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Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You?ll fall in love with music you didn?t even know you liked.


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Jamestown and the Quest to Build a Utopia in America (with Avery Trufelman)

Nice Try! is a new podcast from Curbed and the Vox Media Podcast Network that explores stories of people who have tried to design a better world, and what happens when those designs don't go according to plan. Season one, Utopian, follows Avery Trufelman on her quest to understand the perpetual search for the perfect place. Enjoy this special preview of the first episode, Jamestown: Utopian for Whom, and subscribe to Nice Try! for free in your favorite podcast app.

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Why Does Every Intro Sound Like It's Underwater? (Live)

Ever notice that wobbly, drunken and underwater sound common in so many contemporary pop songs? In an era of pristine recording quality, music producers are referencing old and impure technologies to add character to their recordings. Digital cassette hiss, tape wobble, and vinyl crackle are intentionally added to productions as a facsimile of "authentic" recording technology. Why the sudden nostalgia? Where does this underwater sound come from? What does it mean? How is it made? Find out on a live episode of Switched On Pop, recorded at Recode's annual Code conference with guest host Estelle Caswell, creator of Vox's Earworm video series.

Listen to Estelle's Spotify playlist of underwater intros. 

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The Man Behind the Rocketman with Giles Martin

Rocketman is a spectacle the size of Elton John, four films in one. It contains a biopic, jukebox musical, addiction recovery story and a romance between friends. The soundtrack ties the story together by taking historical liberties to tell a fantastical story about one of the best living songwriters. Charlie is joined by Vox?s film critic, Alissa Wilkinson to breakdown the film and deconstruct how its melodic themes create an emotional arc. He also speaks with Giles Martin (son of 5th Beatle George Martin) who music directed the film and soundtrack about how he assembled an entire life?s work into a singular narrative.

Songs Discussed

Taron Egerton - RocketmanQueen - Bohemian RhapsodyTaron Egerton, Jamie Bell - Goodbye Yellow Brick RoadKit Connor & Gemma Jones & Bryce Dallas Howard & Steven Mackintosh - I Want LoveTaron Egerton - Crocodile RockTaron Egerton - Your SongTaron Egerton - Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest WordMozart - Requiem

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The Greatest Pop Stories Never Told (with Jessica Hopper)

On the KRCW series Lost Notes, Jessica Hopper plumbs pop music history for the most important stories never told. She brings us a bevy of lost gems, from Fanny, an all-female quartet of rockers that was one of David Bowie's favorite bands, to the Freeze a late-70s punk outfit now coming to terms with the offensive lyrics of their youth. Tune in to discover another side of pop, one that's rarely been heard. 

Songs Discussed:Fanny - Charity Ball (Live Version)Fanny - Ain't that PeculiarThe Freeze - I Hate TouristsCat Power - The Greatest

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Should You Care About Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber?

A pop star collaboration is a foolproof way to grab the attention of two audiences at once. But do more collaborators actually make a better song? Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber put this question to the test in their new song "I Don't Care." The track takes us inside the head of an antisocial party hopper, who'd rather be back home with his lover. Nate and Charlie investigate how the songwriters works that message into their music and speak with Ross Golan about Ed Sheeran's songwriting brilliance.

Songs Discussed
? Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber - I Don't Care
? Ed Sheeran ? Shape of You
? Justin Bieber ? Love Yourself
? Kygo ft. Ella Henderson ? Here For You
? Maroon 5 ? Don?t Wanna Know

Check out And The Writer Is? With Ross Golan:

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The Smooth Sound of Morning News

What do Bach and smooth jazz have in common? Both score the unmistakable theme song for NPR's flagship show Morning Edition, listened to by millions across the country every day since 1979. This is undeniably pop music, a daily soundtrack to the lives of many. So why does it sound the way it does? And why, after forty years, why does NPR want to change it?


