407 episodes

A podcast all 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 Vox Media Podcast Network

    • Music
    • 4.6 • 2.5K Ratings

A podcast all 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.

    Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist (with Charlie Puth)

    Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist (with Charlie Puth)

    On her latest album, Taylor Swift “declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” No one was more surprised by this than Charlie Puth himself: the singer, pianist, and songwriter whose career has always straddled pop stardom and behind the scenes anonymity. After three albums, billions of streams, and numerous songwriting credits – including one on the award-winning number one track “Stay” from the Kid Laroi – Puth has been busier than ever. His new song “Hero” comes on the heels of the Swift mention, and takes him in a new direction, with acoustic guitars and hushed, contemplative vocals.
    On the heels of this song’s release, Nate sat down with Charlie Puth himself at Conway Studios in Hollywood to discuss the new track, aided by a piano and all of “Hero”’s isolated stems.
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    • 39 min
    Billie Eilish hits both hard and soft

    Billie Eilish hits both hard and soft

    On Billie Eilish’s third album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, Eilish finally graduates from her signature anti-pop persona into full blown pop stardom. This record finds Eilish experimenting on the themes from her earlier records, while crafting an economic ten tracks that position themselves for mainstream radio consumption. There’s “L’amour de ma vie,” her five-and-a-half minute beat-switching eulogy for a failed relationship, or “Birds Of A Feather,” where she contrasts the soft, dreamy melodies we’ve come to know Eilish for with hauntingly dark lyrical content. This duality is a recurring motif throughout Hit Me Hard and Soft, with each song offering a unique blend of vulnerability and strength. These tracks, along with the rest of the album, develop a satisfying and diverse creative arc that speaks to the album’s title: they hit both hard and soft. This week’s episode of Switched On Pop explores Eilish’s new record track by track, unpacking the sonic duality of her new sound.
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    • 43 min
    Gastropod: Why are restaurants so loud? Plus the science behind the perfect playlist

    Gastropod: Why are restaurants so loud? Plus the science behind the perfect playlist

    When you go out for a meal, it’s not just what's on your plate that matters, it's what's in your eardrums, too. From dining rooms so loud you have to shout to be heard, to playlists that sound like a generic Millennial Spotify account, it's not surprising that sound is the single most complained about aspect of restaurants.
    A few years ago, Charlie and Nate explored this in an episode on restaurant playlists. This week, they joined Cynthia and Nicky on their show Gastropod to help them explore the science behind the sonic experience of eating.
    Are restaurants really getting louder, and, if so, why? What does it take to create the perfect acoustic environment for dining? Can restaurateurs design their playlists to make customers order more or eat faster? Listen in now for the secrets to culinary acoustic bliss – and check out Cynthia and Nicky's guest spot on our episode of Switched On Pop.
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    • 44 min
    Is pop music just fast food? (with Gastropod)

    Is pop music just fast food? (with Gastropod)

    Where were you when you learned that the McDonald's jingle "I'm lovin' it" was originally part of a full-fledged pop song by Justin Timberlake and Pharrell that flopped on the charts but found staying power as a slogan? For us, it was recording our live episode about sponsored content in pop back in March 2024, and we have not been the same since. Shaken by this revelation, we found ourselves asking, "What else don't we know about fast food jingles?"

    Turns out, it's a lot. From Taco Bell to Popeye's to Chili's, the music of fast food represent some of the most familiar melodies in society, across state lines and generations. But the stories behind those songs, and the way that fast food production and pop music production often move in parallel, was something we never saw coming once.

    Since we are music experts but amateur foodies, we invited the brilliant hosts of Eater's Gastropod podcast, Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley, to help serve up the history of fast food and its changing role in culture. Tune in and pig out with us as we listen and debate the artistic and ethical implications of the sounds of fast food.

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    • 39 min
    Rosie Tucker's unending bliss

    Rosie Tucker's unending bliss

    Tongue twisters that mock techno-optimism and cite critical theory don’t usually make for catchy song lyrics. But indie rocker Rosie Tucker’s Utopia Now! finds beauty in the dross of late capitalism. Over 13 songs backed by distorted guitars and blazing drum fills, Tucker’s searing vocals bemoan the inherent dislocation of our modern world while searching for moments of truth and human connection.

    The night before Tucker embarked on a tour, Nate visited their home studio to speak to them about the inspirations behind their latest album. Although it deals with “big” topics, Tucker stressed that it all comes back to the individual and that the world we have reflects the world we make. “I am trying to reckon with both processing personal resentment,” they told Nate, “and recognizing my own role in my own misery.”

    Songs Discussed:
    Rosie Tucker - All My Exes Live In Vortexes, Lightbulb, Paperclip Maximizer, Unending Bliss
    Erik Satie - Gymnopedie No 1
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    • 23 min
    Eurovision 2024: from Baby Lasagna to Windows95Man

    Eurovision 2024: from Baby Lasagna to Windows95Man

    It’s that time of year again when the entirety of Europe (and a few other countries) come together to celebrate kitschy, bombastic songwriting through the Eurovision Song Contest! This year’s competition, held in Malmo, Sweden, features everything from rave-pop on behalf of the Netherlands, to folk-rapping hybrids courtesy of Ukraine – and Charlie and Nate are here to musicologically unpack the craziest tracks that have the potential to win it all. 

    For more on the controversy surrounding this year’s contest, check out Charlie’s appearance on Vox’s podcast Today, Explained.

    Songs discussed:

    Joost – Europapa

    Angelina Mango – La noia

    alyona alyona, Jerry Heil – Teresa & Maria

    Nemo – The Code

    Baby Lasagna – Rim Tim Tagi Dim

    Windows95Man – No Rules!

    Kaleen – We Will Rave

    Olly Alexander – Dizzy

    Bambie Thug – Doomsday Blue

    Ladaniva – Jako


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    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
2.5K Ratings

2.5K Ratings

pseudovirus ,

such good pop music analysis

i've listened to this podcast on and off for several years now and it's always a joy to hear the breakdown of contemporary pop music. the hosts have such respect for the genre and help me to hear songs and albums from a fresh perspective.

basedonmary ,

Fun Hosts!

I always love when Reanna comes on! She has great insights and love her dry sense of humor. I love how goofy Charlie and Nate are, and my favorite eps are definitely when it feels like I’m listening in on a hang out sesh, where they’re all just chatting, debating, and cracking jokes about pop songs. Fun pod!

BTW, ever notice how podcasts featuring men and a woman invariably get reviews about how annoying the woman is? I’m sure it means nothing…

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜💕💗💖💝💞 ,

Cool find

I randomly saw this after learning about synths and switched on bauk

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