263 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
    • 4.6 • 2.1K 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.

    Taylor, Adele & Silk Sonic’s broken hearts club

    Taylor, Adele & Silk Sonic’s broken hearts club

    This week we are having a blast feeling really sad. Guest Brittany Luse, cohost of the acclaimed podcast For Colored Nerds, joins Nate and Charlie to dig into this fall's slate of breathtaking breakup albums from Adele, Kacey Musgraves, Summer Walker, and Mitski.

    Some have been calling this confluence of releases, "sad girl autumn," but the melancholy moment goes beyond gender, with even Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak's leaning into the lachrymose on their album An Evening With Silk Sonic.

    On top of all this, Taylor Swift has stormed the charts with her re-recording of her hit album Red and the ten-minute version of fan-favorite breakup song "All Too Well."

    We take the opportunity to mine this gold rush of emotions and diagnose every type of heartbreak on the radio dial.

    Songs discussed:
    Taylor Swift - All Too Well (Taylor's Version)
    Summer Walker - Throw it Away
    Silk Sonic - Put On a Smile
    Adele - Easy On Me
    Mitski - The Only Heartbreaker
    Kacey Musgraves - Justified

    More
    Listen to Brittany's podcast For Colored Nerds
    Watch Guy Winch's talk How To Fix a Broken Heart
    Weep along to our playlist of breakup albums
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    • 41 min
    Snotty Nose Rez Kids on hip hop and Indigenous protest

    Snotty Nose Rez Kids on hip hop and Indigenous protest

    Merging hip hop and Indigenous culture, rap duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids are creating a sound that goes hard for a cause. On tracks like “War Club” with DJ Shub, Yung Trybez and Young D connect Indigenous protests to the Black Lives Matter movement, and on “Boujee Natives,” Snotty Nose Rez Kids celebrate traditional culture through a modern lens. But as much as this music has a message, it also bangs, and SNRK’s new album After Life runs the gamut of emotions; from tackling police brutality on “Red Sky at Night” to celebrating their community on “Wild Boy.”

    Their first tour since COVID brought them to Los Angeles, where Nate talked to the band repping the Haisla Nation about pipeline protests, reclaiming the term “savage,” and how the hell the Disney movie Pocahontas ever got greenlit.

    Songs Discussed

    Snotty Nose Rez Kids - Red Sky At Night, War Club, Creator Made An Animal, Sink or Swim, Boujee Natives, Wild Boy, Northern Lights, Something Else
    Megan Thee Stallion - Savage
    Jay Z and Kanye West - Otis
    Kendrick Lamar - Alright

    Check out a playlist of our favorite SNRK tracks
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    • 26 min
    The State of the Pop Union

    The State of the Pop Union

    From time to time, it is our constitutional duty to provide an update to the people on the current state of pop. What are the sounds? Who’s making the hits? What are they singing about? We take the musical temperature by consulting the charts, the platforms, and the people.
    MORE
    Cat Zhang’s review of PinkPantheress’ “Passion”
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    • 35 min
    Why ABBA songs just hit different

    Why ABBA songs just hit different

    Swedish supergroup ABBA is releasing their first album in forty years, making this the perfect time for Nate and Charlie to investigate what makes their music so beloved and reviled in equal measure. For every ABBA stan, there’s a hater lurking, like legendary pop critic Robert Christgau, who once said of the group: “We have met the enemy, and they are them.” That suspicion was earned through ABBA’s musical catchiness and lyrical earnestness, but regardless of how you feel about their music, their compositional acumen cannot be denied.

    The longevity of their songs is testament to that musical brilliance. So after breaking down the vocal contrast, musical maximalism, and studio wizardry used to concoct world-beating hits like “Super Trouper,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Dancing Queen,” Nate and Charlie turn their ears to the band’s latest singles, “Don’t Shut Me Down” and “I Still Have Faith in You,” to determine whether the newest releases represent a return to classic form or a departure into new sonic realms.

