258 episodes

Best Arts & Culture podcast Webby 2020 winner 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 Vulture

    • Music
    • 4.9 • 103 Ratings

Best Arts & Culture podcast Webby 2020 winner 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.

    Janet Jackson's Legacy After 'Control' from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders

    Janet Jackson's Legacy After 'Control' from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders

    Sam Sanders is one of our favorite friends of the podcast. His NPR show, It's Been A Minute, has released an outstanding three part series exploring crossover in pop music. We want to share with you the 2nd episode form that series on the legacy of Janet Jackson.

    From It's Been A Minute
    On the 35th anniversary of Janet Jackson's first No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, we look back at Control, her career-defining album that changed the trajectory of pop music in the late '80s and '90s. In the second episode of a three-part series exploring crossover in pop music, we look at Jackson's musical and cultural legacy over the years. We also reconsider how Jackson was vilified after her Super Bowl XXXVIII appearance, and why. Episode art by Blake Cale for NPR

    All episodes in the series

    There Was Nothing Like 'Soul Train' On TV. There's Never Been Anything Like It Since

    Janet Jackson Once Had 'Control' of the Charts. We Don't Give Her Enough Credit

    1999's 'Latin Explosion' chased crossover hits. Today, Latino artists don't need them


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    • 46 min
    James Bond and the Sound of Spycraft

    James Bond and the Sound of Spycraft

    The latest installment of the James Bond franchise, No Time To Die, closes the book on the Daniel Craig era of the international superspy. The film’s theme song, “No Time to Die,” by Billie Eilish, Finneas, and Hans Zimmer, also marks the conclusion of one of the great musical sagas in recent cinema. Monty Norman’s and John Barry’s now-iconic “James Bond Theme,” written for 1962’s Dr. No, has remained a constant across six decades of espionage and one-liners. But every new Bond theme has also developed subtle variations on the original that reflect the character’s changes over time. On this episode of Switched On Pop, we uncover what inspired the theme, how it’s changed, and why it almost never happened.


    FURTHER JAMES BOND THEME READING
    The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism by Adrian Daub and Charles Kronengold
    The Music of James Bond - Jon Burlingame
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    • 34 min
    James Blake & The Return of Harmony

    James Blake & The Return of Harmony

    For a decade James Blake has crafted an idiosyncratic sound. His early work as a minimalist electronic producer fused lush R&B chords with lyrical collage and unfiltered synthesizers. He describes his hit 2013 song “Retrograde” as apocalyptic yet also romantic. This single was in stark contrast to the bubblegum pop of the early 2010s. But other artists recruited him to spread his subversive sonics. He produced on three of the most seminal albums in recent history: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN and Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Before Blake, it sounded like pop was caught in the same four chord loop. But gradually Blake’s vision of harmonic melancholy has infused popular music. On his new album “Friends That Break Your Heart,” Blake has written his most compelling songs yet, but underneath are those his familiar wandering chords and emotional suspense.
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    • 39 min
    Sparkle spoke out against R Kelly. It cost her her career.

    Sparkle spoke out against R Kelly. It cost her her career.

    On this week’s episode we're sharing a story fromThe Cut where senior writer Angelina Chapin and co-host Jazmín Aguilera talk about and talk with Sparkle (born Stephanie Edwards), who first reported R. Kelly to the police for allegedly sexually abusing her 14-year-old niece. Back then, no one believed her, but following the explosive documentary Surviving R. Kelly and the R&B artist’s trial, at the end of which he was found guilty of nine federal sex crimes, she’s been vindicated. Angelina spoke with Sparkle a few times during and after R. Kelly’s most recent trial to hear about the monumental costs she has paid for coming forward.
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    • 31 min
    The Mystery of Montero AKA Lil Nas X (feat. Take A Daytrip)

    The Mystery of Montero AKA Lil Nas X (feat. Take A Daytrip)

    Lil Nas X has a talent for creating productive controversy. First with “Old Town Road,” he challenged expectations about blackness in country music. Now with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” he takes aim at anti LGBTQ+ messages propagated by the religious dogma from his youth (he came out as gay during Pride 2019). The song describes a romantic encounter without innuendo. Sure it’s raunchy, but the song doesn’t especially stand out on Billboard where explicit sexual fantasy is commonplace. But his use of religious iconography in his video and merchandise created an immediate backlash. In the video to “Montero,” Lil Nas X rides a stripped pole into hades where he gives a lap dance to Satan (also played by Lil Nas X). Despite the obvious commentary on repressive orthodoxy, religious conservatives failed to see the subtext. The song became a lightning rod. But as pundits fought on social media about the song's meaning, most critics failed to look into the song’s musical references. Produced by Take A Daytrip, the duo behind Shek Wes’ “Mo Bamba” and Lil Nas X’s “Panini,” “Montero'' mashes up genres that take the listener on a global journey, sharing his message of acceptance across cultures.

