253 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.

    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
    CHVRCHES and the sound of 80s horror

    CHVRCHES and the sound of 80s horror

    CHVRCHES is well-known for their comprehensive use of synthesizers and their updated take on “synthpop”, a subgenre of pop we most closely associated with the 1980s. While gearing up to make their second album in 2015, CHVRCHES members Iain Cook and Martin Doherty spent much of the recording budget buying up many of the original synthesizers used to make those iconic 80s dance tracks. Contemporary replicas of those synth sounds are now commonplace with pop acts like Dua Lipa and The Weeknd. But CHVRCHES has been wielding these sounds for more than a decade, and their newest project is a great reminder of how closely we link that synth sound with not just to a bygone era, but specifically to the eerie sound of horror film. 

    Screen Violence is their new album. It draws inspiration from classic horror films like John Carpenter's Halloween. With its horror frame, the lyrics explore dark themes, like the violent online abuse CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry has endured for much of the band’s existence, a hyper consciousness of her own mortality brought on by that abuse, and fears of losing her grip on reality. Switched On Pop’s co-host Charlie Harding spoke with Lauren, Ian, Martin from CHVRCHES about the making and meaning of Screen Violence.

    MORE
    Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry: 'I will not accept online misogyny'

    SONGS DISCUSSED

    CHVRCHES - Never Ending Circles

    Dua Lipa - Physical

    The Weeknd - Blinding Lights

    CHVRCHES - California

    CHVRCHES - Lullabies

    CHVRCHES - Final Girl

    CHVRCHES - Violent Delights

    CHVRCHES - He Said She Said

    CHVRCHES - Asking For A Friend 

    John Carpenter - Halloween Theme

    Suspiria - Markos

    John Carpenter - Christine

    John Carpenter - Turning The Bones (CHVRCHES Remix)

    CHVRCHES - Good Girls (John Carpenter remix)

    CHVRHCES - How Not To Down (with Robert Smith)


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    • 33 min
    From Taylor Swift to Bon Iver, Aaron Dessner Finds Meaning in Musical Community

    From Taylor Swift to Bon Iver, Aaron Dessner Finds Meaning in Musical Community

    On August 27th Big Red Machine, the joint musical project of Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner - artists known for their work as Bon Iver and in the rock band The National, respectively - returned with new music. You’ve most definitely heard Dessner’s production work elsewhere, like on Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums evermore and folklore. The Big Red Machine album, titled How Long Do You Think it's Going to Last, celebrates the fruits of creative partnership and the importance of family and community. At least, that’s what we took from our conversation with Dessner. “A lot of my favorite music - usually there's something elusive about it, in that whatever is elusive is coming from this weird cocktail of different people's input. There's just this weird, swampy alchemy, and you can't easily put your finger on why it's so moving.” 


    Dessner told us he draws much of his creative inspiration from the kinetic energy generated by multiple musical brains working in tandem, which makes sense given the list of features on this album - everyone from Swift to Sharon van Etten to Anaïs Mitchell to The Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold. “I'm such a born collaborator. I'm definitely interested in this exchange where you make something and you send it out into the ether and then it comes back slightly changed or radically changed. Then you work on it and send it again. I like this handoff, this communal approach to music making.”


    The musical collective fostered by Vernon and Dessner on How Long Do You Think It's Going to Last is a testament to the power of musical communities in a year of intense isolation. We’re so pleased to bring you Nate’s conversation with Aaron Dessner in this week’s episode.


    Songs Discussed

    Big Red Machine - Birch, feat. Taylor Swift

    Big Red Machine - Phoenix, feat. Fleet Foxes & Anaïs Mitchell

    Big Red Machine - Magnolia

    Big Red Machine - Renegade, feat. Taylor Swift

    Big Red Machine - Mimi, feat. Ilsey

    Big Red Machine - The Ghost of Cincinnati


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    • 27 min
    Modern Classics: Carina del Valle Schorske on Cat Power's "Manhattan"

    Modern Classics: Carina del Valle Schorske on Cat Power's "Manhattan"

    Recently the hosts of Switched on Pop kept seeing the same byline next to their favorite pieces of music writing. A moving profile of Bad Bunny? There was the name. A searing critique of West Side Story? There it was again. An elegy on love, loss, and an Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson duet? By now it was committed to memory: writer and translator Carina del Valle Schorske. So we knew we had to invite Carina to participate in our Modern Classics series and learn what this brilliant writer would place in her modern pop pantheon. 


