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Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

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.


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Demi Lovato Searches for "Substance" In Pop-Punk Perfection

Demi Lovato has found herself in many avenues over the past few years ? from releasing a tell-all documentary to uncovering extraterrestrials ? but 2022 finds them traveling back in time to the sound of the late 90?s and early 2000?s: pop-punk. On this episode of Switched On Pop, we check out her two latest singles, ?Skin of My Teeth? and ?Substance,? and through focusing on the latter, pull out what, exactly, pop-punk is, and how Demi embodies the genre?s ever-evolving sound in their new track. Songs Discussed: Demi Lovato - Substance Demi Lovato - Skin of My Teeth Demi Lovato - Sorry Not Sorry Demi Lovato - La La Land Demi Lovato - Heart Attack Turnstile - MYSTERY Bring Me The Horizon - Chelsea Smile Blink-182 - Dysentery Gary Misfits - Astro Zombies My Chemical Romance - Astro Zombies Blink-182 - What?s My Age Again WILLOW, Travis Barker - t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue Machine Gun Kelly - bloody valentine Citizen - Stain La Dispute - Such Small Hands Mom Jeans - Edward 40hands Rise Against - Savior NOFX - Whoa on the Whoas Jarrod Alonge, Sunrise Skater Kids - Pop Punk Pizza Party Paramore - For A Pessimist, I?m Pretty Optimistic Fall Out Boy - Of All The Gin Joints In The World Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun The Police - Message in a Bottle Modern Baseball - Tears Over Beers Jimmy Eat World - Sweetness Good Charlotte - The Anthem The Offspring - The Kids Aren?t Alright Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Beyoncé's ?Renaissance? Era

Beyoncé?s new album Renaissance is one of her most ambitious albums yet. On this week?s episode of Switched On Pop, we discuss Renaissance with beloved guest Sam Sanders, host of the new Vulture podcast Into It. In Sanders? words: ?it?s trying to do a lot? ? but in the best way. The album incorporates seemingly every decade of contemporary popular dance music from Chic?s ?Good Times? to Right Said Fred?s ?I?m Too Sexy.? Much of the early discourse surrounding the album was marred by a confusing controversy over a small sample (we try to resolve the issue musicologically) ? but the references on Renaissance are worth listening closely to, acting as a guide through essential dance music. The album is an homage to the black and queer innovators of dance; with samples and interpolations of songs both niche and mainstream flying by, like a DJ set curated by house music pioneers.  On Renaissance, Beyoncé goes out of her way to cite, credit and compensate her influences, resulting in a triumph of musical curation. Just look at ?Alien Superstar?: the song credits twenty-four people, largely due to Beyoncé?s musical nods, rather than an exercise in boardroom style songwriting. Sanders says ?the liner notes themselves are showing you that this woman and her team have a PhD in music history.? Listen to Switched On Pop to hear how Renaissance honors dance music innovators and finds new modes of expression in the genre.  Subscribe to Into It with Sam Sanders Listen on Apple Podcasts: Listen on Spotify: Listen elsewhere: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Into It: The Business of Beyoncé

Subscribe to Into It with Sam Sanders Listen on Apple Podcasts: Listen on Spotify: Listen elsewhere: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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"It's About Damn Time" for Another Lizzo #1

In the middle of a long, hot summer 2022, the people have spoken, and the people want to dance. Lizzo's "About Damn Time" just replaced Harry Styles's "As It Was" to become the top song on the Billboard Hot 100. Powered by retro instrumentation, a propulsive groove, meme-worthy lyrics, and a generous dose of slash chords (not the Guns 'n Roses guitarist, the harmonic voicing), Lizzo's hit song marks a deepening of the sound she established in past tracks like "Juice." But on other tracks from her latest album Special, Lizzo aims for new aesthetics. "Coldplay"?featuring a rare Chris Martin vocal sample?opts for emotional honestly over pithy affirmations. With the upbeat "Grrrls," Lizzo found herself in an online controversy: she had used a ableist slur in the song's lyrics. Taking the criticism as an opportunity to learn, Lizzo chose to replace the offensive line?but have other artists of pop's past always followed suit when met with fan feedback? Songs Discussed Lizzo - About Damn Time, Juice, Coldplay, Grrrls Daft Punk, Pharrel Williams - Lose Yourself to Dance Michael Jackson - Rock With You, They Don?t Care About Us Quelle Chris, Chris Keys - Sudden Death Coldplay - Yellow Beastie Boys - Girls, Sure Shot Taylor Swift - Picture to Burn Lady Gaga - Born This Way Orville Peck - Born This Way Ella Fitzgerald - How Long Has This Been Going On Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat, and the Long Legacy of ?Hound Dog?

