Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

www.switchedonpop.com
The making and the meaning of pop music


The Man Behind the Rocketman with Giles Martin
Jun 11 • 52 min
Rocketman is a spectacle the size of Elton John, four films in one. It contains a biopic, jukebox musical, addiction recovery story and a romance between friends. The soundtrack ties the story together by taking historical liberties to tell a fantastical…
The Greatest Pop Stories Never Told (with Jessica Hopper)
Jun 4 • 42 min
On the KRCW series Lost Notes, Jessica Hopper plumbs pop music history for the most important stories never told. She brings us a bevy of lost gems, from Fanny, an all-female quartet of rockers that was one of David Bowie’s favorite bands, to the Freeze a…
Should You Care About Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber?
May 28 • 53 min
A pop star collaboration is a foolproof way to grab the attention of two audiences at once. But do more collaborators actually make a better song? Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber put this question to the test in their new song “I Don’t Care.” The track takes…
The Smooth Sound of Morning News
May 21 • 41 min
What do Bach and smooth jazz have in common? Both score the unmistakable theme song for NPR’s flagship show Morning Edition, listened to by millions across the country every day since 1979. This is undeniably pop music, a daily soundtrack to the lives of…
Is There An Indie Rock Conspiracy? (Featuring Joywave)
May 14 • 31 min
Many people write us with musical maladies and conspiracies. A recent one caught our attention. Daniel Armbruster, lead vocalist of indie band Joywave, has been hearing the same melody in tracks across the Alternative Songs charts. He believes that this…
Lizzo And The End of Genre (with Sam Harris of X Ambassadors)
May 7 • 51 min
On her new album, Cuz I Love You, Lizzo shows off her genre bending musicality. We speak with X Ambassadors lead singer, Sam Harris, who helped co-write three songs on the album, including its eponymous track. We discuss how Lizzo’s songs glide across…
Taylor Swift Causes a PANIC!
Apr 30 • 41 min
When a listener asked us about the “sorcery” behind Taylor Swift’s new song “ME!” we knew we had to investigate. And because the track features Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, we couldn’t resist digging into their concurrent hit “High Hopes.” Along…
Sounds Like Teen Spirit (with Elle Fanning)
Apr 23 • 55 min
Pop is inseparable from reality TV singing competitions. From Eurovision to American Idol, scores of stars got their start in singing competitions. We’ve long overlooked this influence on pop, but were inspired to look into the phenomenon by the release…
Country at the Crossroads
Apr 16 • 42 min
Lil Nas X currently holds the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his surprise hit “Old Town Road.” But though the song is dripping with country twang, you won’t find it anywhere on the country charts. That’s because Billboard removed it, on the…
Billie Eilish is a Different Kind of Pop Star (ft. FINNEAS)
Apr 9 • 46 min
On a trajectory to be one of the biggest pop stars for this generation, seventeen year old Billie Eilish is not, however, your typical pop star. Her music speaks to the real anxieties of young people without any veneer. She sings from the perspective of…
BONUS: Bhi Bhiman’s ‘Peace of Mind’ Episode 1
Apr 7 • 29 min
Switched on Pop is pleased to present Episode 1 of Peace of Mind —the new album (released as a podcast) by singer/songwriter Bhi Bhiman.In this episode Bhi digs into the fear and madness that characterizesso much of this crazy time in America. Guests…
Bhi Bhiman Puts the Music Before the Message
Apr 2 • 46 min
Bhi Bhiman joins to explain the “nerd punk rock” behind releasing his new album Peace of Mind with an accompanying podcast. Since Bhiman explores issues like deportation on the track “Beyond the Border,” there’s a lot to say about each song. Even though…
Comeback Kids: The Jonas Brothers are Back
Mar 25 • 34 min
After a six year hiatus, Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas are back with a new single and the stakes couldn’t be higher. With each brother attaining a higher plane of celebrity during their time off, the three must achieve pop success or face public humiliation.…
Lost & Found: The Drama of Pop Form with Emily King
Mar 19 • 30 min
Live from SXSW: Grammy nominee songwriter Emily King didn’t set out to write a perfect pop song with “Remind Me.” Instead, she bent the rules of song structure to fit her message: the magical feeling when you find something you’ve been long missing.…
How Streaming Changed the Sound of Pop
Mar 12 • 36 min
Streaming hasn’t just changed the way we listen to music, it’s changed the way that pop music sounds. After years of losses due to the death of the CD and the rise of file sharing, the music industry has finally found a profitable business in streaming…
Top 40 Activism with Justin Tranter
Mar 5 • 47 min
Can political protest exist within the confines of commercial popular music? Songwriter Justin Tranter is equal parts songwriter and activist. You’ve likely heard his contributions to songs by Britney Spears, Julia Michaels, Selena Gomez, Janelle Monae…
What Makes An Award Winning Song?
