214 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.

Switched on Pop Vox

    • Music Commentary
    • 5.0 • 2 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.

    Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” is a full throttle power ballad

    Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” is a full throttle power ballad

    Power ballads used to top the charts regularly, from 80s rock to 90s R&B. But then in the 2000s, the formula of constant escalation gradually fell off the Billboard. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, Olivia Rodrigo’s single “Drivers License” is breaking streaming records as listeners yearn for the emotional catharsis from this contemporary power ballad. With the help of David Metzer, professor of music history at the University of British Columbia, we break down how “Drivers License” sticks to an age-old formula, and how it deviates from a well worn musical path.  
    SONGS DISCUSSED

    Olivia Rodrigo - Drivers License

    Barry Manilow - Mandy

    Roy Orbison - It’s Over

    Clyde McPhatter - Without Love There Is Nothing 

    Etta James - I’d Rather Go Blind 

    Journey - Open Arms 

    Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day 

    Seal - Kiss From A Rose

    Hootie & The Blowfish - Only Wanna Be with You 

    Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven 


    MORE
    Professor David Metzer’s The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé
    Aiyana Ishmael for Teen Vogue “Olivia Rodrigo Song "Drivers License" Sparks Fan-Made TikTok POV Covers”
    Olivia Rodrigo’s Instagram demo
    Richard S. He Twitter thread 
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    • 40 min
    D.O.C. (Death of the Chorus) with Emily Warren

    D.O.C. (Death of the Chorus) with Emily Warren

    Listen to Top 40 pop over the last decade and you’ll notice something weird is happening. The chorus—the emotional apotheosis of a pop song, its dizzying high, its cathartic sing-along center—is disappearing. In its place, artists from Bad Bunny to Taylor Swift are toying with new, chorus-lite song forms that introduce a new musical grammar to the sound of contemporary pop. We may not think much about pop structure when listening to our favorite songs, but this is a big deal—the last time pop experienced such a seismic shift was when the chorus first came into fashion, back in the 1960s. What does this mean for modern musicians and listeners? Emily Warren, songwriter for new-guard stars like Dua Lipa and Khalid, joins to break down why the sea change in pop form represents a new horizon of creative possibility.

    Songs Discussed
    Bad Bunny - Si Veo a Tu Mamá
    Future & Drake - Life Is Good
    Billie Holiday - Blue Moon
    Beyonce - Formation
    Travis Scott - Sicko Mode
    Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
    Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
    Drake - Laugh Now Cry Later (ft. Lil Durk)
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    • 41 min
    ICYMI: The End Of Pop Music As We Know It: Fall Out Boy & Charli XCX

    ICYMI: The End Of Pop Music As We Know It: Fall Out Boy & Charli XCX

    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. Tiring of this sound, some artists are finding creative ways to parody this pop trope. The rock outfit Fall Out Boy’s “Young And Menace” demonstrates equal parts mastery and mockery of the pop-drop. And PC Music, a rising art-music label out of London, skewers the whole of pop cliché on their mixtape collaboration with Charli XCX. After this episode, we promise you’ll be ready to move on to new sounds. Luckily, listeners have collaborated to create a new favorites playlist to help you cleanse your palette.
    This episode was originally published May 2017.
    SONGS DISCUSSED
    The Chainsmokers – Closer
    Kygo & Selena Gomez – It Ain’t Me
    Lady Gaga – The Cure
    Fall Out Boy – Sugar We’re Going Down
    Fall Out Boy – Young And Menace
    Jay Z – D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)
    Ariana Grande – Into You
    Katy Perry feat. Skip Marley – Chained To The Rhythm
    Drake – Passionfruit
    Postmodern Jukebox – Sugar We’re Going Down Swinging
    Britney Spears – Oops! I Did It Again
    Skrillex – Bangarang
    DJ Snake – Middle
    Beyoncé – Love On Top
    Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charlie XCX)
    Iggy Azalea – Fancy ft. Charli XCX
    Selena Gomez – Same Old Love
    Charli XCX – 3AM (Pull Up) (feat. MØ)
    Hannah Diamond – Every Night
    Bronze – Thy Slaughter
    Danny L Harle – Super Natural (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen)
    SOPHIE – JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE
    A.G. Cook – Superstar
    Ariana Grande – Side To Side
    Coon Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra – I’m Gonna Charleston Back To Charleston
    Spotify Playlist
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    • 48 min
    ICYMI: Do You Believe in Life After Autotune?