    Carina’s pick, the 2012 song “Manhattan” by Cat Power, presents an opportunity to analyze an artist we’ve never discussed on the show before, and a song that sparks associations with New York City’s rich musical history. Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, released “Manhattan” on her 2012 album Sun, and the song—on which Marshall recorded every instrument herself—has become an unlikely sleeper hit in the Cat Power catalog. Perhaps that’s because, as Carina tells it, the song is a celebration and elegy at once, trying to capture the beat of a city that is constantly in flux, but with an inescapable iconicity. 


    “Manhattan” isn’t the only piece of urban musical alchemy Carina brought to the show. Cat Power’s ode to the borough syncs up in surprising ways with the 1978 salsa track by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades, “Buscando Guayaba.” Together, the songs stake out a twisting path across genre, time, and language, but along on the same streets.


    Songs Discussed

    Cat Power - Manhattan

    Rubén Blades and Willie Colón - Buscando Guayaba, Pedro Navaja

    Ella Fitzgerald - Manhattan

    Stevie Wonder - Livin’ for the City

    Alicia Keys and Jay Z - Empire State of Mind



    Check out Carina’s profile of Bad Bunny, her essay on Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, and more writing at her website.
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    • 29 min
    The Joy of Music Festivals

    The Joy of Music Festivals

    For the past two weeks, our series on summer music festivals has uncovered the interplay of festival fashion and music and examined festival subcultures. But we've so far overlooked an essential reason that people attend music festivals: to experience transformational joy.

    At the start of summer 2021 it seemed like the pandemic was waning and that live music was coming back. But now, heading into the fall with the Delta variant, the fate of live music is once again in question. Caught in this limbo, we thought it might be a good time to get nostalgic and reflect on joyous music festival moments as we hope for more live music in the future. 

    This week's episode features seven stories from listeners about their most surprising and wonderful moments at festivals past. The first story comes from musician and producer Dave Harrington of the band Darkside, who was once helped out of a musical rut by a Phish festival set

    Songs
    Phish (live Aug 4, 2017) - Everything In Its Right Place, Axis Bold As Love, Prince Caspian
    Darkside - Only Young
    Music scored by Zach Tenorio of Arc Iris
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    • 27 min
    The Beauty and Horror of Insane Clown Posse's Summer Festival

    The Beauty and Horror of Insane Clown Posse's Summer Festival

    The Gathering of the Juggalos is the music festival centered around the rap duo Insane Clown Posse. Their songs are hyper-violent and profane; their stage show features grotesque clown makeup and blasting the audience with their favorite drink, Faygo soda; and their fandom has even been designated by the FBI as a loosely organized gang. Musically, they’ve historically been rejected by critics: The Guardian has called them “a magnet for ignorance;” Allmusic has called them a “third rate Beastie Boys,” and Blender called them “the worst band in music.” Nate became fascinated with them after watching the 2011 documentary American Juggalo — that’s when he realized that there’s more to Insane Clown Posse and its fans than he previously thought. 

    For the second episode of our summer festival series, we dig into the sound of Insane Clown Posse to ask: Is their music really as bad and offensive as all the critics say? What is the general public missing that ICP’s fans are hearing? To answer these questions, we talk to Nathan Rabin, the author of You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music's Most Maligned Tribes, and 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, the Gathering of the Juggalos and The Summer Everything Went Insane.

    Songs Discussed

    Insane Clown Posse - House of Horrors, Hokus Pokus, My Axes, F*** the World, Miracles, Down with the Clown

    Esham - The Wicketshit Will Never Die

    Eminem - Stay Wide Awake


    More
    Check out more of Nathan Rabin's writing


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    • 35 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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