292 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 New York Magazine

    • Music
    • 4.6 • 2.2K 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.

    Beyoncé's House

    Beyoncé's House

    The world stops with a Beyoncé drop. On Monday, June 20th, our prayers were answered with “Break My Soul,” the lead single off of her upcoming album, Renaissance. The song draws from several places of inspiration: lyrically, it’s a cathartic dance-floor ode to liberation, soundtracking the current cultural moment that some have called the “Great Resignation.” Sonically, though, “Break My Soul” is Beyoncé’s foray into house music – a genre that the chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Jason King, summarizes as “a highly rhythmic dance music created by mostly Black and brown artists in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” propelled by a fanbase of queer and trans communities of color. There’s been an undeniable buzz that Beyoncé is “bringing house music back.” And from Charli XCX to Drake, it does feel like house music is currently having a moment in mainstream pop music, paralleling the original rise of the subculture from the ruins of disco. But the genre “has always been here,” in King’s words, and has decades of history. In this episode of Switched On Pop, we unpack house music – and how Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” fits into the genre.  


    Songs Discussed

    Beyoncé - “BREAK MY SOUL”
    Beyoncé - “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”
    Drake - “Falling Back”
    Thelma Houston - “Don’t Leave Me This Way”
    Robin S - “Show Me Love”
    Bob Sinclair, Steve Edwards - “World Hold On (Children of the sky)”
    Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj - “Swish Swish”
    Charli XCX - “Used To Know Me”
    Livin’ Joy - “Don’t Stop Movin’”
    Mr. Fingers - “Can You Feel It”
    Madonna - “Vogue”
    Black Box - “Ride on Time”
    CeCe Peniston - “Finally”
    Aqua - “Barbie Girl”
    Big Freedia - “Explode”
    Beyoncé - “Formation”
    Drake - “Nice For What”
    Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers - “Get Lucky”
    Destiny’s Child - “Say My Name - Maurice’s Last Days Of Disco Millennium Mix”
    Beyoncè - “FIND YOUR WAY BACK”
    Madonna - “Deeper and Deeper”
    Janet Jackson - “Together Again”
    C & C Music Factory - “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” 
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    • 32 min
    Robert Glasper on jazz, basketball, and his score for "Winning Time"

    Robert Glasper on jazz, basketball, and his score for "Winning Time"

    Robert Glasper is the only artist to have an album debut in the top 10 of 4 different Billboard charts. He's a musical polymath whose resume ranges from Kendrick Lamar to Herbie Hancock. At the piano, he serves up jazz licks worthy of Mary Lou Williams before segueing into a Nirvana cover. Glasper brings his diverse skill set to bear on his latest project, the score for the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, composed in collaboration with "Succession" soundtracker Nicholas Britell. It's not just Glasper's musical chops that made him the perfect candidate for the gig: in a past life, he was a baller himself. Nate spoke with Glasper about crafting the sound of the 1980s, improvising soundtrack themes on the spot, and what jazz and basketball have in common.

    Songs Discussed
    Robert Glasper - Over, FTB, "Winning Time" and "The Photograph" Themes
    Nicholas Britell - "Succession" and "Moonlight" Themes
    Morris Day and The Time - Get It Up
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    • 24 min
    Scoring Stranger Things with Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

    Scoring Stranger Things with Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

    We recently deconstructed how Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” has found itself at the center of culture due to a placement in the Netflix, eighties, horror, sci-fi show, Stranger Things. For that episode we excerpted an interview with the composers of the show who shared great insights on how they created the iconic theme song and spooky soundscape for the most streamed show of 2022. But we want to share the full conversation with you because they have equally cheeky as well as valuable musical offerings to share. Surprisingly, this show steeped in 80s nostalgia, has a more contemporary soundtrack than you you might think. 


    Songs Discussed

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Stranger Things, Photos in the Woods, He’s Here, Soldiers, Agents, Starcourt

    Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill

    Tangerine Dream - Sorcerer Theme Song

    John Carpenter - Night

    Vangelis - Main Titles (Blade Runner)

    S U R V I V E - A.H.B.

    S U R V I V E - High Rise 

    Merzbow - Woodpecker No.1


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    • 21 min
    Kate Bush, Stranger Things, and a hit song four decades in the making

    Kate Bush, Stranger Things, and a hit song four decades in the making

    Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” enters the latest season of Stranger Things during a brooding high-school hallway scene right out of the John Hughes playbook, and it has since bounded up the charts, hitting No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and performing better now than when it peaked at No. 30 upon release. Stranger Things, whose latest season has logged more viewer minutes for Netflix than any other English-language release to date, has leaned heavily on ’80s nostalgia since its premiere in 2016: Its iconic theme song is reminiscent of John Carpenter B-movies, and, in an email, used-instrument resale site Reverb.com tells us the show has boosted interest in analog synthesizers.

    “Running Up That Hill,” then, is a natural fit for the show, and it plays a pivotal, spoiler-ridden plot point in the show, requiring us to hear the hook multiple times throughout the season — a perfect earworm. But its success is owed to more than just repetition. It waffles between major and minor, and the show’s composers, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, told Switched on Pop that both it and the rest of the Stranger Things score have “moments of darkness and lightness in it, constantly trading places.” Plus, they’re composed from the same set of instruments: classic synthesizers and drum machines like the LinnDrum. The song is part and parcel with the soundtrack itself: “There’s these little melodies that we always refer to as ‘And then the Kate Bush part comes in,’” Dixon says.