    ICYMI: Do You Believe in Life After Autotune?

    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 Auto-Tune, the sound is alive and thriving in contemporary pop and hip-hop. Journalist Simon Reynolds has written a definitive history of Auto-Tune for Pitchfork that fundamentally changed how we hear this sound. This deep dive criss crosses geology, technology, and the evolution of pop as we know it.
    Songs Discussed:

    Cher - Believe

    Katy Perry - Firework

    Rihanna - Diamonds

    Future - F*ck Up Some Commas

    Emma Robinson - Stay (Cover) 

    Imogen Heap - Hide And Seek 

    Zapp & Roger - Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing) 

    T. Pain - Chopped N Screwed ft. Ludacris 

    Lil Wayne - “How To Love”

    Kanye - “Heartless”

    The Black Eyed Peas “Boom Boom Pow”

    Jay-Z - Death Of Auto-Tune

    Elvis - Mystery Train

    The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows

    Whispering Jack Smith - Baby Face

    Kesha - Tik Tok Bon Iver - Woods

    Future & Juice WRLD - Jet Lag ft. Young Scooter 

    Shek Wes - Mo Bamba

    The Carters - Apeshit


    Further Reading: Simon Reynolds - “How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music" Simon Reynolds -Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture 
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    • 49 min
    Wham! Op. 84, “Last Christmas” with Chilly Gonzales

    Wham! Op. 84, “Last Christmas” with Chilly Gonzales

    Wham’s 1984 contribution to the holiday cannon, “Last Christmas,” has surprising staying power. When Grammy-winning pianist Chilly Gonzales set out to record a holiday album, “A Very Chilly Christmas,” most of the selections were over a half century old. That’s because most of our favorite seasonal songs come from the 1960s and earlier. But in addition to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” Wham’s “Last Christmas” reliably returns each winter. Despite the cheesy 80s synths and drum machines, the song’s harmonies are remarkable resilient, a testament to George Michael’s auteur songwriting method. Celebrated artist known for his solo piano works, collaborations with Feist and Daft Punk, and his musical masterclasses series, Chilly Gonzales—musical genius—AKA “Gonzo,” sits down at the piano to share in the beauty of this nu-classical Christmas love song, as well as a few selections from his new album “A Very Chilly Christmas.”

    MORE
    Get tickets for A Very Chilly Christmas Special airing Dec 23rd at www.chillygonzales.com
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    • 53 min
    Taylor Swift has "evermore" of a good thing

    Taylor Swift has "evermore" of a good thing

    Just five months after releasing her Grammy-nominated album “folklore,” Taylor Swift surprised fans with a continuation of sorts — her ninth studio album “evermore.” Working with many of her “folklore” collaborators, Swift says that the team “couldn’t stop writing songs.” Like its sister album, “evermore” shies away from over-the-top pop production, and leans into Swift’s craft. Stripped of the highly produced synth layers from her “Lover” and “Reputation” era, Swift’s lyrics and vocal performance shine in their unvarnished restraint. On this hour-long album, Swift shows her ingenuity with the building blocks of songwriting, giving us more of her signature Swiftian strengths: Lyrics, melody and story. 

    More
    Read "Figure It Out: The Linguistic Turn in Country Music" by Jimmie N. Rogers and Miller Williams in Country Music Annual 2000
    Listen to Jenny Owen Youngs album Night Shift for more rubber bridge guitar and great songs
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    • 45 min

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