Baz Luhrmann?s hit box office hit biopic Elvis has spurred new interest in the music of The King. Elvis Presley?s streaming subscribers has grown by two million listeners on Spotify since the film?s release according to ChartMetric, and if you?re hearing a lot more ?Hound Dog? these days, it might be partially due to the success of Doja Cat?s hit song ?Vegas,? which updates ? and interpolates ? the song for contemporary listeners.  Doja Cat?s version samples from the original 1953 ?Hound Dog,? sung by Big Mama Thornton and written by acclaimed songwriter team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (whose credits also include Presley?s ?Jailhouse Rock? and Ben E. King?s ?Stand By Me?). The original is a sauntering blues song with a raunchy tale about a two timing man; Presley, who is frequently said to have stolen the song from Thorton, instead sings a tepid lyric about an actual dog, and radically changes the groove.  But in an interview with Rolling Stone, Stoller says Presley didn?t steal the song at all. Rather, he adapted one of many covers of the song, specifically the version performed by the Las Vegas lounge act Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. Their ?Hound Dog? borrows its upbeat rhythm from a song responding to the original ?Hound Dog,? titled ?Bear Cat.? It?s a similar rhythm to the one we hear on the contemporary Doja Cat version, ?Vegas,? which heavily features samples of Thornton?s original vocals: listening closely reveals a song that synthesizes a complicated music history by uniting the best parts of the many versions of ?Hound Dog.?  Listen to the latest episode of Switched On Pop and uncover the long legacy of ?Hound Dog.? Songs Discussed Big Mama Thorton - Hound Dog Elvis - Hound Dog Doja Cat - Vegas Esther Phillips - Hound Dog Jack Turner - Hound Dog Rufus Thomas - Bear Cat Freddie Bell and the Bellboys T.L.C. - No Scrubs Sporty Thievz - No Pigeons  W.C. Handy - St. Louis Blues Duke Ellington - Conga brava Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Didn?t It Rain Fats Domino - Mardi Gras in New Orleans Dave Bartholomew - Country Boy Little Richard - Slipping? And Sliding? Jack Harlow - Dua Lipa Future - Puffin on Zootiez Hitkidd, Gorilla - F.N.F. (Let?s Go) Bad Bunny - Después de la Playa Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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We Won?t Go Back: Pop Music and the Fight For Reproductive Rights (w MILCK and Ann Powers)

On June 24th 2022 the Supreme Court decided Dobbs v Jackson Women?s Health Organization, overturning Roe v Wade and asserting that the Constitution of the United States does not confer a right to abortion. The decision marked a seismic moment in politics and culture that has affected everyone?s lives, and the world of pop music is no exception. Musicians started responding immediately, from Cher to Olivia Rodrigo: on social media, at their shows, and in their music. Critic Ann Powers has been chronicling the reactions in a running list at NPR, and she joins in the second half of the episode to talk about the long history of artists speaking out?and singing?about reproductive rights.  One artist who wasted no time responding to the Dobbs decision is the singer and songwriter Connie Lim, aka MILCK. Her song ?We Won?t Go Back,? composed with Biianco, Autumn Rowe, and Ani DeFranco, came about after Politico published an article in May with the leaked draft of the Dobbs decision, telling the world in no uncertain terms that the Supreme Court was considering striking down Roe. MILCK found herself protesting in D.C., this time with her camera ready. The chants she heard there became the first sonic element of ?We Won?t Go Back.? Songs Discussed MILCK, Biianco, Autumn Rowe, Ani DeFranco - We Won?t Go Back MILCK - Quiet Ani DeFranco - Play God  Poison Girls - Mandy Is Having a Baby Cyndi Lauper - Sally?s Pigeons Leslie Gore - You Don?t Own Me Robyn - Giving You Back Joni Mitchell - Little Green L7 - Pretend We?re Dead Everlast - What It?s Like Madonna - Papa Don?t Preach Lauryn Hill - To Zion Megan Thee Stallion - Plan B We need your help. We are conducting a short audience survey to help plan for our future and hear from you. To participate, head to, and thank you! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Harry Styles and the Sledgehammer Horns

As we hit the dog days of summer, the artist that?s started to soundtrack pool parties across the country is former One Direction bandmate and contemporary sex symbol Harry Styles. In May, Styles released Harry?s House, an album propelled by the number one hit ?As It Was.? Despite having critical and commercial success, a barb often thrown at the album is the idea of it being inoffensive: pleasant, ?easy listening? music apt for an elevator, grocery store or, perhaps, a sushi restaurant.  Fans of Styles have warmly accepted this, and have come to love his sly appreciation of different decades of pop music history. This latest album reveals an interesting connection to one era in particular: the 1980s and the percussive, full-bodied horn sections that came with it.  The first track on Harry?s House, ?Music for a Sushi Restaurant,? offers a whole chorus of just horns, in an homage to one of Styles?s musical touchstones, Peter Gabriel. These 80s ?sledgehammer horns? connect to a deep well of 80s grooves?from Lionel Richie's "Up All Night" to Janet Jackson and Herb Alpert's "Diamonds," ?as Styles's strives to achieve the same effortless funk and propulsion of his brassy icons. MORE Sledgehammer Horns playlist Every Olivia Wilde reference Vulture found on Harry?s House   Songs Discussed Harry Styles - As It Was, Music for a Sushi Restaurant, Daydreaming Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer Lionel Richie - Up All Night Donna Summer - She Works Hard for the Money Sheila E. - The Glamorous Life Steve Winwood - Higher Love Janet Jackson and Herb Alpert - Diamonds Herb Alpert - Rise Notorious B.I.G. - Hypnotize  We need your help. We are conducting a short audience survey to help plan for our future and hear from you. To participate, head to, and thank you! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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ICYMI: The 90s? Most Unlikely Hit (with Baz Luhrmann)

In 1999 filmmaker Baz Luhrmann released the song ?Everybody?s Free To Wear Sunscreen,? a 7-minute-long graduation speech set to downtempo electronic music. It was a highly unlikely hit that made its way across continents and eventually into the ears of a young Avery Trufelman via the album NOW That?s What I Call Music Volume 2. For over 20 years, Trufelman has applied the song?s advice to her daily life: ?wear sunscreen? be nice to your siblings? do one thing every day that scares you.? This unusual song has left a lasting impression, and yet for Trufelman, it makes no sense that ?The Sunscreen Song? was commercially successful. We investigate the song?s many architects ? novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich and Baz Luhrmann himself ? to unpack one of the internet?s first conspiracy theories that turned into Billboard?s greatest outlier.  We need your help. We are conducting a short audience survey to help plan for our future and hear from you. To participate, head to, and thank you! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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)?  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 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 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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Kendrick Lamar and the big samples