Feb 19 • 41 min
What if music awards were given out for only musical qualities? It may seem like celebrity and spectacle are more important than ever at the 61st Grammy Awards, but we believe many of this years winners earned their accolades with noteworthy music. Still,…
What Makes a Song Sexy?
Feb 5 • 34 min
Author Courtney Smith joins to offer her expertise on an urgent topic in advance of Valentine’s Day: Can we abstract the sexiest songs of all time into a universal list of arousing musical qualities? We try our best by examining five decades of pop…
The Deep History of ‘7 Rings’
Jan 29 • 39 min
“7 Rings” is Ariana Grande’s latest smash, a glittering banger that owes much to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 classic “My Favorite Things.” 60 years later, Grande updates the track for a modern audience, making her the latest artist to repurpose this…
Do You Believe in Life After Autotune?
Jan 22 • 48 min
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…
Slay Bells, All Year Long
Dec 25, 2018 • 40 min
This winter season unwrap a deep dive through a pop subgenre of monumental importance: non-holiday songs that feature sleigh bells, from Bonnie Tyler to Nas, On Side B, we rebroadcast our episode on Mariah Carey’s classic “All I Want for Christmas Is…
Look What You Made Us Do
Dec 11, 2018 • 57 min
Four years into Switched On Pop, Charlie and Nate finally reveal what was behind the entire series. We may have not been totally honest with you from the beginning. Back in 2014 we were more pop skeptics than fanatics. The genre was, to some degree, the…
Entering Beard Phase with Mike Posner
Nov 27, 2018 • 52 min
Mike Posner has written hits for himself like “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” and for stars from Justin Bieber (“Boyfriend”) to Maroon 5 (“Sugar”), so he has insights for days on what makes a pop song work. We dig into Mike’s excellent new track “Song About…
How Dirty Projectors Make You Feel Energy (with David Longstreth)
Nov 13, 2018 • 55 min
Dirty Projectors are known for their kaleidoscopic soundscapes. They make strange bedfellows of music techniques like 14th vocal harmonies and African guitar rhythms. But in the backdrop of their obscure orchestrations you will hear the indelible marks of…
Stairway To Hell: Greta Van Fleet’s Scorching Album Review That Went Viral
Oct 30, 2018 • 59 min
Classic rock climaxed a half century ago, yet it still survives in two places: FM radio & Greta Van Fleet. The later are an upstart of four boys from Michigan who have found stardom by dusting off the mantle of guitar driven rock. Their latest album,…
Charli XCX and Troye Sivan Love the 90s
Oct 16, 2018 • 37 min
Charli XCX and Troye Sivan conjure late 90s nostalgia in their latest banger. “1999” drips with lyrical nostalgia for the last decade of the millennium — but does the music follow suit? We think the pair are missing prime opportunities to bring back some…
Sicko Rap and Drunk Country
Oct 2, 2018 • 36 min
Four songs on the Hot 100 pop chart reveal the new directions in which music is headed. Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” boasts an unprecedented formal structure that points to the future of hip hop. Meanwhile, in the world of country, Jason Aldean, Mitchell…
The Side Effects of Pop Music with Emily Warren
Sep 18, 2018 • 45 min
Emily Warren is one of the great rising stars of contemporary songwriting. Her song “Side Effects” with The Chainsmokers is currently rising up the charts. You’ve also heard her writing on Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.” She’s collaborated with many of the best…
Drake vs Drake
Sep 6, 2018 • 43 min
Drake, per usual, has been inescapable this summer. “In My Feelings” and “Nice For What” top the charts, but there’s depth to these bangers. We argue for hearing one as a meditation on fragile masculinity, the other as a paean to NOLA Bounce. Continue the…
Summer Heat of the 2000s: Beyoncé and Black Eyed Peas (Pt. II)
Aug 23, 2018 • 27 min
The final episode of our Switched on Summer throwback series finds us deconstructing more early aughts bangers. Under consideration: two of the biggest hits since Y2K, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling.” Tune in to dig…
Summer Heat of the 2000s: Nelly + Katy Perry (Pt. 1)
Aug 9, 2018 • 25 min
What made summer jams of the aughties like Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” so hot? The answer: big, sweaty, doses of harmonic tension. Specifically, each track relies on the Baroque technique of the ground bass. Wait, we mean:…
Why is 90s Pop so Bizarre?
