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Switched on Pop

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Switched on Pop

A podcast all about the making and meaning of popular music. Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work magic on our ears & our culture. From Vulture and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Recent Episodes of Switched on Pop


Billie Eilish hits both hard and soft

Billie Eilish hits both hard and soft

On Billie Eilish’s third album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, Eilish finally graduates from her signature anti-pop persona into full blown pop stardom. This record finds Eilish experimenting on the themes from her earlier records, while crafting an economic ten tracks that position themselves for mainstream radio consumption. There’s “L’amour de ma vie,” her five-and-a-half minute beat-switching eulogy for a failed relationship, or “Birds Of A Feather,” where she contrasts the soft, dreamy melodies we’ve come to know Eilish for with hauntingly dark lyrical content. This duality is a recurring motif throughout Hit Me Hard and Soft, with ea...

Episode 21 May 2024 43m and 7s


Gastropod: Why are restaurants so loud? Plus the science behind the perfect playlist

Gastropod: Why are restaurants so loud? Plus the science behind the perfect playlist

When you go out for a meal, it’s not just what's on your plate that matters, it's what's in your eardrums, too. From dining rooms so loud you have to shout to be heard, to playlists that sound like a generic Millennial Spotify account, it's not surprising that sound is the single most complained about aspect of restaurants.

A few years ago, Charlie and Nate explored this in an episode on restaurant playlists. This week, they joined Cynthia and Nicky on their show Gastropod to help them explore the science behind the sonic experience of eating.

...

Episode 17 May 2024 44m and 3s


Is pop music just fast food? (with Gastropod)

Is pop music just fast food? (with Gastropod)

Where were you when you learned that the McDonald's jingle "I'm lovin' it" was originally part of a full-fledged pop song by Justin Timberlake and Pharrell that flopped on the charts but found staying power as a slogan? For us, it was recording our live episode about sponsored content in pop back in March 2024, and we have not been the same since. Shaken by this revelation, we found ourselves asking, "What else don't we know about fast food jingles?"


Turns out, it's a lot. From Taco Bell to Popeye's to Chili's, the music of...

Episode 14 May 2024 39m and 24s


Rosie Tucker's unending bliss

Rosie Tucker's unending bliss

Tongue twisters that mock techno-optimism and cite critical theory don’t usually make for catchy song lyrics. But indie rocker Rosie Tucker’s Utopia Now! finds beauty in the dross of late capitalism. Over 13 songs backed by distorted guitars and blazing drum fills, Tucker’s searing vocals bemoan the inherent dislocation of our modern world while searching for moments of truth and human connection.


The night before Tucker embarked on a tour, Nate visited their home studio to speak to them about the inspirations behind their latest album. Although it deals with “big” topics, Tucker stres...

Episode 10 May 2024 23m and 41s


Eurovision 2024: from Baby Lasagna to Windows95Man

Eurovision 2024: from Baby Lasagna to Windows95Man

It’s that time of year again when the entirety of Europe (and a few other countries) come together to celebrate kitschy, bombastic songwriting through the Eurovision Song Contest! This year’s competition, held in Malmo, Sweden, features everything from rave-pop on behalf of the Netherlands, to folk-rapping hybrids courtesy of Ukraine – and Charlie and Nate are here to musicologically unpack the craziest tracks that have the potential to win it all. 


For more on the controversy surrounding this year’s contest, check out Charlie’s appearance on Vox’s podcast Today, Explained.


...

Episode 7 May 2024 33m and 22s


Justice is never-ending

Justice is never-ending

Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of the French electronic duo Justice speak with cohost Charlie Harding about their new album Hyperdrama.


Song Discussed

Justice - Phantom Pt II, D.A.N.C.E., Neveender, New Jack, Genesis, Horsepower, Civilization, One Night-All Night, Dear Alan, Incognito, Moonlight Rendez-vous, Audio Video Disco, Afterimage, The End, Generator, Pleasure The Who - My Generation The White Stripes - Black Math The Human League - Human John Carpenter - Night Serge Gainsourg & Jane Birkin - Je T’aime… moi non plus Michel Berger - Le Paradis Blanc Stard...

Episode 4 May 2024 41m and 34s


Best of 2024 so far: hip hop feuds, Hozier’s pop surprise and espresso shots

Best of 2024 so far: hip hop feuds, Hozier’s pop surprise and espresso shots

The beginning of 2024 has brought new music aplenty. Some big releases are in the form of big-ticket albums by the world’s biggest superstars (shoutout Taylor and Beyoncé); some are in the form of soon-to-be radio-friendly staples (we love you, "Espresso"); and some are in the form of personal earworms (Justice! Rosie Tucker! Dua!).

This episode of Switched on Pop, we take a look at the records that we can’t stop listening to from the past few months, from Metro Boomin to Kacey Musgraves to Willow Smith. 


Songs discussed: 

Metro Boomin...

Episode 30 April 2024 53m and 38s


Taylor Swift's Literary Era

Taylor Swift's Literary Era

The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, finds the songwriter in the world of literature. She interweaves personal romance with mythical creation and quotations from high and low culture: Genesis, Peter Pan and even Playstation. Despite calling herself a "modern idiot," less-than-subtle nods to Sylvia Plath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dylan Thomas, and Patti Smith reveal the artist’s literary aspirations and “legendary” status. The full length Anthology version contains a bookshelf of many genres: pulp fiction, diary entries, period pieces, epic poems, and her very own genre, Taylor Swift.

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Episode 23 April 2024 46m and 19s


Lost Notes: How Fela Kuti Found Afrobeat in LA

Lost Notes: How Fela Kuti Found Afrobeat in LA

Lost Notes by KCRW explores how Fela Kuti’s time in LA in 1969 was instrumental in the creation of his legendary Afrobeat sound. Hosted by Michael Barnes and Novena Carmel. Find a full transcript of Lost Notes at KCRW. And subscribe to the show.

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Episode 20 April 2024 32m and 10s


Berlin's Hottest Club is Rico Nasty & Boys Noize

Berlin's Hottest Club is Rico Nasty & Boys Noize

There are few artists pushing the boundaries of their respective genres like Maryland rapper Rico Nasty and German-Iraqi electronic producer Boys Noize. The two have run in the same circles for over half a decade, but their joint collaboration has reached an apex with their three song EP, HARDC0RE DR3AMZ, a dance-floor ready project that owes as much to Berlin techno as it does to Dutch gabber music. Rico and Boys Noize – a.k.a. Alexander Ridha – are also incredible friends with a lot of love for one another, and for producer Reanna Cruz, all of these reas...

Episode 16 April 2024 44m and 49s

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