It?s been five years since Kendrick Lamar released his Pulitzer winning album DAMN. Having established himself as a modern rap virtuoso whose songs have become anthems fueling social movements, expectations run high for his latest release. So when he dropped his new album Mr Morale and the Big Steppers, people tuned in - it is the biggest album drop of 2022 so far. Lamar moves his focus presumably from the societal to the personal on the double LP. His words arrive seemingly from therapy sessions meditating on family, infidelity, and the healing power of nature. The album has some bumps: platforming artists with a problematic past and an inelegant attempt at LGBTQ+ allyship. But nothing on the record is quite straight forward. Lamar doesn?t always say exactly what he means. He frequently shifts voices and puts on different characters. In musical interludes on the record, the sound of tap dancers points to the performative nature of recored music. Rather than give us direct meaning Kendrick leaves breadcrumbs for us to follow. To unravel his lyrics its necessarily to also examine the underlying production. The samples on Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers aren?t used just for their sound, in many cases they unlock the song?s meaning. Switched On Pop picked six stand out samples for close listening to hear the intent hidden in the music.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Modern Classics: PJ Morton made Nas?s Stevie Wonder dream come true

On all of his projects ? Grammy-winning albums, playing keys with Maroon 5, fronting a full string section in his NPR Tiny Desk Concert ? PJ Morton evinces his mastery at updating classic soul and R&B with modern sounds. His latest full-length release, Watch the Sun, sees him joined by some of his own sources of inspiration, Stevie Wonder and Nas. The three combined forces on Morton?s track ?Be Like Water,? which recites an uplifting mantra over unsettled harmonies. The effect is hypnotizing. Morton spoke with Switched on Pop about what it was like to work with his heroes and to share overlooked modern classics from Wonder?s and Nas?s catalogs. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Will Ukraine win Eurovision 2022?

Greece, Spain, UK, Sweden, Italy and Ukraine are the frontrunners in the 2022 Eurovision competition. Switched On Pop analyzes the top six songs as well as some of the more oddball picks. Songs Discussed Amanda Tenfjord - Die Together Chanel - SloMo Britney Spears - Work Bitch Sam Ryder - SPACE MAN Elton John - Rocket Man Cornelia Jakobs - Hold Me Closer Zdob ?i Zdub - Trenule?ul  Citi Z?ni - Give The Wolf A Banana Mahmood, BLANCO - Brividi Bad Bunny, Jhay Cortez - DÁKITI Kalush Orchestra - Stefania Stephane & 3G - We Don't Wanna Put In ????????????? ?????? - ???, ????? ???? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Belle and Sebastian on the value of staying "young and stupid"

Belle and Sebastian released the first album Tigermilk in 1996, and they?ve released eight more since?a catalog that helped define the sound of rock and indie in the new millennium through buoyant melodies and verbose lyrics.  Their new album, A Bit of Previous, continues to refine their unique sound but also embraces new musical directions. We spoke to Stuart Murdoch, leader of the 7-piece band hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, about their latest project. Songs Discussed Belle and Sebastian - Young and Stupid, Unnecessary Drama, If They're Shooting at You Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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The New Alternative

Last month, Nirvana entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time in nearly two decades ? only their fifth time in history ? thanks to a comic-book movie. The band?s 1991 track ?Something in the Way? was heavily featured in The Batman, whose director, Matt Reeves, said Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain inspired Robert Pattinson?s brooding performance as the caped crusader. Plus, Cobain?s music influenced the film?s score: Michael Giacchino references the dirge-like chords of ?Something in the Way,? borrowed from Chopin?s famous funeral march, throughout The Batman?s soundtrack. While these musical motifs obviously pair well with the inner turmoil of a fledgling Batman, the sound is part of a larger revival of ?alternative? music. The DIY aesthetic of ?90s alternative, heard in the music of young stars like Olivia Rodrigo and Willow, is a pendulum swing from electronic-laden sounds of the last decade. And the genre?s anti-corporate perspective, which developed out of the excesses of the ?80s, is a fitting backdrop to contemporary activist attitudes. From the nostalgia of Beabadoobee, to the post-rock sounds of Wet Leg, to the industrial sonics of Halsey?s latest project, new artists are using alternative?s old sounds to shape the sound of contemporary pop. On the latest episode of Switched on Pop, Nate and Charlie scan the alternative radio and streaming charts for standout songs that trace this umbrella genre?s myriad sounds and influences. More Read Justin Curto's article 2021 Killed the Myth that Rock Ever Died Songs Discussed (playlist) Nirvana - Something In The Way, Heart-Shaped Box Frédéric Chopin, Leif Ove Andsnes - Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 35 ?Funeral March? Michael Giacchino - Can?t Fight City Hallowwen Beabadoobee - Care Hole - Celebrity Skin Tracy Bonham - Mother Mother Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag Blink-182 - I Miss You Wet Leg - Chaise Longue The Slits - Typical Girls Halsey - I am not a woman, I?m a god Nine Inch Nails - Closer Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - Intriguing Possibilites Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Wayne - ay! Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj - Knockout Willow ft. Siickbrain - PURGE Evanescence - Bring Me To Life Deftones - My Own Summer (Shove It) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Jump-starting the creative process with Allison Ponthier

