eurovision 2020 has been canceled. Sadly, there will be no champion crowned this year... or will there?! Charlie and Nate comb through the emotional, the catchy, and the downright bizarre entries, then—with some help from our audience and 2018 Eurovision winner Netta—pick the best song in all the land. Come for the Lithuanian moose dance, stay for the unshakeable power of pop glory in a world gone mad. Songs discussed Netta - Toy Netta -...

Duration:00:41:23

How To Soundtrack A Villain: Killing Eve

5/5/2020
When BBC America reached out to do a piece about the music of Killing Eve, we jumped at the opportunity. The series antagonist, Villanelle, is an unpredictable assassin. On a dime she shifts from cold and calculating to child-like and jocular. Her personality swings are accompanied by a captivating psychedelic pop soundtrack. Whether you are familiar with the series or not, this no spoilers episode breaks down music from the 1960s that has earned its place on primetime. SPONSORED BY BBC...

Duration:00:38:24

Did Fiona Apple Just Release a Perfect Album?

4/28/2020
Since 1996, Fiona Apple has only ever had one hit, “Criminal.” Nonetheless, every album she’s released has been nominated for a Grammy. Her newest work, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, has received near universal acclaim. Apple’s songs are simultaneously idiosyncratic and relatable, tackling unusual themes for pop songs: middle school bullies, uncomfortable dinner conversation, toxic masculinity and female friendship. Apple accompanies her idiosyncratic lyrics with homemade percussion and only...

Duration:00:35:40

Doja Cat’s “Say So” is a Masterclass in Good Times

4/21/2020
Doja Cat has gatecrashed the Top 40 with her effervescent hit “Say So.” How did this Internet personality best known for a song whose chorus is “B***h, I’m a cow!” join the ranks of Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd? The answer involves a voice that careens from gentle soul to fierce rapping, a catchy chorus that grabs you from the first measure, and most importantly, interpolating the guitar patterns of Nile Rodgers, the secret sauce behind four decades of smash hits. Songs featured: Doja Cat...

Duration:00:33:25

Were We Wrong About Kanye West?

4/14/2020
A lot of people miss the old Kanye. The last time we reviewed his music was back in 2016 when he released the work-in-progress album “The Life Of Pablo.” Since then, Kanye has put out four albums: Ye, Kids See Ghost (with Kid Cudi), Jesus Is King, and Jesus Is Born (with the Sunday Service Choir). In the same period he’s also caused a media ruckus with his union to the Kardashian family and his foray into political punditry. His public persona has largely overshadowed his musical offerings....

Duration:00:48:42

Aussie2Aussie: 5SOS on Tame Impala (with Luke Hemmings & Calum Hood)

4/7/2020
The band 5 Seconds Of Summer have just released their fourth studio album, Calm. Lead vocalist Luke Hemmings and bassist Calum Hood join us to talk about some of Australia’s biggest hits. In the first half of our conversation we discuss the catchy rhythms and vocals in Tame Impala’s song “Borderline,” a song driven more by vibe than conventional structures. Then on side B, 5SOS break down their new single single “Wildflower” and its countless 80s references. One sound in particular, the...

Duration:00:38:42

The (murder) Ballad of Joe Exotic “Tiger King” (with Robert Moor)

4/5/2020
Scandal and intrigue surround Joe Exotic, the central character of the new Netflix documentary Tiger King. Among the many bizarre traits of this zoo keeper, Exotic tries his hand at country music. Interspersed throughout the series, Joe sings about his love of big cats as well as his hatred for his nemesis in a gruesome murder ballad. But it turns out that amongst his many lies, Exotic’s country career may be yet another fabrication. Charlie speaks with journalist Robert Moor, host of the...

Duration:00:39:03

D’Angelo and the Legacy of Voodoo (with Faith Pennick)

3/31/2020
In the year 2000, D'Angelo released Voodoo—with some help from Questlove, Angie Stone, Raphael Saadiq, and a band of jazz veterans—an album that has cast a long shadow with its unique sound of stripped-down soul, Faith Pennick, who literally wrote the book on the record, joins to break how D'Angelo broke the "shiny suit" regime of R&B, explore how he conjured the spirits of J Dilla, Prince, and Roberta Flack, and consider how one video almost derailed his career. Check out D'Angelo's Voodoo...

Duration:00:45:35

"Happy Birthday" is the Worst (with Anne-Marie)

3/24/2020
With Nate’s birthday around the corner, it’s time to admit that our go-to birthday song is actually the worst to sing to someone. There are reasons both musicological and cultural why this wooden celebratory number needs to go, ranging from funereal rhythms to Wagnerian opera to the Wizard of Oz. Tune in to uncover the horror of “Happy Birthday” and consider some of the alternatives on offer, including a recent Anne-Marie hit that takes birthday wishes and turns them around 180º. Songs...

Duration:00:34:51

Bad Bunny Has A Message For Your Mom

3/17/2020
Latin Trap megastar Bad Bunny may be best known to American audiences for his feature on Cardi B’s #1 “I Like It’, but the Puerto Rican native is known to music-lovers worldwide for more than just those few bars. Bunny started off as a student in Universidad de Puerto Rico studying audio visual communications. He was bagging groceries at a supermarket in PR when he posted his song ‘Diles’ on SoundCloud. That moody, 808-fueled track turned into a record deal, as well as huge feature...

Duration:00:36:40

The Fire & Fury Of Overcoats

3/10/2020
Gone are the days of a clear dividing line between “mainstream pop” and “conscious” music. Many of the world’s highest-grossing pop stars are climbing the charts with lyrics that seem to get right at the very weight of human existence. They’re tackling climate change, and drug addiction, crippling anxiety, inequality, sexism and racism. It’s a fascinating shift to witness. That’s why this week, we’re especially thrilled to be chatting with folk-pop duo Overcoats. JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion...

Duration:00:37:48

Can't Help Falling in Lauv (the interview)

3/3/2020
This week, Charlie talks to Lauv, the singer, songwriter and producer behind unfailingly catchy tracks such as “Mean It” and “I Like Me Better.” Lauv’s a master at making the sad feel fun—masking themes of anxiety and betrayal with upbeat, percussive production. He even does a bit of the opposite, too, by infusing his joyful songs with vulnerability and emotional complexity. You’ll soon be able to hear all of that and more on his debut studio album, ~how I’m feeling~, out later this week....

Duration:00:35:45