315 episodes

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.

Switched on Pop New York Magazine

    • Music
    • 4.8 • 106 Ratings

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.

    Why do new Christmas songs fail?

    Why do new Christmas songs fail?

    In case you missed it last year: why are there no new Christmas songs? One one hand, there's more holiday songs than we’ll ever need. Every year pop stars drop countless holiday-themed album.
    But despite the annual glut of Christmas releases, few of these new songs join the rotation of holiday classics. On Billboard's Holiday Hot 100 chart right now, there's only four songs from the past ten years that have made it to the top fifty.
    We listen to each of these holiday hits—from Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and the Jonas Brothers—and and ask if these songs can go the distance and become the 21st century members of the Christmas music canon.

    Songs Discussed - Playlist
    Kelly Clarkson - Underneath the Tree
    Ariana Grande - Santa Tell Me
    Justin Bieber - Mistletoe
    Jonas Brothers - Like It's Christmas
    The Bird and the Bee - You and I at Christmas Time
    Loretta Lynn - White Christmas Blue
    Woody Goss - One for One
    Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - 8 Days of Hannukah
    Jenny Owen Youngs, Tancred, John Mark Nelson - Fireside
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    • 27 min
    The Art of Flow

    The Art of Flow

    In hip-hop, what draws us to an artist is not just the content of their lyrics but how they deliver them. Along with tapping your foot to the rhythm, understanding something called “flow” is essential to understanding hip-hop as a whole.

    In this episode of Switched On Pop, we interview genre icon DJ Jazzy Jeff on the concept of flow: what it is, how it applies to all music – not just hip-hop – and how any rapper’s flow can be analyzed under his guidelines. Taking his word for it, we put our magnifying glasses on to look at the bars of our favorite rappers, from Megan thee Stallion to Babytron.

    Songs Discussed:

    The Notorious B.I.G. - Big Poppa

    Mary J. Blige - Family Affair

    A Tribe Called Quest - The Hop

    Danger Mouse, Black Thought - Aquamarine

    BabyTron - Crocs & Wock’ 

    RXKNephew - Take Three

    JID - Better Days (feat. Johnta Austin)

    Megan Thee Stallion - Not Nice

    Megan Thee Stallion - Cocky Af

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    • 36 min
    Willow Smith rocks harder

    Willow Smith rocks harder

    Coping Mechanism, Willow's new album, is her heaviest music yet. Charlie and Willow chat about the making of the new record and the many multitudes of rock music.

    Music Discussed

    The Anxiety - Meet Me At Our Spot

    Willow - Maybe It's My Fault, UR Town, Human Leach, PrettyGirlz, Lipstick, Why, Breakout, Hover Like a Goddess, Curious/Furious, Ur A Stranger

    Yungblood - Memories (with Willow)

    Deftones - Sextape

    Radiohead - I Will

    Straight Line Stitch - What You Do To Me

    Killswitch Engage - My Curse

    Lamb of God - Redneck

    Primus - Lacquer Head

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    • 26 min
    The Sound of Sapphism

    The Sound of Sapphism

    Tegan & Sara and King Princess have found themselves placed under the banner, "sapphic pop," a term recently coined referring to music by and/or for sapphics (a.k.a. women or femme folks attracted to other femme folks). Journalist Emma Madden defines the folk-inspired sound as having a “soft tactile approach” that’s “more sensual than it is sexual.” This umbrella folds in everyone from indie pop veterans Tegan & Sara to nonbinary artists like King Princess; even artists like Hozier and Sufjan Stevens are, improbably, considered sapphic pop, with their music having the same sonic qualities of other songs dedicated to feminine yearning.
    From articles popping up in multiple news outlets to the majority of Taylor Swift’s openers for this upcoming tour (looking at MUNA, girl in red, and Phoebe Bridgers, specifically), the terminology of “sapphic pop” has come to define a scene almost out of nowhere.
    This week on Switched On Pop, we explore exactly what sapphic pop is, where it came from, and how artists feel about it – even asking Tegan & Sara and King Princess directly. You can listen wherever you get podcasts.

    Songs discussed

    Clairo – Sofia

    King Princess – Talia

    girl in red – i wanna be your girlfriend

    Hozier – Cherry Wine (live)

    Alex G – Sarah

    The Velvet Underground – I Found A Reason

    Sufjan Stevens – To Be Alone With You

    Cris Williamson – Shine On Straight Arrow

    Jaylib, Madlib, J Dilla – The Red

    Taylor Swift – betty

    Brittany Howard – Georgia

    MUNA, Phoebe Bridgers – Silk Chiffon

    Tegan & Sara – Call It Off

    Tegan & Sara – Smoking Weed Alone

    King Princess – 1950

    King Princess – I Hate Myself, I Want To Party

    King Princess – Pussy is God

    Kate Bush – Why Should I Love You?