Jul 27, 2018 • 49 min
The Switched on Pop Summer Throwback Series continues! This time, with a deep dive into the musical detritus of the 1990s. In true 90s fashion, our episode is inspired by a pair of classic VH1 shows; “Behind the Music” and “Where Are They Now?”Our…
The Resistance is Dancing in the Streets
Jul 12, 2018 • 30 min
Our Switched on Summer Throwback Series continues with “Dancing in the Street,” the 1964 Motown hit by Martha and the Vandellas that was co-written by none other than Marvin Gaye. Over 50 years and countless covers later, we explore how this song still…
Switched on Summer: Getting Around with the Beach Boys
Jun 28, 2018 • 30 min
Our Switched on Summer throwback mini-series begins in the heart of the 1960s, with the Beach Boys’ perennial school’s-out jam “I Get Around.”We explore how every aspect of Brian Wilson’s two-minute-long masterpiece is perfectly calculated to literally…
The Pure Pop of Charlie Puth + Carly Rae (ft Hanif Abdurraqib)
Jun 14, 2018 • 46 min
Part I: The Doctors Are In! We diagnose a listener’s musical malady, namely: “why does Charlie Puth’s new jam ‘BOY’ make us feel so weird?!” Part II: Guest Hanif Adburraqib, author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, helps break down Carly Rae…
Afrofuturism in Kali Uchis & Clipping (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes)
May 31, 2018 • 49 min
Parliament Funkadelic has had waves of influence on popular music. Their Afrofuturist message and infectious grooves built the backbone of 70s funk, was revived in the 90s with Dr. Dre’s G-Funk, and is once again in vogue with in the music of Kendrick…
Finding Equanimity In ‘No Tears Left To Cry’
May 17, 2018 • 38 min
Ariana Grande has returned with a track that is jarring yet simultaneously catchy. She uses sophisticated musical techniques to tell a story of healing, resiliency, and hope after the attack at her concert in Manchester. Listeners will learn techniques…
Can AI ‘Algorhythms’ Write Pop Songs? (With Taryn Southern)
May 3, 2018 • 55 min
There is a lot of scare about the impending future of artificial intelligence making humans irrelevant. Musician Taryn Southern examines this narrative through her song “Life Support,” written with the aid of AI composition tools. We dispel current myths…
Listening Differently to Lorde | with MARIAN HILL
Apr 19, 2018 • 45 min
Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd are songwriting duo Marian Hill and they are here to share their annoyingly sharp insights on music. They come bearing the wistful pop of Lorde’s “Ribs,” and we deconstruct its primordial roots in classical composers like…
Kacey Musgraves Gives Us Butterflies
Apr 5, 2018 • 29 min
On her single ‘Butterflies,’ Kacey Musgraves demonstrates a tour de force of songwriting. This song is a wild success because it incessantly reinforces one core emotional concept: that queasy anxious feeling in your stomach. No we’re not talking about…
Gucci Gang and the Neural Substrate of Subjective Time Dilation
Mar 22, 2018 • 27 min
In which Nate tries to convince Charlie that Lil Pump’s SoundCloud Rap hit “Gucci Gang” warps the perceptual present.Featuring:Lil Pump - Gucci GangGustav Mahler - Der Abschied / Das Lied von der ErdeFranz Schubert - String Quintet / AdagioConlon…
How to ‘Make Me Feel’ with Lizzo
Mar 8, 2018 • 52 min
“Make Me Feel,” is the first hit from Janelle Monáe’s upcoming album Dirty Computer. It is 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…
808s & Havana Heartbreak
Feb 22, 2018 • 57 min
In Camila Cabello’s “Havana” we hear both her Cuban roots and the modern sounds of Atlanta. Though the singer and featured guest Young Thug reference these two geographic identities, the song says so much more through its core musical elements. A Roland…
My My My! Troye Sivan + Queer Pop (w Gina Delvac, Darryl Bullock)
Feb 8, 2018 • 58 min
Gina Delvac of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and Darryl W Bullock, author of David Bowie Made Me Gay, join Nate and Charlie to dig into the poetry of Troye Sivan’s “My My My!”, the history of LGBT pop music, and the songs we love to hate. And also be…
90s Nostalgia in Bruno Mars and Charlie Puth
Jan 25, 2018 • 35 min
The 90s are back. It is as if pop music entered a black hole and came out 25 years in the past. Today’s artists are reviving the new jack swing and vocal R&B, creating a wave of 90s nostalgia. Uncover how they trick us into somehow loving those days when…
Justin Timberlake’s Identity Crisis
Jan 11, 2018 • 37 min