Allison Ponthier knows the hardest part of making anything is getting started. When she was young, she ?always wanted to write songs,? fanatically scribbling rhymes in a diary, but gave it up ? the prevailing narratives of natural talent, artistic genius, and spontaneous inspiration put the brakes on her songwriting aspirations. She didn?t pick it up again until she turned 19: ?It just took me that long to build the confidence.? Now, after a short stint in jazz school, a scholarly approach to YouTube song tutorials, and consistent writing practice, the 26-year-old Ponthier has crafted a songwriting method that reliably turns the mundane into the profound. Her 2021 EP Faking My Own Death shows the hand of a seasoned artist, with lyrics that mine her personal life for unexpected twists and turns. (?It took New York to make me a cowboy,? says the Texas-born, New York?based singer on ?Cowboy.?) It helps that she has the backing of songwriting heavyweights such as recent collaborators Lord Huron, Semisonic?s Dan Wilson, and Ethan Gruska (whose productions with Phoebe Bridgers soundtracked the pandemic). To provide a closer look at her process, Ponthier gave us a tour of her songwriting notebook ? but not before noting that ?no one looks at this, by the way.? The details it contained on the making of her single ?Autopilot? is a master class for anyone looking to break through creative barriers. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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A Higher Power Ballad

The recorded version of Justin Bieber?s ?Peaches? opens with a full-blast chorus alongside driving percussion and ringing guitars. But when he performed the song at this year?s Grammys, the song?s instrumentation was stripped down, with Bieber alone at a grand piano, crooning into the mic. Slowly, a band built up, and in came guest verses from Daniel Caesar and Giveon between seven repetitions of the chorus. Each time the chorus returned, the band got louder, the music pointing upward until a high-flying synth solo closed the song. It may have been a surprisingly churchy arrangement of Bieber?s hit, but it was the same sort of slow climb heard earlier in the night when Maverick City Music, the first Christian group to perform at the Grammys in 20 years, gave an uplifting performance of their song ?Jireh,? off their award winning album Old Church Basement.  In the church tradition, the slow build is a common feature, beginning as a quiet prayer that expands outward as more voices join in. Naomi Raine, one of Maverick City Music?s members, describes this kind of slow build as a ?common and underlying structure? that feels ?supernatural and spiritual.? But it?s clearly not restricted to the church. ?We are called to blur the lines as far as what is Christian and what is gospel ? those two have been segregated for too long,? says the group?s leader, Chandler Moore. The expansiveness of the music is represented in Maverick City Music?s diverse makeup. The seven core members invite dozens of songwriters from countless backgrounds to songwriting camps to explore the traditions constraining boundaries. Having only started putting out music in 2019, Maverick City Music has since released more than 17 combined LPs and EPs in multiple genres, including worship, gospel, R&B, and Latin pop. Consistent across all those records is the transcendent slow build. After exploring the discography of Maverick City Music, one starts to hear the slow build all over pop music. In the case of Bieber, who is both friends with the group and has a religious background, previous hit songs like ?Holy? and ?Anyone? also use the technique. Even the reworked ?Peaches? Bieber performed at the Grammys makes sense, given the chorus?s final line: ?I get my life right from the source.? There has been a long history of stylistic exchange between the religious and secular world. There would be no rock and roll without gospel, and Christian Contemporary draws its sounds from the ?60s folk movement. Today, songs made for worship share qualities with power ballads, the former elevating the spirit, the latter coaxing out emotions. On the latest episode of Switched on Pop, hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan speak with Maverick City Music and listen to songs both religious and secular that lift us up. Songs Discussed Justin Bieber - Peaches (feat. Daniel Ceasar & Giveon), Holy (feat. Chance The Rapper), Anyone Maverick City Music - Old Church Basement, Jireh, Same Blood, Used To This, Nadie Como Tú Coldplay - Fix You Céline Dion - Because You Loved Me Luther Vandross - Endless Love (with Mariah Carey) But, Honestly - Foo Fighters Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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How sound becomes hearing

We love listening to music at a ridiculous level of detail. But the other day we heard a podcast that made us fundamentally question the accuracy and reliability of our own listening skills. In it they played a familiar melody, ?Yankee Doodle,? in such a way that we couldn?t recognize it at all. Our brain plays so many auditory tricks on us ? some truly spectacular and unexplainable. In fact that?s the name of the show: Unexplainable. It?s hosted by Noam Hassenfeld, who in addition to being a fantastic reporter, is also a remarkable composer. So today we?re sharing Unexplainable?s episode on hearing. It?s the 1st in a 6 part series called Making Sense. We think you?re going to really dig this one.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Listening 2 Britney: Gimme More

There?s no more iconic Britney lyric than the opening of ?Gimme More.? It's 2007, four years since her last album In The Zone was released, and Britney is affirmatively back with the uptempo track leading off her album Blackout: ?It?s Britney, Bitch.? The song echoes the dance-pop Neptunes sound of ?I?m A Slave 4 U.? It's built around a driving riff and off-kilter drums produced by Floyd Nathaniel Hills AKA Danja. Each time Britney sings ?more? her voice is pitched down to a devilish growl. This disturbing vocal processing mirrors the vulgar paparazzi and public scrutiny in her personal life. On the fourth and final episode of our series Listening to Britney, we want to once again focus on her voice, how it's manipulated, how it?s evolved, and where it might be going. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Listening 2 Britney: Toxic