BJ Leiderman - Morning Edition 
Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good
Herbie Hancock - Chameleon
George Benson - Breezin'
Kenny G - Songbird 
Don Voegeli/Wycliffe Gordon - All Things Considered
Take 6 - All Things Considered
Phish - All Things Reconsidered

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Is There An Indie Rock Conspiracy? (Featuring Joywave)

Many people write us with musical maladies and conspiracies. A recent one caught our attention. Daniel Armbruster, lead vocalist of indie band Joywave, has been hearing the same melody in tracks across the Alternative Songs charts. He believes that this hook could be the secret to securing a spot on the Billboard 100. Nate and Charlie investigate this issue, traveling from the contemporary charts all the way back to a fundamental musical scale. The stakes are high: is it possible to hack your way into a hit alt-rock song?

Songs Discussed Young The Giant - SuperpositionCold War Kids - FirstSir Sly - &RunJoywave, KOPPS - TonguesMaroon 5 - Moves Like JaggerLady Gaga - Bad Romance AJR - Burn the House DownTwenty One Pilots - ChlorineThe Black Keys - Lo/HiBillie Eilish - Bury A FriendCatfish and the Bottlemen - LongshotCage The Elephant - Ready To Let GoPanic! At The Disco - High HopesSHAED - TrampolineOliver Tree - HurtThe Lumineers - Ho Hey

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Lizzo And The End of Genre (with Sam Harris of X Ambassadors)

On her new album, Cuz I Love You, Lizzo shows off her genre bending musicality. We speak with X Ambassadors lead singer, Sam Harris, who helped co-write three songs on the album, including its eponymous track. We discuss how Lizzo's songs glide across sixties soul, seventies rock rock, eighties new wave, and nineties hip-hop. But we find that her music is much more than a history lesson in genre. Lizzo's writes vulnerable and courageous lyrics about self love, body positivity, female empowerment, and black identity. Rather than craft a singular sound for her album, Lizzo utilizes the genre that best fits the message of any given song. Her subversion of genre to the mood of her lyric matches changes in music consumption. According to Chartmetric, more people than ever are listening across genres to context based playlists. Does this mean genre no longer matters? Nate and Charlie try to find out with the help of Lizzo's genre busting music.

Songs DiscussedLizzo - Better In ColorLizzo - Cuz I Love YouLizzo - JuiceLizzo - TempoMissy Elliott - Get Ur Freak OnLizzo - JeromeRadiohead - CreepLed Zeppelin - Royal OrleansPrince - When Doves CryLizzo - Exactly How I Feel (ft. Gucci Mane)Aretha Franklin - RespectAretha Franklin - Say A Little PrayerAretha Franklin - Chain Of FoolsAretha Franklin - I Knew You Were WaitingEurythmics ft. Aretha Franklin - Sisters Are Doin' It For ThemselvesListen to our Lizzo playlist that pairs each song on her new album with a song from the past.

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Taylor Swift Causes a PANIC!

When a listener asked us about the "sorcery" behind Taylor Swift's new song "ME!" we knew we had to investigate. And because the track features Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, we couldn't resist digging into their concurrent hit "High Hopes." Along the way we cover baby talk, dreamy augmented chords, drumlines, and songs with exclamation points in their titles ? all to explain why you can't get these two out of your head.


Taylor Swift featuring Brendon Urie - ME!
Swift - Shake it Off
Swift - The Way I Loved You
Gustav Mahler - Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!
Shania Twain - Up!
Panic! At the Disco - High Hopes
Western Carolina University Drumline - High Hopes

Check out two great pieces on "High Hopes," one by Top 40 Theory and the other by Rolling Stone article citing Flypaper's Dean Olivet. 

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Sounds Like Teen Spirit (with Elle Fanning)

Pop is inseparable from reality TV singing competitions. From Eurovision to American Idol, scores of stars got their start in singing competitions. We?ve long overlooked this influence on pop, but were inspired to look into the phenomenon by the release of Teen Spirit, a pop-musical film about a fictional singing competition .