What’s up with Justin Timberlake? Two years ago he gifted us the ebullient family-friendly jam “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” now he’s on the cusp of a deeply serious new record called “Man of the Woods,” whose first single, strangely, is a bit of electro-funk…
Dua Lipa’s Minor Mantra (w Emily Bootle)
Dec 27, 2017 • 18 min
Charlie talks laments, Baroque opera, and gender politics in Dua Lipa’s sleeper hit “New Rules” with writer Emily Bootle.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
All I Want for Xmas is a Year in Review Episode
Dec 14, 2017 • 41 min
Charlie and Nate breakdown Mariah Carey’s classic “All I Want for Christmas is You” and revisit their favorite tracks of 2017. Sleigh bells abound. Featuring• Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas• Laura Marling - Semper Femina• Lorde - Melodrama•…
Björk’s Emotional Landscapes
Nov 30, 2017 • 39 min
Björk is uniquely both a pop star and avant-garde composer. Though her music often challenges our ears, underneath her records you’ll find more in common with today’s pop music than you’d expect. Pieced together, you’ll hear that she paints emotional…
Taylor Constructs A Darker Reputation
Nov 15, 2017 • 39 min
Taylor Swift unveils a new, darker identity on her latest album “Reputation,” and many have read the lyrics on her latest as not-so-subtle volleys in an ongoing celebrity feud. Still, a question remains: how does Swift cast this dark personality in music?…
Unlikely Mashups: Taylor + Cardi B | Clean Bandit + Berlioz
Nov 2, 2017 • 47 min
At the top of the pop charts, Taylor Swift and Cardi B, two artists with seemingly little in common, exploit the same compositional technique to hook listeners in. Meanwhile, across time and space, electro producers Clean Bandit ft. Julia Michaels,…
Kendrick Lamar’s HUMBLE deconstructed w. guest Amber Mark
Oct 19, 2017 • 31 min
With Charlie off the grid, Nate sits down with singer/producer Amber Mark to explore the different levels of Kendrick’s hit HUMBLE.. Then, they turn to the diverse influences (including house music, Carnatic samples, and autodidactic piano chords) behind…
Demi Lovato is Not Sorry
Oct 5, 2017 • 37 min
Demi Lovato’s latest, “Sorry Not Sorry” is at once an unapologetic anthem of defiance and a super catchy mashup of multiple genres. As we’ll see, every small musical choice is here for a reason, together fostering Lovato’s message of ascension—or even,…
How to ‘Feels’ the Groove
Sep 21, 2017 • 33 min
How does a song with nonsense lyrics capture our attention, making us want to move? It is called the groove. Enter Calvin Harris’ “Feels” (ft. Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Big Sean). Known for mainstreaming EDM, Harris throws out the software and…
Anthems of Resilience - Kesha and Imagine Dragons [LIVE]
Sep 7, 2017 • 43 min
This episode of Switched on Pop comes at you live from Block Island, RI, recoded in front of an audience of friends and family following a solar eclipse. Fittingly, the two songs discussed that day formed their own kind of syzygy. Kesha’s “Praying” and…
The Many Worlds of “Despacito”
Aug 10, 2017 • 31 min
What has catapulted Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” to the top spot on the Billboard charts? Sorry, typo—to its status as the biggest song in the world? Your hosts explore the many worlds of “Despacito” in search of an answer.Featuring:Lusi…
Selena Gomez: Bad Liar, Psycho Songwriter
Jul 13, 2017 • 44 min
Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” stands out on the charts by doing things a little differently: it’s a subtle, at times even awkward, summer surprise. Breaking down this pop morsel reveals it has teeth, though—and not just because it borrows a bass line from the…
Breaking Down Alanis Morissette (and our own Preconceptions) with guest Andrea Warner
Jun 29, 2017 • 33 min
Author, critic and podcaster Andrea Warner joins for a throwback episode exploring politics in Lilith Fair, harmonic anger in Alanis Morissette’s iconic “You Oughta Know,” and the blind spots in your host’s assessment of women in rock. Featuring:•Alanis…
Morgan Page Reveals the Rule of 3 in Julia Michaels and Maroon 5
Jun 16, 2017 • 46 min
Your brain can only hear three things at the same time. What you may not know is that musicians use this cognitive limitation to guide your listening all the time. Charlie and Nate are joined by Grammy Nominee music producer Morgan Page to reveal the…
DJ Khaled - I’m The One… six… four… five
Jun 1, 2017 • 38 min
DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo from Migos and Lil Wayne have allied for a new smash hit: “I’m The One.” Despite the star power present, the resulting track is less than the sum of its parts—repetitive, derivative, uninventive. And yet,…