In 2003 Britney Spears released ?Toxic,? a song that would make converts out of pop skeptics, be named one of the greatest tracks of the 21st century by multiple publications, and become a personal favorite of Switched on Pop. Despite its success, when ?Toxic? was released as the second single from Spears?s fourth album, In the Zone, even the song?s writers thought it was too ?weird? to become a hit. But thanks to the new iTunes platform, which was just gaining traction in 2013, audiences kept buying the track and helped push it to the top of the charts.  For many listeners, your hosts included, hearing ?Toxic? for the first time was a moment of epiphany, an opportunity to rethink one?s views on the expressive power and musical invention of Top 40 pop. And almost twenty years after its release, ?Toxic? is still rippling through the culture. It?s been covered as a jazz-noir ballad by Yael Naim, a screamo anthem by A Static Lullaby, and a bluegrass burner by Nickel Creek. In 2022, the song enjoyed yet another revival in the form of DJ duo Altego?s viral TikTok mash-up of the song with Ginuwine?s ?Pony.? What makes ?Toxic? so enduring? For one, it?s the pull of Spears? voice, as she moves from her chest voice in the verse to an eloquent falsetto in the pre-chorus, then combines the two techniques in the chorus. It?s the way the song?s producers, Bloodshy and Avant, combine a matrix of sounds that should not go together?a 1981 Bollywood love song, electric surf guitar, and funky synthesized bass?into an unforgettable melange. And it?s the lasting power of Cathy Dennis?s lyrics, which spins a universal tale of trying to resist temptation?and ultimately failing. Songs Discussed Britney Spears - Toxic Lata Mangeshkar and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam - Tere Mere Beech Mein Kylie Minogue - Can?t Get You Out of My Head Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl Yael Naim - Toxic A Static Lullaby - Toxic Nickel Creek - Toxic Mark Ronson - Toxic Altego - Toxic/Pony Mashup Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Listening 2 Britney: I'm a Slave 4 U

In the first three years of Britney Spears? pop music career, she released annual, consecutive albums. In 1999 we got Baby One More Time ? its lead single was #5 on the Billboard year-end Hot 100 chart. In 2000, Oops? I Did It Again generated multiple hits. It?s eponymous single reached the #1 spot on Top 40 radio but only ascended to #55 on the year-end chart ? the single was only released on vinyl, not CD, to boost album sales. Destiny's Child, Aaliyah and Janet all outperformed ?Oops? on the year end chart. CD era marketing tactics aside, these artists were harbingers of what?s to come. The sound of pop music was changing and Britney needed to change with it. So in 2001, she released her self-titled album Britney. When we hit play on our metaphorical discman, the skittering beats of ?I?m A Slave 4 U? suggests a significant musical transformation. Enter Spears? Virginia Beach era.   Britney signaled that she?s moved beyond the Swedish-produced pop polish for an entirely new sonic identity just as she left behind the ingenue character for the first two albums. Working with the Virginia Beach-based duo The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo), on ?I?m A Slave 4 U? Spears evolved her sound to sit aside the the R&B sounds of her chart peers. Now with a soundtrack of off-kilter beats and harmonic dissonance, Spears needed a new vocal approach.  We hear this transformation in the opening line: ?I know I may be young.? She begins with a breath and a half-whispered vocal. As she propels into the verse, we hear some of Britney's unforgettable tone: controlled vocal fry and rhythmic percussiveness. But there's no sign of the ballad-style singing from her earlier hits. Instead, she sing-speaks through the song. The melody is loose because as she says, ?dancing?s what I love - now watch me.? This is not a sing-a-long, this is a dance song and the introduction of a whole new musical era for Spears.  Songs Discussed Britney Spears ? I?m A Slave 4 U, Overprotected, Don?t Go Knockin? on My Door, Overprotected (Darkchild Remix), Boys Destiny?s Child - Say My Name; Bills, Bills, Bills Aaliyah - Try Again Janet Jackson - Doesn?t Really Matter, Son Of A Fun Mase, Diddy - Lookin? at Me Mystikal - Shake Ya Ass JAY-Z I Just Wanna Love U Nelly - Hot In Herre Selena Gomez, A$AP Rocky - Good For You Lorde - Ribs Kesha - Die Young FKA Twigs - Lights On Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Listening 2 Britney: ...Baby One More Time

On a crisp Autumn morning in 1998, the world was introduced to the voice of Britney Spears, and pop would never be the same. Britney?s mix of vocal fry, percussive pronunciations, and timbral play on ?...Baby One More Time? hadn't been heard before. As successful as they were, these techniques were derided by critics as parts of her manufactured ?baby voice." Listening in 2022, we can hear Britney with more clarity: as a radical new artist. "...Baby One More Time" was not Britney's first turn in the spotlight. She had been cast on the Mickey Mouse Club in 1992, when she was 12 years old, executing immaculate vocals and choreography. But the voice on her first single represents a different side of the singer, and a new sound on the pop landscape. With Britney's ferocious vocals at the center, "...Baby" rocketed to number one and broke sales records. On her next release, "Oops!... I Did it Again," Spears upped the ante. Working again with producers Max Martin and Rami Yacoub, "...Oops" borrowed liberally from music across the radio dial, and added a dash of 16th-century harmony into the mix. Between her first two albums, Britney had taken hold of audiences by sheer force of personality and artistry, fought for in every syllable she sang. The stardom that followed was as unprecedented as her sound. But for someone as scrutinized as Britney has been, the artistry behind her celebrity has often been ignored. On the first episode of the four-part series Listening to Britney, we focus on Britney's voice in order to hear a pop icon with fresh ears. Songs Discussed Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time, Oops!... I Did it Again, Stronger, Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know, Email My Heart Backstreet Boys - Larger than Life Jean-Baptiste Lully - Les Folies d'Espagne Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Chartbreakers (ft. Megan Thee Stallion and the Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Presenting Chartbreakers, in which Nate and Charlie listen to the Billboard Hot 100 chart from top to bottom and discover a TikTok controversy, a Nashville music mystery, a rogue duck-billed platypus, and Megan Thee Stallion's debut piano concerto. Songs Discussed Gayle - abcdefu Muni Long - hrs and hrs Ckay - Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah) Dustin Lynch featuring Lauren Alaina or Mackenzie Porter - Thinking 'Bout You Red Hot Chili Peppers - Black Summer Megan Thee Stallion - Megan's Piano Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Leon Bridges and Khruangbin Sing a Song of Texas