    Songs Discussed

    ABBA - Super Trouper, Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, Don’t Shut Me Down, I Still Have Faith in You
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    • 34 min
    The Healing Power of Pop with Esperanza Spalding

    The Healing Power of Pop with Esperanza Spalding

    It. Has. Been. A. Year. We’ve felt it; you’ve felt it. Sometimes, it’s comforting to consider how universal that overwhelming sense of blah is. Other days, woof, it can be tough to see the light. That’s the subject of today’s episode, brought to you by our producer Megan Lubin.

    When Megan hit an especially low point earlier this year, she noticed something in the music she was listening to: Über-popular artists making explicit references to the state of their mental health and the things they do to cope with it. It made her want to know more about the impact of those lyrics, so she dug around and found an academic who studies that very thing: Alex Kresovich, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media who has authored a bunch of studies on mental health and popular music. In today’s episode, we walk through one of those studies with him and learn how influential lyrical content can be — even when you’re not paying super-close attention. Alex’s research, and research like it, opens up the possibility that pop artists are an underestimated asset when it comes to mental-health messaging. “People like to point at pop music as a source of problems, not a source of solutions,” he says. Alex sees his job as guiding the scientific community toward new data that could change how we understand the value of pop-music lyrics — “laying the railroad ties,” as he puts it.

    In the second half of today’s episode, we talk to an artist who has taken the concept of music as medicine to a whole new level. Over the course of her career, Esperanza Spalding has reimagined the music-making process — transforming it from one designed to meet her label’s commercial needs to one designed to meet the mental-health needs of her immediate community. With her new album Songwrights Apothecary Lab, Spalding offers up a collection of songs for “releasing the heaviness of a seemingly endless blue state,” for “steadying the vast-spinning ‘potential hurt’ analysis triggered by the bliss of new romance,” and for “slowing down and remembering to make space/time for your elders.” Spalding made clear that this way of “musicking” is nothing new:
    It’s like the oldest thing ever….we’re playing with the origin of music. The origin of music being: a response to others in your community, in your surroundings. And the response is intuitive! When you hum for a baby or when you’re sitting with somebody who is grieving and you, you feel compelled to hum, or when you’re excited and go, “Wow!” That’s music!
    Spalding’s view of music these days opened our eyes wide to the true healing power of individual songs and just how accessible music is when we need it.


    Songs Discussed
    girl in red - Serotonin
    Billie Eilish - Getting Older
    Julia Michaels ft. Selena Gomez - Anxiety
    J. Cole ft. kiLL edward - FRIENDS
    Lil Nas X - VOID
    Kehlani - 24/7
    Kendrick Lamar - u
    Juice WRLD - Lucid Dreams
    Panic! At the Disco - King of the Clouds
    Shawn Mendes - In My Blood
    Ariana Grande - breathin
    Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid - 1-800-273-8255
    Billie Eilish ft. Khalid - lovely
    Lil Uzi Vert - XO Tour Llif3
    Esperanza Spalding - Formwela 3
    Esperanza Spalding - Formwela 6
    Esperanza Spalding - Formwela 10
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    • 35 min
    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

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
2.1K Ratings

2.1K Ratings

Sadie7000 ,

A pleasure to listen to people who really know what they are talking about

I just listened to the “Deja Vu” episode about musical copyright and was extremely impressed by the breadth and depth of detail that Charlie Harding brought to the discussion. He drew on his knowledge of music and song craft, but also law and technology. He clearly did a lot of homework to prepare. It is such a pleasure to listen to people who really know what they are talking about! Also, they are consistently very respectful and appreciative of female artists in a way that music geeks have not always been. An excellent podcast!

ApexRoss ,

Great Podcast

Very informative with explanations and demonstrations that help a non-musician like me understand what they are talking about when they get into the use of major and minor chords and keys. Really underscores the work that goes into a pop song, especially the cross references to other pop songs and even classical and jazz compositions.

zonkzos ,

Facebook ads???

Bro. How much are they paying you for running those?!?! We truly hate to see it. Love the podcast but the ads are a big big big yikes.

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