Musical Architecture in Charlie Puth + HAIM
May 18, 2017 • 41 min
Two new songs have captured the attention of your hosts—Charlie Puth’s “Attention” and HAIM’s “Want You Back.” On the surface, these two songs appear to have little in common. A closer look, though, reveals the subtle musical architecture undergirding…
The End Of Pop Music As We Know It: Fall Out Boy & Charli XCX
May 4, 2017 • 48 min
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.…
Harry Styles, Eschatology and Teen Girl Fandom
Apr 20, 2017 • 44 min
One Direction wunderkind Harry Styles has just released his first ever single, “Sign of the Times,” and it’s a doozy. Strap in for a discussion of the apocalypse, late Beatles, teen wisdom, and the amen cadence—among other demons exorcised in this most…
What’s to Love About Ed Sheeran? (guest Ross Golan)
Apr 5, 2017 • 42 min
Songwriter Ross Golan comes over to start up a conversation, encouraging us to follow his lead and give Ed Sheeran’s chart-annihilating record “Shape of You” a chance. Ross, a studio vet with multiple #1 hits (including numbers discussed on this very…
Zedd + Alessia Cara - Stay (w special guest Grey)
Mar 23, 2017 • 45 min
Charlie and Nate sit down with up-and-coming producer duo Grey—fresh off their hit “Starving” with Zedd and Hailee Steinfeld—to uncover the secrets behind Alessia Cara and Zedd’s dramatic dance track “Stay” and Grey’s own deep cut “I Miss You” (ft…
Chained to the Green Light: Katy Perry + Lorde
Mar 9, 2017 • 40 min
Two artists who haven’t released new music since 2013 recently remerged into the limelight: Katy Perry, with her dystopian disco banger “Chained to the Rhythm” and Lorde, with the melodramatic-yet-uplifting anthem “Green Light.” Listening carefully, a…
Oscar Week!: La La Land ft. Genevieve Koski
Feb 23, 2017 • 52 min
With the Academy Awards around the corner, Charlie and Nate try something new: a break down of the movie musical La La Land through two of its key songs, “City of Stars” and “Start a Fire.” These numbers, one by composer Justin Hurwitz, the other by…
Zayn, Taylor Swift & The Grammys
Feb 9, 2017 • 33 min
“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” the new track from Zayn and Taylor Swift, finds two members of the pop pantheon joining forces with producer Jack Antonoff to craft an inexorable hit song. But this duet—between a former One Direction heartthrob aiming to…
The Puzzle of Ariana Grande’s “Into You” (with K. Flay)
Jan 26, 2017 • 49 min
“Into You” was one of the biggest hits of 2016, the stellar production of reclusive legend Max Martin combining with the acrobatic vocals of Ariana Grande to create an undeniable, ubiquitous earworm. With “Into You” still burning up the charts, we dive…
Seduced by the Sound: The Weeknd + Daft Punk
Jan 12, 2017 • 25 min
“I Feel it Coming” might be the slowest burning jam to hit the charts in ages, in which the Weeknd enlists the robotic hum of Daft Punk to help craft a perfectly calibrated climate of desire. Brilliant, sexy songs don’t just appear out of thin air,…
Dreaming Of A White Christmas
Dec 15, 2016 • 41 min
White Christmas holds the Guinness World Record for most singles sold and has been covered over 500 times. Pop stars from Elvis to Ella have recorded it, with interpretations from doo-wop to country to punk rock. With new covers each year, it seems…
How to Listen to Music in 4 Easy Steps
Dec 1, 2016 • 47 min
50 episodes in, hosts Charlie and Nate take a step back to think about how they listen to music and try to define what might be called The Switched on Method™. “Hallelujah,” by the late, great Leonard Cohen, acts as a perfect test case for breaking down…
Playing it Cool: How Tove Lo Aims High
Nov 17, 2016 • 30 min
On the surface, Tove Lo’s new hit “Cool Girl” boasts a snappy, earworm chorus and an empowering message of self-reliance. Beneath its chill exterior, though, Lo’s song burns with a passion bordering on rage, and sinister sonic undertones suggest an…
Made In America: Toby Keith & Jay-Z
Nov 3, 2016 • 48 min
Back in 2011, two pop songs dropped with the same patriotic title: “Made in America.” But the similarities pretty much end there. Toby Keith’s country smash and Jay Z, Kanye West and Frank Ocean’s soulful hip hop anthem have little in common except a firm…
Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal
Oct 20, 2016 • 45 min
Host Charlie spent the last two weeks listening to every song on the Billboard Hot 100. What did he discover? That the sonic similarities of most chart-toppers sound closer than ever. Except for the #1 song in America, as of this episode’s release -…
The Most Popular Song In The World