What is the history of these shows? Who got their big break on one? Is there a singing show musical aesthetic? We hit the books and records to find out, and the answers might surprise. Finally we speak with Elle Fanning, who plays contestant Violet in the film, about what it takes to train to be a singer primed for national fame.

Songs DiscussedElle Fanning - Dancing On My OwnFrank Sinatra with The Hoboken Four on the Major Bowes Amateur HourGladys Knight on the Original Amateur HourAbba - WaterlooCeline Dion - Ne Partez Pas Moi Alanis Morisette on Star Search Girls Tyme with Beyoncé on Star SearchKelly Clarkson - A Moment Like ThisWhitney Houston - I Have NothingNina Simone - Feeling GoodJanis Joplin - Piece of My HeartSusan Boyle - I Dreamed A DreamElle Fanning - Don't Kill My Vibe (originally by Sigrid)Recommended listeningMavis Staples - AnytimeAnderson Paak - VenturaThe Beths - Future Me Hates MeMax, Quinn XCII - Love Me LessKhalid, John Mayer - Outta My Head* Correction: Though non-European countries do compete in Eurovision, Canada has not competed in the contest. Celine Dion represented Switzerland in her performance of "Ne Partez Pas Moi Celine" in 1988.

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Country at the Crossroads

Lil Nas X currently holds the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his surprise hit ?Old Town Road.? But though the song is dripping with country twang, you won?t find it anywhere on the country charts. That?s because Billboard removed it, on the grounds of not having enough ?musical elements? of country?a move that in turn left many wondering if the vanishing had something to do with Lil Nas X, a black artist, venturing into a field dominated by white musicians. We dig deep into the history and musical matter of ?Old Town Road,? then pit it against other country hits to test its deep fried bonafides.
Songs DiscussedLil Nas X - Old Town RoadNine Inch Nails - 34 Ghosts IVBeba Rexa - Mean to Be (feat. Florida Georgia Line)Kelsea Ballerini - Miss You MoreSam Hunt - Speakers / Ghetto Cowboy - Bone Thugz N' HarmonyFilmore - Love That About You Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) Mason Ramsey - Walmart Yodeling KidHank Williams - Love Sick BluesEmmett Miller & His Georgia Crackers - Lock Sick Blues 
Other LinksTanya Texas Tucker's list of Black artists and their collaborations with country starsJezebel interview with Bri Malandro, originator of the "Yee Haw Agenda"

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Billie Eilish is a Different Kind of Pop Star (ft. FINNEAS)

On a trajectory to be one of the biggest pop stars for this generation, seventeen year old Billie Eilish is not, however, your typical pop star. Her music speaks to the real anxieties of young people without any veneer. She sings from the perspective of monsters and villains. Her hushed voice, baggy style, and direct demeanor subvert the norms of the pop princess. And her music is dark, but still catchy. Billie co-writes and produces her sound with her older brother Finneas O?Connell. Together this family duo have crafted the second biggest selling album of 2019, ?When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go??  On this episode, we examine how Billie and Finneas crafted a cultural phenomenon, why their message speaks to this generation, and we speak with Finneas about the creation of their hit song ?Bad Guy.?
Songs Featured: Billie Eilish - Ocean EyesBillie Eilish - BoredBillie Eilish - You Should See Me In A CrownBillie Eilish - Bad GuyBillie Eilish - Bury A FriendMarilyn Manson - The Beautiful PeopleThe Doors - People Are StrangeNine Inch Nails - CloserBillie Eilish - ilomiloBillie Eilish - All Good Girls Go To HellBillie Eilish - XannyFrank Sinatra - Dream A DreamBillie Eilish - I love youJohn Carpenter - Halloween ThemeBillie Eilish - Bellyache Watch Billie Eilish and Finneas break down ?Bury A Friend? on The New York Times

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BONUS: Bhi Bhiman's 'Peace of Mind' Episode 1

