219 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 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. From Vulture and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

    Kaytranada's Journey from Basement Beat-making to the Grammys

    Kaytranada's Journey from Basement Beat-making to the Grammys

    Kaytranada has what every producer strives for: an in-demand signature sound. His records glide fluidly between four-to-the-floor house beats, hip-hop sample-flipping, and P-Funk style 808 bass lines. He honed the technique as a teenager, and it has since grabbed the attention of some all-star collaborators: Pharrell Williams, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Anderson .Paak, and Kendrick Lamar. This year, he’s nominated for three Grammys, including Best Dance/Electronica Album for his 2019 sophomore release, Bubba, and Best New Artist. But Kaytranada is hardly new to music; at 28, he has been building a career in the industry for more than a decade. Although the recognition may be overdue, the thrill of it hasn’t worn off. “I’m Kaytranada, all the way from Montreal, Canada — been making beats since I was young. And now here I am, [one of the] Best New Artists for the Grammys. It’s really crazy and exciting,” he says. On this week’s episode of Switched on Pop, co-host Charlie Harding spoke with Kaytranada about how his DIY approach to production led him to music’s biggest stage.
    SONGS DISCUSSED

    Kaytranada — Got it Good (feat Craig David), Lite Spots, TOGETHER (feat Aluna George & GoldLink), GLOWED UP (feat Anderson Paak), You're the One (feat SYD), Kulture, 10% (f Kali Uchis), Rush (Kali Uchis), Love Thang (First Choice)

    Pontos De Luz (Gal Costa)

    Janet Jackson - If (Kaytranada Remix),

    Teedra Moses - Be Your Girl (Kaytranada Edition)


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    • 37 min
    JP Saxe Didn’t Mean for His Grammy Hit ‘If the World Was Ending’ to Be So Literal

    JP Saxe Didn’t Mean for His Grammy Hit ‘If the World Was Ending’ to Be So Literal

    JP Saxe wrote the song “If the World was Ending” with acclaimed songwriter Julia Michaels in 2019 about a fictional cataclysm. The record was released in the before times in a way that seemed to presage lockdown. In the early months of the actual pandemic the song resonated so widely that it catapulted up the charts. It’s now been nominated for a Grammy for song of the year — an award JP Saxe could share with his grandfather János Starker who was awarded a Grammy in 1997 for a recording of Bach’s cello suites. We wanted to speak with JP not just because of the song's success, but also because he has a way of thinking about the practical implications and even morality of songwriting in this track as well as his song "Line By Line" with Maren Morris.

    Songs Discussed
    JP Saxe with Julia Michaels - If The World Was Ending
    JP Saxe - 25 In Barcelona, A Little Bit Yours, The Few Things, Same Room
    Lennon Stella - Golf on TV (with JP Saxe)
    JP Saxe, Maren Morris - Line By Line
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    • 37 min
    Adrian Younge's new project sounds like James Baldwin meets Marvin Gaye

    Adrian Younge's new project sounds like James Baldwin meets Marvin Gaye

    Adrian Younge is a producer for entertainment greats ranging from Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar to the Wu Tang clan, a composer for television shows such as Marvel's Luke Cage (with A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Mohammad), and owner of the Linear Labs record label and analog studio. Younge has a new mixed media project that breaks down the evolution of racism in America that he calls his “most important creative accomplishment.” A short film, T.A.N., and podcast, Invisible Blackness, accompany the album The American Negro (available Feb 26). Younge tells Switched on Pop how his experience as a law professor and his all-analog approach to recording resulted in a sound he describes as “James Baldwin hooked up with Marvin Gaye.”