Oct 6, 2016 • 40 min
The Nokia ringtone used to be heard more than a billion times per day, making it one of the most popular songs in the world. We tend to consider cellphone rings as somewhat antithetical to music. There is a whole subset of YouTube videos dedicated to the…
Lady Gaga Is A Perfect Illusion
Sep 22, 2016 • 63 min
Lady Gaga’s new single “Perfect Illusion” is the apotheosis of her artistic statement. She is well known for her visual style that too often overshadows her music. But when taken together, it is evident that Lady Gaga is playing all of us because the…
How Beyoncé to The Beatles Modulate Your Emotions
Sep 8, 2016 • 38 min
Certain pop songs have that moment, when everything seems to change but still remain the same, when the drama gets ratcheted up, when the tension increases and our emotions take an elevator ride to the heavens. From Beyoncé to Johnny Cash, savvy pop…
Pop Drops and Chipmunk Soul
Aug 25, 2016 • 41 min
A strange syndrome is wreaking havoc on the voices of our biggest pop stars. From Rihanna to Justin Bieber, no one is safe from having their beautiful vocals chopped up, screwed down, repitched and repurposed. As dance music takes over the charts and new…
The Gideon and Hubcap Show
Aug 15, 2016 • 27 min
This episode marks something of a departure from the norm. With Charlie away, host Nate, aka “Hubcap,” takes us on a home-show tour of the Scottish Highlands with his traveling minstrel act, The Gideon and Hubcap Show. It’s an entirely different kind of…
Breaking Down The House
Aug 1, 2016 • 40 min
The fingerprints of house music are all over mainstream pop, but much of its sound has been whitewashed. That ubiquitous four-to-the-floor kick and synth bass sound draws from Chicago’s queer, black and latinx warehouse club culture. Micah Salkind is…
Around The World With Drake
Jul 14, 2016 • 43 min
How do you create a hit that both breaks sound barriers and chart records? Drake has done this with a unique mix of international sounds from Africa, the Caribbean, the U.K. and Canada. But is his chart topping success musical appropriation or…
When Good Music Happens To Bad People
Jun 30, 2016 • 39 min
We have more information about pop stars lives than ever before, but this transparency is not always uplifting for music lovers. Just as we may enjoy following the intimate lives of celebrities on Instagram, we simultaneously uncover how stars abuse their…
Justin Timberlake Goes Medieval
Jun 16, 2016 • 36 min
Summer heat is upon us and so are the jams. Our ears are hooked on Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” What you may not know is that this song leans on the success of mononymous giants: Pharrell, Michael and Handel. If you think that pop is a…
All About Those Baseline Assumptions About Femini$m in Pop
Jun 6, 2016 • 34 min
With Meghan Trainor’s new singles “No” and “Me Too” ubiquitous on the radio dial, a larger discussion about the uneasy relationship between social movements and selling records takes a feminist bent. Memories of the polarizing 2014 hit “All About that…
Jonas vs. Jonas: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Boy Band
May 19, 2016 • 36 min
A battle between brothers is playing out on the pop charts, a sibling rivalry the likes of which the music industry hasn’t seen since 1987, when Michael and Janet Jackson’s 1987 “Bad” and “Let’s Wait Awhile” jockeyed for peak position on the Hot 100.…
Purple Lemonade: Prince & Beyoncé
May 5, 2016 • 45 min
It has been a period of musical loss and celebration. On the same week we lost Prince, the world was gifted Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Both artists contain multitudes of musical traditions, collaborators and themes that weave throughout their song. In the first…
Pablo And The Wolves
Apr 21, 2016 • 37 min
The Life Of Pablo is Kanye West’s latest album. Despite its lack of hits, it has been at the fulcrum of pop music for months. With its gradual online release and its changing track lists, this shapeshifting album is difficult to grasp. We recruit Andrew…
The Populist Pop of Twenty One Pilots
Apr 6, 2016 • 33 min
Out of nowhere, Twenty One Pilots has rocketed to the top of the charts with their surprise hit “Stressed Out.” Charlie and Nate pull this millennial anthem apart to discover a deep political resonance, the kind that rarely hits the Hot 100. Tracing this…
American Oxygen
Mar 23, 2016 • 26 min
How do you collaborate with five people to write a song that captures that national temperature? The stakes may seem high with stars like Alex Da Kid, Candice Pillay, Kanye West and Rihanna, but Sam Harris from X Ambassadors has unlocked the secret.…