Switched on Pop is pleased to present Episode 1 of Peace of Mind --
the new album (released as a podcast) by singer/songwriter Bhi Bhiman.
In this episode Bhi digs into the fear and madness that characterizes
so much of this crazy time in America. Guests include author Dave
Eggers, Snap Judgement's Glynn Washington and renowned social
psychologist, Lee Ross. The song for this episode is ?Brother Can You
Spare Some Peace of Mind?? Subscribe to Peace of Mind here:

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Bhi Bhiman Puts the Music Before the Message

Bhi Bhiman joins to explain the "nerd punk rock" behind releasing his new album Peace of Mind with an accompanying podcast. Since Bhiman explores issues like deportation on the track "Beyond the Border," there's a lot to say about each song. Even though he tackles tough topics, Bhiman make sure he puts music before the message. "Beyond the Border" summons a vast range of funky influences, from Van Halen to the Allman Brothers, to ask what America really means.

?Bhi Bhiman:
Beyond the Border,
Moving to Brussels,
Bread and Butter,
There Goes the Neighborhood,

?Van Halen - Jump
?Allman Brothers - Ramblin' Man

Listen to our Spotify playlist of contemporary politically motivated music.

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Comeback Kids: The Jonas Brothers are Back

After a six year hiatus, Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas are back with a new single and the stakes couldn't be higher. With each brother attaining a higher plane of celebrity during their time off, the three must achieve pop success or face public humiliation. 

How do they do it? With three ingredients that ensure a hit song in 2019: 1) whistle while you work, 2) Homer the funky drummer, and 3) tune in, turn in, drop out. 

Songs Featured: Jonas Brothers ? SuckerEdward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros ? HomeFlo Rida ? WhistleDaya ? Sit Still Look PrettySharon Jones ? How Long do I Have to Wait for you?Bruno Mars ? 24k MagicEmily King ? Remind MeJason Derulo ? Want to Want MeRina Sawayama ? CherryPost Malone and Swae Lee ? SunflowerSurvey
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Lost & Found: The Drama of Pop Form with Emily King

Live from SXSW: Grammy nominee songwriter Emily King didn?t set out to write a perfect pop song with ?Remind Me.? Instead, she bent the rules of song structure to fit her message: the magical feeling when you find something you?ve been long missing. Mirroring this theme, the chorus doesn?t come when you expect it. The climax arrives late, after an ?aha? moment that fills in the forgotten details. Each instrument fits perfectly together like a lost memory coming into focus. Even after she finds what she?s been missing in her life, she deceived us once again with a diminutive ?down chorus.? At every turn, King shows how songwriting mastery opens up immense creative freedom, even within the constraints of a prototypical pop song.

Featured Songs:Emily King - Remind MeZedd, Maren Morris, Grey - The MiddleSam Smith, Normani - Dancing With A StrangerTaylor Swift - DelicateSurvey
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How Streaming Changed the Sound of Pop

Streaming hasn't just changed the way we listen to music, it's changed the way that pop music sounds. After years of losses due to the death of the CD and the rise of file sharing, the music industry has finally found a profitable business in streaming services. Streaming has overtaken all other music sales. Digital music platforms are the new Virgin megastore. But these services are more than just a distribution mechanism, they have created a whole new music economy. Album sales have been replaced by "album equivalent units," a business fiction that equates 1,500 streams to one physical sale. Artists are now effectively paid by the song. With ad-supported and subscription based business models, these platforms have upended incentives so significantly that it can be heard in the songwriting. Songs are getting shorter, albums are getting longer, and there is an entirely new section of the song that draws from the classical past: the "pop overture." In this episode, Nate and Charlie are joined by Aisha Hassan and Dan Kopf to unpack the sound of pop in the streaming era.  Be sure to check out their article on Quartz: "The Reason Why Your Favorite Pop Songs Are Getting Shorter."