Leon Bridges is the soul singer hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, who burst onto the music scene in 2015 with the album Coming Home. Since then he?s established himself as an adventurous musician whose latest album Gold Diggers Sound combines retro sounds with contemporary production. Khruangbin is the Houston-based power trio??Mark Speer on guitar, Laura Lee on bass, and DJ Johnson on drums?who also debuted in 2015 with the album The Universe Smiles Upon You, which introduced their unique brand of funky, dreamy, psychedelia.  In 2020, Bridges and Khruangbin teamed up to release the EP Texas Sun, whose title track managed to channel both spaghetti western soundtracks and classic soul at the same time. Now, the quartet is back with another collaborative EP, Texas Moon, which continues the musical palette of their first release while inverting its lyrical themes.  We spoke with Leon Bridges and Khruangbin about their new EP, the Texas songs that connect them to their home state, and why they chose to go lunar for their latest project.  Songs Discussed Leon Bridges and Khruangbin - Texas Sun, B Side, Chocolate Hills Mel Waiters - Got My Whiskey Townes Van Zandt - Columbine Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Shaking Out the Numb with Sylvan Esso

The last proper, blowout concert Charlie attended was devastatingly long ago, back in the winter of 2019. Bringing some funk to buttoned-up Walt Disney Concert Hall, the duo Sylvan Esso rocked Charlie?s world with epic performances of songs like ?Die Young.? When live music, and the world, shut down shortly after?well, it was a great note to go out on.  Now, that moment comes full circle, as Sylvan Esso?s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn join Charlie to discuss their album, Free Love, one of the bright spots during a dark time?an album which is now nominated for best electronic/dance album in this year's Grammy cycle.  Free Love is a testament to Sylvan Esso?s unique sound. If you choose, you can just listen to the intoxicating textures and move your body unconsciously. But if you listen in close, you?ll find the duo blending the inquisitiveness of folk lyrics with danceable electronic beats. Each song offers layers of sounds and text to ponder, so we dove deep through Sylvan Esso's latest to better understand the secrets behind their musical alchemy.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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We *do* talk about Bruno

The number one song on the charts is a bit of a mystery. ?We Don?t Talk About Bruno? is the unlikely hit from Disney?s sleeper animated musical Encanto. Set in a mountainous village in Colombia, the film was a middling commercial success when it was released in Nov 2021. But in recent months it has become a pop culture phenomenon for a confluence of reasons: an expansive discourse on Colombian representation in media, fan videos on TikTok, and of course it's ear-wormy hits.  The musical is yet another notch in the belt for Lin Manuel Miranda (the auteur behind Hamilton and In The Heights) who wrote the now chart-topping song book. While Disney certainly commands vast commercial success, its musicals rarely see such crossover attention. The last #1 Disney musical number was ?A Whole New World? from the animated Aladdin back in 1993. Where that song was literally uplifting, ?We Don?t Talk About Bruno? is quite the opposite.  Bruno is the uncle of the Madrigal family, whose skill for seeing the future portends gloom and sends him into exile. In his namesake song ?We Don?t Talk About Bruno,? an ensemble cast trade verses about his ghostly presence (Bruno haunts the family home, living inside its walls). It is an odd ball song, with dark and bizarre lyrics. Sure it starts with a story about rain on a wedding day (which is not ironic), but then it takes a hard left into tales of dead fish, middle aged weight gain, and creeping rats. So then what makes it a hit? A distinctive concoction of salsa piano rhythms, familiar Lin Manuel Miranda-isms, and contemporary pop connections to Camila Cabello, Britney Spears, J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Cardi B.  Listen to Switched On Pop to solve the mystery of what makes ?We Don?t Talk About Bruno? a hit.  Songs Discussed Lin Manuel Miranda - We Don?t Talk About Bruno, In The Heights, Helpless, Satisfied, My Shot, Wait For It, Say No To This Cardi B, J Balvin, I Like It Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee - Despacito Camila Cabello, Young Thug - Havana Britney Spears - Baby One More Time Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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32 Albums in, Elvis Costello is Just Getting Started

Elvis Costello burst onto the music scene in 1977 with the album My Aim Is True. Songs like ?Alison? established him as a powerful new voice in rock. His next album, This Year?s Model, introduced hits like ?Pump it Up,? which has resounded through stadiums and arenas across the country ever since.  From then on he released album after album, decade after decade, becoming a force to be reckoned with in pop music. Now, Costello has released his 32nd studio album, The Boy Named If, and it's a kaleidoscopic journey through many of the sounds and styles that he's experimented with over the years. We spoke with Elvis about his wrong notes and open-ended lyrics, his much-publicized defense of Olivia Rodrigo, and why he turned down working with Adele Songs Discussed: Elvis Costello - Farewell, OK, Magnificent Hurt, Alison, Pump It Up Richie Barrett - Some Other Guy Olivia Rodrigo - Brutal Chuck Berry - Too Much Monkey Business Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Accidental K-pop star Eric Nam risks it all to go his own way