    Listen to Switched On Pop to hear how Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is an exquisite song placement and hear how it blends seamlessly with the Stranger Things soundtrack.

    MORE
    Check out Reverb Machine’s sounds of Kate Bush
    Reverb.com made a tutorial on the synth sounds of Stranger Things
    The story of the Kate Bush renaissance from The Ringer

    Songs Discussed

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Stranger Things

    Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill

    Dead Or Alive - You Spin Me Round

    Talking Heads - Psycho Killer

    Musical Youth - Pass the Dutchie 

    Carly Rae Jepsen - Cut To The Feeling

    The Weeknd - Blinding Lights 

    Prince - When Doves Cry

    Phil Collins - Sussudio

    Tangerine Dream - Sorcerer Theme Song

    John Carpenter - Night

    S U R V I V E - A.H.B.

    S U R V I V E - High Rise 

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Eggo in the Snow

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - She Wants Me to Find Her

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Starcourt

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Eight Fifteen

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Boys and Girls

    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - The Ceiling is Beautiful

    Kate Bush - Waking the Witch

    Kate Bush - Hammer Horror


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    • 31 min
    So your song went viral on TikTok. What’s next?

    So your song went viral on TikTok. What’s next?

    On TikTok, pop stars — Halsey, FKA Twigs, and Florence Welch among them — have been complaining a lot lately about their labels forcing them to make TikToks. As people spent the early part of the pandemic staring at their phones instead of flocking to concerts, the short-form-video social-media platform upended music discovery. In many cases, it gave unknown musicians a pathway to enormous audiences and allowed them to burst into the mainstream on the backs of their TikTok hits.

    It’s a story as old as the music industry itself: No-name musician gets big overnight and lands a record deal. But until recently, it’s been hard to say just how big and how overnight, so Estelle Caswell from Vox and Matt Daniels from The Pudding spent seven months manually compiling and interrogating the data of who went viral, who got signed, and whose careers dropped off. Their resulting short documentary, We Tracked What Happens After TikTok Songs Go Viral, is a definitive dive into the 2020 class of viral TikTok stars.

    Although the platform is clearly a dominant force in new-music discovery, they found that streaming music is still overwhelmingly dominated by legacy artists. And since these established acts are now competing for the same eyeballs as their lesser-known colleagues on TikTok, it’s getting harder and harder for the latter to break out. So what happens after you go viral on TikTok? Listen to Switched On Pop to find out.
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    • 34 min
    The 1980s jam that gave Latto and Mariah Carey Big D*** Energy

    The 1980s jam that gave Latto and Mariah Carey Big D*** Energy

    If you've heard Latto's swaggering track "Big Energy"—and after 30 weeks on the Hot 100, you probably have—you may have heard a resemblance to Mariah Carey's 1995 hit "Fantasy." That's because both songs borrow a groove from the 1981 hit "Genius of Love," a genre-defying smash made by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. "Genius of Love" was made when Frantz and Weymouth took a break from playing in the band Talking Heads to let loose at the Island Records studio in the Bahamas with the help of some reggae luminaries. The original "Genius of Love" mashed up funk, new wave, disco, and rap, capturing the diverse sounds of 1980s downtown New York City, shouting out their musical influences in the process. From there, the song wended its way through hit after hit, from Grandmaster Flash to "Return of the Mack." Why does "Genius of Love" continue to spark musicians', and audience's, imaginations forty years after its release? Tune in to find out.
    Songs Discussed
    Latto - Big Energy
    Mariah Carey - Fantasy
    Mariah Carey ft Ol Dirty Bastard - Fantasy (Remix)
    Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love
    Grandmaster and the Furious Five - It's Nasty
    Busta Rhymes and Erykah Badu - One
    Mark Morrison - Return of the Mack
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    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
2.2K Ratings

2.2K Ratings

baepsalmbook ,

A Must-Listen for Music Fans

Switched On Pop was one of the very first podcasts I began listening to regularly way back in 2015. An early episode on the history of The Star-Spangled Banner and its use at major sporting events caught my attention and, well, I’ve listened to nearly every single episode since then. Nate and Charlie have a knack for mining the pop music and pop culture landscape for rare gems to present to listeners during each episode. They find clever ways of tying current trends in the Top 40 to musical expressions of decades (or sometimes centuries) past. With Charlie’s songwriting and production chops and Nate’s musicological and historical acumen, they always find ways to add to the conversation around a song or artist - even ones that already loom large in the cultural zeitgeist.

britney profile ,

Technical and artistic. The best kind of art criticism

Great show. The balance of technical and artistic criticism is spot on.
I'm a mid 50's cis POC guy, who never gave Britney much thought when she was new. Like all good criticism, this show gave me an inside view of the technique used, and an outside view of the historical context surrounding a compex piece of art.
Thanks for the education. Your show is my musical equivalent of New York Book Review

Emery Rouette ,

Forced conclusions re Britney aka “this is a story about control”

They need more queer and color in the room if they truly want to offer insight into pop. They conclude that Britney gives up full throated singing after Blackout—ahistorical! Hello her two greatest songs: Criminal & Perfume. Also you presume to do a show on pop and you can’t recognize MC fantasy in 2 sec or less!! See Pop’s Philosopher Queen Charlie XCX podcast for someone who approaches pop with appropriate humility. Subjecting art to science is about control not clarity.

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