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    • 33 min
    Scary Pockets funkify pop classics (with Lizzy McAlpine)

    Scary Pockets funkify pop classics (with Lizzy McAlpine)

    Scary Pockets is the musical collective that has been transforming pop classics into funk anthems for over half a decade. Each week they release a new cover on YouTube featuring razor-sharp instrumentalists and a rotating cast of virtuosic lead singers. Amazingly, each of their 200-plus covers is arranged on the fly, in a span of about 90 minutes—capturing the talent and spontaneity of a group of musicians at the top of their game. We here at Switched on Pop were struck by the band's ability to infuse familiar songs with syncopation and backbeat, and rack up millions of views in the process, so we reached out to Scary Pockets's leaders—guitarist Ryan Lerman and keyboardist Jack Conte—to arrange for Nate and Reanna to be flies on the wall during their creative process. After documenting the behind-the-scenes dialogue that led to a slow-burning interpretation of the Bee Gees's 1977 classic "Staying Alive," we called up Ryan, Jack, and the song's lead vocalist, Lizzy McAlpine, to hear their insights on making a song that everyone knows sound fresh and unfamiliar 

    Songs Discussed
    Bee Gees - Staying Alive (Scary Pockets Cover)
    Paul McCartney and Wings - Arrow Through Me (Scary Pockets Cover)
    Beatles - Maxwell's Silver Hammer
    Coldplay - Fix You (Scary Pockets Cover)
    Parcels - Tieduprightnow
    Bill Withers - Just the Two of Us (Scary Pockets Cover)
    Justin Bieber - Peaches (Lizzy McAlpine Cover)

    More on Scary Pockets
    Watch the video of Scary Pockets and Lizzy McAlpine covering "Staying Alive"
    See them LIVE with David Ryan Harris & John Scofield, November 16 at Echoplex in Los Angeles! Tickets
    Subscribe to their YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/scarypockets
    Merch Store: https://www.scarypocketsfunk.com
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/scarypockets
    Listen on Spotify: Scary Pockets
    Instagram: @scarypockets 

    Musician Credits:
    Vocals: Lizzy McAlpine
    BGVs: Sophia James, Arielle Kasnetz
    Guitar: Ryan Lerman, Will Graefe
    Wurlitzer & Synth: Jack Conte
    Bass: Travis Carlton
    Drums: RJ Kelly
    Audio: Engineered & mixed by Caleb Parker
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    • 33 min
    Up late with Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’

    Up late with Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’

     A Taylor Swift album is just not a collection of new music, it’s an exploration of a theme. For the last eight years, each release has embodied a single idea. Reputation marked a turn to the dark side, Lover a return to the light, and her pair of albums Folklore and Evermore painted acoustic, fictional landscapes. Each album propels fans to find covert lyrical connections to her personal life, and easter eggs to past compositions.

    Whereas Swift's pop star contemporaries have focused their energies on becoming business moguls, Swift has gone deeper into songwriting and receiving accolades in the process. In September 2022, the Nashville Songwriting Association International awarded Swift the Songwriter of the Decade award. In her acceptance speech she says, “writing songs is my life’s work and my hobby and my never-ending thrill.”

    Now she continues that thrill collaborating with her frequent producing partner and friend of the show, Jack Antonoff, on Midnights, her 10th studio album (not counting her recent “Taylor’s version” re-recordings of past releases). On Midnights Swift builds a lyrical and sonic world that takes place across “13 sleepless nights.” Nate and Charlie listen closely to hear how she constructs this late night feeling.  


    Nate’s article on “Taylor Swift and the Work of Songwriting” for the Contemporary Music Review Journal

    John Hull's Soundfly course on Advanced Synths and Patch Design for Producers

    Music Discussed:

    Taylor Swift - Anti-Hero, Lavender Haze, Maroon, Question, Snow On the Beach, Mastermind, Bejeweled, Vigilante Shit, Labyrinth, Midnight Rain, You’re On Your Own Kid, You Belong With Me, Stay

    Kevin “Reese” Saunderson - Just Want Another Chance

    Ray “Renegade” Keith - Terrorist P.A. Mix

    Burial - Archangel 

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    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
106 Ratings

106 Ratings

Dashdz ,

Very cool

Very cool, educational and humorous. Love the latest Bond episode :)

rebeccafromwoywoy ,

I love it and couldn’t love it more.

I can’t even with this podcast. I love it so much. It touches me in all the special deep places. It’s laugh-out-loud funny as well as being educational AND introducing me to great new music that an old lady like me wouldn’t find any other way!

Atlas 🤔 ,

Half baked

Great if you are interested in very surface level conversations about pop music. Unfortunately, there’s not much insight or depth beyond « they put happy chords with upbeat drums and that’s what makes it exciting… »

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