Eric Nam is an accidental K-pop star. Growing up in Atlanta, and graduating from college in Boston, he did not expect that in his twenties he?s sign to a K-pop label, be named 2016 Man of the year by GQ Korea, and become a go-to television personality in South Korea. His music, imbued with his charisma and charm has charted globally. As fun as it is, the K-pop machine can be a real grind ? it churns through young people not unlike the NFL draft. Nam is unusually candid about this experience, likely because he decided to quit the label system, and take his blossoming music career independent. On his second all English full length album There And Back Again Nam has full creative control, and all the burdens of sustaining a solo music career. Nam spoke with Switched On Pop co-host Charlie Harding about what it is like to go from K-pop star to indie musician. SONGS DISCUSSED Eric Nam - Ooh Ooh, Heavens Door, Good For You, Honestly, Can?t Help Myself (feat. LOCO), Lost On Me, I Don?t Know You Anymore, Wildfire, Love Die Young Lee Hyori - 10 Minutes MOMOLAND - BBoom BBoom Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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The Weeknd drives through purgatory (with a little help from Jim Carrey)

Dawn FM is The Weeknd?s most narratively compelling album yet. More than just a collection of eighties-nostalgia single bait, Dawn FM is a concept album that picks up on a multi-year meta narrative. Abel Tesfaye, seemingly killed off his character at the end of his last album, After Hours. Getting caught up in the ?Blinding Lights? of fame and excess, the narrator ends up overdosing in the back of an ambulance. On the final song ?Until I Bleed Out? he sings ?I can?t move, I?m so paralyzed.? Dawn FM picks up where After Hours left off. The album opens with pastoral winds and bird sounds, with The Weeknd driving down the road searching for a light at the end of a tunnel. His radio is turned to a fictional radio station: 103.5 Dawn FM hosted by The Weeknd?s real life neighbor, the actor Jim Carrey. Channeled through the Vaporwave inspired production of Oneohtrixpoint Never, Dawn FM is the sound of purgatory. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Why do new Christmas songs fail?

Why are there no new Christmas songs? One one hand, there's more holiday songs than we?ll ever need. Every year pop stars drop countless holiday-themed album. But despite the annual glut of Christmas releases, few of these new songs join the rotation of holiday classics. On Billboard's Holiday Hot 100 chart right now, there's only four songs from the past ten years that have made it to the top fifty. We listen to each of these holiday hits?from Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and the Jonas Brothers?and and ask if these songs can go the distance and become the 21st century members of the Christmas music canon. Songs Discussed - Playlist Kelly Clarkson - Underneath the Tree Ariana Grande - Santa Tell Me Justin Bieber - Mistletoe Jonas Brothers - Like It's Christmas The Bird and the Bee - You and I at Christmas Time Loretta Lynn - White Christmas Blue Woody Goss - One for One Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - 8 Days of Hannukah Jenny Owen Youngs, Tancred, John Mark Nelson - Fireside Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Tai Verdes TikTok-ed his way to a breakout hit

Whether you?re a TikTok fanatic, or the app?s K-hole-inducing stream of content has forced you to delete it from your phone, its influence on music is undeniable. In 2020 the platform bragged that over 70 artists on the platform signed with major labels. TikTok?s success was linked to pandemic-related stay-at-home orders -- people were stuck at home and musicians couldn?t tour. And while trending dances and songs on TikTok may turn over weekly, with a billion monthly users, the social media platform has industry power. In 2021, Billboard?s Hot 100 was overflowing with TikTok hits -- over 175 according to the company -- more than twice that of last year.  While major artists like J Balvin and Taylor Swift use the platform, TikTok?s algorithm is surprisingly good at exposing aspiring artists. Take Tai Verdes for example. While working his day job at the Verizon store. Ty set his mind on using TikTok to launch his musical career. When he released a video singing his song ?Stuck In The Middle? in his Prius, millions saw him for the first time. Tai?s music has since been heard at Lollapalooza and on Top 40 radio. But like so many overnight successes, he built it up over years of practice and creative releases. If you want to know how social media has fundamentally changed music, you need to hear Tai?s Verdes tell his story to Switched On Pop?s Charlie Harding. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Raise The Roof

Robert Plant is in his own words ?cold? and ?prickly? while speaking about his new album with Alison Krauss, Raise The Roof. First thing upon joining the Zoom call from London, Plant jovially launches into the much misattributed quote ?talking about music is like dancing about architecture.? But he is neither callous, nor coy. For Plant the music is ineffable, a joyous celebration of friendship, and a kindred love of song that he shares with Krauss and producer T-Bone Burnett. Their album follows up from their 2007 Grammy award winning album Raising Sand. Both albums are steeped in americana and roots music, favorites that the trio traded across the Atlantic over many years of friendship. There are few hints of Plant?s Led Zeppelin or Krauss? Union Station. Instead their collaboration sounds timeless, haunting and melancholic. Their idiosyncratic sound emerged from an entirely organic process, a method that both parties are happy to share, but reticent to analyze. Switched On Pop?s co-host Charlie Harding spoke with Plant and Krauss about the making of Raise The Roof. ? SONGS DISCUSSED - Spotify Playlist Robert Plant, Alison Krauss - Quattro (World Drifts In), The Price of Love, Go Your Own Way, Trouble With My Love, Can?t Let Go, It Don?t Bother Me, You Led Me To The Wrong, Last Kind Words Blues, High and Lonesome, Going Where The Lonely Go, Somebody Was Watching Over Me Calexico - Quattro (World Drifts In) The Everly Brothers - The Price of Love Anne Briggs - Go Your Own Way Bert Jansch - Go Your Own Way Sandy Denny - Go Your Own Way Led Zeppelin - The Battle of Evermore Betty Harris - Trouble With My Love Lucinda Williams - Can?t Let Go Bert Jansch - It Don?t Bother Me Ola Belle Reed - You Led Me To The Wrong Geeshie Wiley - Last Kind Words Blues  Merle Haggard - Going Where The Lonely Go Pops Staples - Somebody Was Watching  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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The Beatles get back to their roots