Say Hey
Mar 10, 2016 • 44 min
Listen carefully to almost any hit song these days and you’ll hear musicians screaming “Hey!” What’s the matter with them? Do they really need our attention? We uncover the reason and history behind this phenomenon with guest host Alex Kapelman, producer…
Now I Sia, Now I Don’t
Feb 26, 2016 • 39 min
One of the biggest voices in pop music has no face: Sia. She started her career as a ghostwriter for stars like Rihanna and Beyoncé. Recently she found pop star success with her hit “Chandelier.” So with her new album, “This Is Acting,” you’d expect to…
B Side: Singing With Mama Jan
Feb 18, 2016 • 7 min
What do Usher, The Band Perry and Bieber have in common? They all sing with Mama Jan, one of the best vocal coaches and producers in the music business. On this mini episode, Mama Jan talks about what happens backstage before the biggest performance of a…
Call Your Girlfriend
Feb 12, 2016 • 39 min
Is it a love song or is it a breakup song? Charlie joins the women of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast to break down their namesake song by Robyn. Also, advice on how to build the perfect wedding playlist. And we check back in with Nate to listen to Cab…
Click With Dick And Other Campaign Anthems
Jan 28, 2016 • 61 min
What do presidential candidates, professional wrestlers and improv comics have in common? Walk on theme music. As the primary season heats up we dig into the history, meaning and controversies of campaign anthems. Also, comedian and guest co-host Chris…
The Life Changing Magic of Music in 2015
Jan 17, 2016 • 32 min
Charlie and Nate reveal the life changing magic of how to tidy up the music you missed from last year. Annually, hundreds of publications release best of lists. These lists are supposed to make it easier to discover and celebrate the year in music. But…
Linus & Lucy
Dec 16, 2015 • 33 min
Celebrate 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas and his eponymous holiday album. If you’re feeling worn out on holiday music, this one never wears old. Its gone triple platinum and charts almost every year on the holiday Billboard. Join us as we dive deep…
Same Here
Dec 2, 2015 • 32 min
Two unlikely anthems of individuality are rocketing up the charts: Selena Gomez’s “Same Old Love” and Alessia Cara’s “Here.” One is from an established star, the other from a total unknown, but both use similar musical techniques to make their voices…
Searching for Max Martin
Nov 19, 2015 • 44 min
The most omnipresent figure in pop music is also the most elusive: Karl Sandberg, AKA Max Martin, the mad Swedish genius who’s ruled the charts for 20 years. With the help of New Yorker writer John Seabrook, author of The Song Machine, and comedian Chris…
Hotline Hello: Drake and Adele
Nov 4, 2015 • 34 min
Drake and Adele are two megastars who may not seem to share much in common on the surface, but their recent hits exhibit some surprising parallels. Both revisit past relationships over the phone and both conceal inner anguish beneath subtle musical…
Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
Oct 22, 2015 • 36 min
As much as we might have crazy love for pop music, pop music also loves to drive us crazy. Earworms that grab you and won’t let go; cookie-cutter compositions that bedevil in their unoriginality; strange new sounds that vex, rankle, confound. How does pop…
Justin Bieber’s Existential Suite
Oct 7, 2015 • 32 min
Bieber’s two new hits, “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean,” showcase the prodigal pop star’s soberer side. In each, his realization of the fictive nature of relationships is musicalized through slippery piano chords and disembodied voices. But just…
The Weeknd: Dance of Deception
Sep 23, 2015 • 26 min
The Weeknd’s deliriously funky chart topper “Can’t Feel My Face” has sparked sweat-soaked dance sessions across the country, but dark notes lurk at the outskirts of this ebullient jam. Chromatic intrusions and Classical laments crowd the scene and invite…
Let’s Talk About Sax
Sep 9, 2015 • 36 min
The sax is back. This surprisingly funky reed keeps popping up in pop hits from Derulo to Grande. But where did the sax come from? And where did it go? Tighten your embouchure, because we journey to the center of sax in this week’s episode. Also, songs…
Kacey Musgraves: Transgressing Country
Aug 13, 2015 • 27 min
Can you be a country star and critical of the country at the same time? Grammy Award Winner, Kacey Musgraves, has two hit albums that challenge the small-town clichés of modern country music. Is she bucking the trend of big trucks and dirt roads, or…
Song of Summer: LIVE!