Songs FeaturedLil Pump - I Love ItBenny Blanco - Eastside ft. Khalid & HalseyKodak Black - Calling My SpiritPost Malone - Better NowLeonard Bernstein - West Side Story OvertureDua Lipa - One KissDrake - God?s PlanPost Malone - I Fall ApartAriana Grande - NasaTommy Dorsey - All The Things You Are

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Top 40 Activism with Justin Tranter

Can political protest exist within the confines of commercial popular music? Songwriter Justin Tranter is equal parts songwriter and activist. You've likely heard his contributions to songs by Britney Spears, Julia Michaels, Selena Gomez, Janelle Monae and Ariana Grande, but unless you were paying close attention, you may have missed the essential subtext in his work. As an LGBTQ activist and board member of GLAAD, Justin brings his activism into Top 40 pop music lyrically and otherwise. On this episode, he breaks down his newest hit "Swan Song" which was co-written with Dua Lipa. This song is a triple threat serving as the end credits for the film Alita: Battle Angel, a Billboard hit, and a protest against the silencing of marginalized people. Justin shows us how representation in songwriting is inseparable from politics. And he's creating an open mic for new voices and stories that have been historically ignored by the pop industry.

Songs Discussed:

Dua Lipa - "Swan Song"Charlie Puth - "Attention"Selena Gomez - "Good For You"Imagine Dragons - "Believer"Taylor Swift - "Love Story"Halsey - "Bad At Love"Haydn - "Farewell" Symphony No. 45Shea Diamond - "Seen It All"
Listen to D. Orxata's Queering Pop Music playlist.

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What Makes An Award Winning Song?

What if music awards were given out for only musical qualities? It may seem like celebrity and spectacle are more important than ever at the 61st Grammy Awards, but we believe many of this years winners earned their accolades with noteworthy music. Still, we thought the winners should be heralded by new, more musical categories. Find out how

And The Awards Go To:
Best Chord Progression: H.E.R. - "Hard Place" & "Focus"
Best Throwback: Silk City & Dua Lipa ft. Diplo & Mark Ronson - "Electricity"
Worst Metaphor: Lady Gaga ft. Bradley Cooper "Shallow"
Best Conceptual Song: Childish Gambino - "This Is America"
Best Bridge: Kacey Musgraves - "Rainbow"

Also Featured
The Weeknd - "Often"
Khalid - "Location"
Alison Limerick - "Where Love Lives"
Cher - "Strong Enough"
Elton John - "Mellow"

Listen to Ezra Klein's discussion with Jill Lepore on America's two revolutions

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What Makes a Song Sexy?

Author Courtney Smith joins to offer her expertise on an urgent topic in advance of Valentine's Day: Can we abstract the sexiest songs of all time into a universal list of arousing musical qualities? We try our best by examining five decades of pop sexiness, discovering lyrical lingerie, and consider the most (and least) seductive instruments.


Nina Simone - I Want Some Sugar in My Bowl
Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby
INXS - Need You Tonight
Portishead - Glory Box
Kings of Leon - Sex on Fire
The Weeknd - Often

Check out Courtney's article Let's Talk About Sex, Baby: Every Trick You Need to Seduce Someone with a Playlist on Refinery29

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The Deep History of '7 Rings'

"7 Rings" is Ariana Grande's latest smash, a glittering banger that owes much to Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1959 classic "My Favorite Things." 60 years later, Grande updates the track for a modern audience, making her the latest artist to repurpose this anthem from the "Sound of Music." When it comes to Ari's flow, however, questions of appropriation arise. Author Lauren Michele Jackson joins to break down who has the right to repurpose sonic history.

? Ariana Grande - 7 Rings
? Julie Andrews - My Favorite Things
? John Coltrane - My Favorite Things
? The Doors - Light My Fire
? Lauryn Hill - Black Rage
? Migos - Bad and Boujee
? Princess Nokia - Mine
? Two Chainz - Spend It
? Soulja Boy - Pretty Boy Swag

Check out Lauren Michele Jackson's article, "To Whom Does '7 Rings' Owe its Sound?," hear more connections between Coltrane and the Doors in this NPR story, and discover the triplet Migos flow on Vox's Earworm.

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Do You Believe in Life After Autotune?