    Music Discussed
    Adrian Younge - Revolutionize, The American Negro, Revisionist History, Black Lives Matter, Margaret Garner
    Gil Scott Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

    More
    Additional production by Megan Lubin
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    • 34 min
    The Scandalous Sounds of Bridgerton (w Kris Bowers)

    The Scandalous Sounds of Bridgerton (w Kris Bowers)

    The Netflix series Bridgerton has hooked audiences with its bodice-ripping sex scenes, a colorblind approach period drama casting, and a soundtrack featuring recreations of modern bangers from pop stars like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish arranged in the style of a classical string quartet. By bringing modern melodies into the proper world of Regency England, the show reminds us that classical music wasn’t always so stuffy and solemn. In its time, it trafficked in the same scandal as modern pop.
    Alongside these classical-pop mashups, Bridgerton serves up its own ravishing score from composer Kris Bowers, who joins to break down how he made the past pop.

    Songs Discussed:
    Vitamin String Quartet - Thank U, Next, Bad Guy, In My Blood
    Kris Bowers - When You Are Alone, Flawless My Dear, Strange
    Maurice Ravel - Tombeau de Couperin, Prelude
    Clara Schumann - Der Mond Kommt Still Gegangen
    Johannes Brahms - Symphony No 3 in F Major Op 90, Mvt 3 (for Four Hand Piano)

    More
    Read Maria Popova on the letters of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann
    and Adrian Daub on Four Handed Monsters
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    • 41 min
    How The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” used retro sounds and modern bass to break every record

    How The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” used retro sounds and modern bass to break every record

    This Sunday, The Weeknd will perform his distinctly dark brand of pop at the Super Bowl halftime show. On the surface, the alter-ego of Abel Tesfaye is a strange pick for the ostensibly family-friendly main-stage — for more than a decade, The Weeknd has fused the sounds of pop, R&B, and trap into a cinematic horror-thriller about drugs, sex and the excess of fame. While his sheer volume of Hot 100 hits have rightly earned him mainstream status, even his most commercial material is hardly PG — the 2015 hit “Can’t Feel My Face” is an 80s throwback laced with on-the-nose cocaine metaphors. 
    But over the last year his subversive image has been rewritten by the song “Blinding Lights,” from his 2020 album After Hours. The song vaulted up the charts in March 2020, supported by a viral TikTok challenge: Using the song’s opening instrumental as inspiration, countless families performed the dance together while sheltering in place. Since then, seemingly every radio format, adult contemporary included, has played this song on repeat, making it the longest running song in the Hot 100 top five and top ten (given the songs success, The Weeknd is justly aggrieved by the Grammy’s recent snub).
    On Switched on Pop’s first episode as part of Vulture, we break down how “Blinding Lights” blends lyrical relatability with musical familiarity, earning The Weeknd the biggest and perhaps most misunderstood hit of his career.

    Songs Discussed
    The Weeknd - Blinding Lights
    Michael Sembello - Maniac
    a-ha - Take on Me
    Bruce Springsteen - Blinded By The Light
    Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Blinded By The Light
    The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face
    The Weeknd - Faith
    The Weeknd - In Your Eyes
    The Weeknd - Save Your Tears
    The Weeknd - Until I Bleed Out

    More
    Read Chris Molanphy's "Why the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” Is the First Chart Topper of the Coronavirus Era"
    Thanks to Arc Iris for the theme song reharmonization
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    • 38 min
    Epik High is our gateway into Korean hip hop (with Tablo)

    Epik High is our gateway into Korean hip hop (with Tablo)

    Epik High are elemental to Korean hip hop. DJ Tukutz, Mithra Jin and Tablo’s underground style boom bap beats with dexterous rapping helped bring this music from its underground roots to a global scale. On their latest release, Epik High Is Here Part I, the textures are subdued but paired with heavy drums and aggressive vocals, a contrast that matches our collective anxiety arising from the pandemic. Charlie speaks with Tablo about the creation of the album, but first first ethnomusicologist Youngdae Kim shares a short history on the development of Korean hip hop. 

    SONGS DISCUSSED
    Epik High - Rosario, Go, Fly, Map the Soul, Harajuku Days, Born Hater, Lesson Zero, Based On A True Story, Leica, Wish You Were
    Seo Taiji and Boys - I Know
    Verbal Jint - Overclass

    MORE
    Read Youngdae Kim and T.K. Park’s “A Brief History of Korean Hip-hop” 

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    • 53 min

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