2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles? final album, Let it Be. To commemorate the occasion, the remaining members of the band have remixed the album and unleashed an eight-hour-plus documentary directed by Peter Jackson that lays bare the making of the record. For super-fans this video memoir reveals a lot about the messiness of the creative process: The Beatles nearly broke up while making it! Author Tim Riley says that the band approached Let It Be with an aesthetic challenge: to get back to playing as a live band. But the original release of the album deviated from that mission and received mixed reviews. Over the decades, The Beatles have revisited this work with multiple mixes and alternative takes that try to show the original spirit of this direct-to-tape, live album. Charlie and Nate listen back, warts and all, to get to the heart of this enigmatic project. Songs Discussed The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Strawberry Fields, Dig A Pony, Good Golly Miss Molly, I?ve Got A Feeling, One After 909, Get Back, Two Of Us, The Long & Winding Road, Let It Be, I Me Mine Little Richard - Tutti Frutti More Read Tim Riley's works on The Beatles Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Taylor, Adele & Silk Sonic?s broken hearts club (with Brittany Luse)

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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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James Bond's Spycraft Sound

The latest installment of the James Bond franchise, No Time To Die, closes the book on the Daniel Craig era of the international superspy. The film?s theme song, ?No Time to Die,? by Billie Eilish, Finneas, and Hans Zimmer, also marks the conclusion of one of the great musical sagas in recent cinema. Monty Norman?s and John Barry?s now-iconic ?James Bond Theme,? written for 1962?s Dr. No, has remained a constant across six decades of espionage and one-liners. But every new Bond theme has also developed subtle variations on the original that reflect the character?s changes over time. On this episode of Switched On Pop, we uncover what inspired the theme, how it?s changed, and why it almost never happened. FURTHER JAMES BOND THEME READING The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism by Adrian Daub and Charles Kronengold The Music of James Bond - Jon Burlingame Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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James Blake & The Return of Harmony

For a decade James Blake has crafted an idiosyncratic sound. His early work as a minimalist electronic producer fused lush R&B chords with lyrical collage and unfiltered synthesizers. He describes his hit 2013 song ?Retrograde? as apocalyptic yet also romantic. This single was in stark contrast to the bubblegum pop of the early 2010s. But other artists recruited him to spread his subversive sonics. He produced on three of the most seminal albums in recent history: Beyoncé?s Lemonade, Kendrick Lamar?s DAMN and Frank Ocean?s Blonde. Before Blake, it sounded like pop was caught in the same four chord loop. But gradually Blake?s vision of harmonic melancholy has infused popular music. On his new album ?Friends That Break Your Heart,? Blake has written his most compelling songs yet, but underneath are those his familiar wandering chords and emotional suspense. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Sparkle spoke out against R Kelly. It cost her her career.

On this week?s episode we're sharing a story fromThe Cut where senior writer Angelina Chapin and co-host Jazmín Aguilera talk about and talk with Sparkle (born Stephanie Edwards), who first reported R. Kelly to the police for allegedly sexually abusing her 14-year-old niece. Back then, no one believed her, but following the explosive documentary Surviving R. Kelly and the R&B artist?s trial, at the end of which he was found guilty of nine federal sex crimes, she?s been vindicated. Angelina spoke with Sparkle a few times during and after R. Kelly?s most recent trial to hear about the monumental costs she has paid for coming forward. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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ICYMI: The Mystery of Montero AKA Lil Nas X (feat. Take A Daytrip)

Lil Nas X has a talent for creating productive controversy. First with ?Old Town Road,? he challenged expectations about blackness in country music. Now with ?Montero (Call Me By Your Name),? he takes aim at anti LGBTQ+ messages propagated by the religious dogma from his youth (he came out as gay during Pride 2019). The song describes a romantic encounter without innuendo. Sure it?s raunchy, but the song doesn?t especially stand out on Billboard where explicit sexual fantasy is commonplace. But his use of religious iconography in his video and merchandise created an immediate backlash. In the video to ?Montero,? Lil Nas X rides a stripped pole into hades where he gives a lap dance to Satan (also played by Lil Nas X). Despite the obvious commentary on repressive orthodoxy, religious conservatives failed to see the subtext. The song became a lightning rod. But as pundits fought on social media about the song's meaning, most critics failed to look into the song?s musical references. Produced by Take A Daytrip, the duo behind Shek Wes? ?Mo Bamba? and Lil Nas X?s ?Panini,? ?Montero'' mashes up genres that take the listener on a global journey, sharing his message of acceptance across cultures. Music Lil Nas X ? Montero, Old Town Road, Panini 24kGoldn, iann dior - Mood Dick Dale and his Del-Tones - Misirlou Tetos Demetriades - Misirlou Aris San Boom Pam Silsulim - Static & Ben El Shek Was ? Mo Bamba Lehakat Tzliley Haud Bouzouki recording from xserra from FreeSound under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License More Listen to Gal Kadan?s project: Awesome Orientalists From Europa on Bandcamp Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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