    Music
    Lil Nas X — Montero, Old Town Road, Panini
    24kGoldn, iann dior - Mood
    Dick Dale and his Del-Tones - Misirlou
    Tetos Demetriades - Misirlou
    Aris San Boom Pam
    Silsulim - Static & Ben El
    Shek Was — Mo Bamba
    Lehakat Tzliley Haud
    Bouzouki recording from xserra from FreeSound under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

    More
    Listen to Gal Kadan’s project: Awesome Orientalists From Europa on Bandcamp
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    • 35 min
    Deja Vu: Why Olivia Rodrigo keeps giving up songwriting credits

    Deja Vu: Why Olivia Rodrigo keeps giving up songwriting credits

    In the last few years music copyright claims have skyrocketed. More and more artists are giving songwriting credits away. Frequently, credits are given retroactively to avoid the cost of long jury trials like when Sam Smith credited Tom Petty. Smith’s melody for “Stay With Me” clearly drew from Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” On rare occasions these cases go to court, where music litigation is at an all time high. In the last ten years there have been 190 public cases, up over 350% from the prior decade, according to The George Washington University & Columbia Law School Music Copyright Infringement Resource.

    This story has come in and out of the news cycle in closely watched jury trials including artists like Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, and Katie Perry. Historically, courts have extended copyright to only unique combinations of words and music, not rhythms, chords, instruments. But recent cases increasingly litigate the core building blocks of music. Many artists fear that a bad court outcome could let an artist copyright a “vibe” using commonly used musical language.  

    The question of whether someone can borrow a vibe resurfaced when Olivia Rodrigo shared songwriting credits on her hit 2021 album Sour with Taylor Swift, and comparisons have been made to the art of Courtney Love and music of Elvis Costello. Many listeners have commented on Rodrigo’s more obvious influences on social media. Viral TikTok videos compared Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” to Paramore’s “Misery Business,” which share a common chord progression and vibe. This online campaign likely contributed to Rodrigo handing songwriting credits, also known as publishing, to Hayley Williams and Josh Farro of the band Paramore. 

    This week we are airing the conversation Switched On Pop’s Charlie Harding had on the podcast Decoder with host Nilay Patel who is also editor and chief of The Verge. Together we try to understand how the byzantine music copyright system works, and how its rules affect the sound of pop music today and in the future. 

    SONGS DISCUSSED - Spotify Playlist

    Sam Smith - Stay With Me

    Tom Petty - I Won’t Back Down 

    M.I.A. - Paper Planes

    The Clash - Straight To Hell

    Olivia Rodrigo - deja vu

    Taylor Swift - Cruel Summer

    Olivia Rodrigo - good 4 u

    Paramore - Misery Business

    Robin Thick, T.I., Pharrell Williams - Blurred Lines

    Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up

    Katy Perry, Juicy J - Dark Horse

    FLAME , Lecrae, John Reilly - Joyful Noise

    Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven

    Spirit - Taurus

    Michael Bolton - Love Is a Wonderful Thing

    The Isley Brothers - Love Is A Wonderful Thing

    Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do

    Right Said Fred - I’m Too Sexy

    Doja Cat, SZA - Kiss Me More

    Olivia Newton-John - Physical

    Anne-Marie - 2002


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    • 1 hr

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
103 Ratings

103 Ratings

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… »

divaflip ,

Everything about music you never knew you needed to know

I've recently discovered this podcast, thanks to a friend, and so have been on a listening binge on the backlist as I travel to and from work. It is a great combination of music and musicology, and I always learn something new. Even about artists I though I wasn't interested in. If you aren't sure, start with an episode about a song you love and want to know more about, and then just dive into to the whole lot. In the end I went back to the start as they kept referencing old episodes, so I'm simulaneously mid 2016 and also current episodes right now. Highly recommend :)

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