Jul 30, 2015 • 30 min
In the first-ever LIVE edition of Switched on Pop, Charlie and Nate enter an epic debate over what track should be crowned 2015’s definitive Song of Summer. Charlie’s candidate is the retro anthem “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, while Nate argues…
The Dual Meaning of Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen
Jul 15, 2015 • 21 min
Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen is an unlikely contender for the top 10. It straddles genres between hip-hop and pop in subtle yet mesmerizing ways. Is it a drug song? Is it a love song? Or is it both at the same time? Join us to find out why you can’t get this…
One Direction: Our Modern Day Castrati
May 28, 2015 • 24 min
One Direction is one of the biggest bands in pop, but unless you’re a preteen or the parent of one, like us you’ve probably never heard a second of their music. Until now. Let’s see if we’ve been missing out, on the latest from Switched on Pop. FEATURING…
The Final Dropout
May 15, 2015 • 8 min
How does a good pop song end? With a bang, right? As it turns out, explosive endings are kinda over. Songwriters are instead opting to end with a final dropout. Even the biggest pop anthems close with a quiet final moment. In this musical short, Nate, our…
Hidden Sounds in FourFiveSeconds
May 6, 2015 • 22 min
FourFiveSeconds is one of the more surprising collaborations in recent pop history. Rhianna, Kanye, Sir Paul McCartney. The motley lineup doesn’t dissapoint, serving up one of the most unexpected songs of the year—though not for the reason you’d think.…
Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You
Apr 15, 2015 • 22 min
Carly Rae Jepsen might be the patron saint of Switched on Pop, the show first hatched by Charlie and Nate on a trip down CA-1 while the stereo blasted “Call Me Maybe.” So when we heard she had a new single out we knew we had to stop everything, put off…
Hozier’s Waffling of Faith in Take Me To Church
Apr 2, 2015 • 18 min
Written in the Hozier family basement, Take Me To Church has risen up to be one of the biggest pop hits of the year. But this is not a typical pop song. The unsettling music and provocative lyrics about faith and relationships irk many listeners. But this…
Taylor Swift’s Beethovian Blank Space
Mar 26, 2015 • 16 min
Taylor Swift’s Blank Space is about emptiness of the heart. This motif of Blank Space is contained through the entire piece: from the drums, to the melody, to the lyrics. We pull away the sonic structures to show how Taylor recreates that empty feeling…
A Cappella Dreams
Mar 16, 2015 • 48 min
A cappella, Italian for in the style of the church, refers to music for unaccompanied voices. Just a decade ago it was nowhere near the radio dial. Now it’s everywhere: college campuses, Hollywood blockbusters, prime time reality television, and the…
Radio Africa
Feb 19, 2015 • 31 min
Reporting live from Kenya, we search for African pop that is making its way into global dance music. The barriers to producing high quality audio are reduced to merely owning a laptop. Now, regional artists are reaching a global audience. We speak to…
Star Spangled
Jan 28, 2015 • 28 min
Did you know the melody to the Star Spangled Banner was once a British drinking song? In preparation for the Super Bowl, we uncover how the national anthem has been co-opted and reinterpreted by mega pop-stars. Our understanding of how this song sounds…
Mark Ronson: Funk Politics
Jan 15, 2015 • 34 min
Did you know the melody to the Star Spangled Banner was once a British drinking song? In preparation for the Super Bowl, we uncover how the national anthem has been co-opted and reinterpreted by mega pop-stars. Our understanding of how this song sounds…
The Imperative Jingle Bells
Dec 20, 2014 • 32 min
You’ve heard it a million times, you know how to sing it, its ubiquitous during the holiday season, but you’ve never heard a definitive recording. Where does it come from, why is it so catchy, and why of all holiday songs is Jingle Bells the most widely…
To Be Young
Dec 11, 2014 • 32 min
Pop music and youth go together like peanut butter and pickles. The music we hear when we’re young shapes our identities forevermore. In this episode we take three songs that promise an eternal adolescence and put them under microscope to see what makes…
Boom Bang Pow
Nov 14, 2014 • 29 min
We look at the Rhythms that make us dance, those primal beats, the “Boom Bang Pow” that make us want to move. We’ll ask what makes them work and why is that we’re hearing that untz untz everywhere we go from the dance floor, to the coffee shop, to the…
The Oeuvre of Taylor Swift
Oct 27, 2014 • 40 min
We uncover the common songwriting techniques and chart the musical evolution of Taylor Swift. Featuring songs from her early country period, transitional indie period and her latest pop album, 1989. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit…
Heartbreak
Oct 27, 2014 • 27 min
Why do we love listening to heartbreak songs? What do songwriters do to emote such strong feelings?FEATURINGAdele – Someone Like YouKacey Musgraves – I Miss YouCeeLo Green – F*** You!Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Why You Should Get Switched On Pop
Oct 26, 2014 • 2 min
Welcome to Switched on Pop, a show about how popular music works and why it matters hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding. We break down the music in pop hits to help you find those “a-ha” moments. Whether you’re a pop fanatic…