Auto-Tune may be the most divisive effect in music. Artists have protested it publicly at the Grammys, and critics have derided the effects for its inauthentic reproduction of the voice. And yet, nearly a decade since Jay-Z prophesied the death of Auto-Tune, the sound is alive and thriving in contemporary pop and hip-hop. Journalist Simon Reynolds has written a definitive history of Auto-Tune for Pitchfork that fundamentally changed how we hear this sound. This deep dive criss crosses geology, technology, and the evolution of pop as we know it.

Songs Discussed:Cher - BelieveKaty Perry - FireworkRihanna - DiamondsFuture - F*ck Up Some CommasEmma Robinson - Stay (Cover) Imogen Heap - Hide And Seek Zapp & Roger - Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing) T. Pain - Chopped N Screwed ft. Ludacris Lil Wayne - ?How To Love?Kanye - ?Heartless?The Black Eyed Peas ?Boom Boom Pow?Jay-Z - Death Of Auto-TuneElvis - Mystery TrainThe Beatles - Tomorrow Never KnowsWhispering Jack Smith - Baby FaceKesha - Tik Tok Bon Iver - WoodsFuture & Juice WRLD - Jet Lag ft. Young Scooter Shek Wes - Mo BambaThe Carters - Apeshit
Further Reading:Simon Reynolds - ?How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music" Simon Reynolds -Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture 

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Slay Bells, All Year Long

This winter season unwrap a deep dive through a pop subgenre of monumental importance: non-holiday songs that feature sleigh bells, from Bonnie Tyler to Nas, On Side B, we rebroadcast our episode on Mariah Carey's classic "All I Want for Christmas Is You"...and more sleigh bells. 

?The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
?Gustav Mahler - 4th Symphony, I
?Michael Jackson - Jam
?Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart 
?Miles Davis - On the Corner
?Nas - Halftime
?Kygo ft. Conrad Sewell - Firestone
?Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas Is You

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Look What You Made Us Do

Four years into Switched On Pop, Charlie and Nate finally reveal what was behind the entire series. We may have not been totally honest with you from the beginning. Back in 2014 we were more pop skeptics than fanatics. The genre was, to some degree, the sugar that made the musical analysis medicine go down. And then something happened. Just as people started to listen to the show, we too began to open our ears. Now, in our 100th episode, Charlie interviews Nate about how transforming the way you listen to pop can truly make life better. And we get raw about the constraints of pop and where we plan to go in our next 100 episodes.

Songs discussed:

Beethoven's 7 & 9Santana - "Smooth" Martha and the Vandellas - "Heat Wave" Zedd - "Stay" Pink Floyd - "The Great Gig in the Sky" Adelle - "Hello" 

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Entering Beard Phase with Mike Posner

Mike Posner has written hits for himself like "I Took a Pill in Ibiza," and for stars from Justin Bieber ("Boyfriend") to Maroon 5 ("Sugar"), so he has insights for days on what makes a pop song work.

We dig into Mike's excellent new track "Song About You," which leads to an exploration of songs that reuse the same melody for verse and chorus?from Prince to The Boss to Post Malone. Last, we consider "beard phase": a moment of artistic reinvention that every artist has in their career, whether you're Mike Posner, Ludwig van Beethoven, or Taylor Swift.


Mike Posner - Song About You
Jean Ritchie - Barbary Allen
Original Sacred Harp Singers - New Britain (Amazing Grace)
Prince - I Wanna Be Your Lover
Prince - Let's Go Crazy
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.
Post Malone - Rockstar
Beethoven - String Quartet No 1 Op. 18/1
Beethoven - String Quartet No 10 Op. 74/III
Beethoven - String Quartet "Grosse Fuge"
Taylor Swift - Teardrops on My Guitar
Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift - ...Ready For It?
Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
Dennis Wilson - River Song
Peaches ft. Iggy Pop - Kick It 

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How Dirty Projectors Make You Feel Energy (with David Longstreth)

Dirty Projectors are known for their kaleidoscopic soundscapes. They make strange bedfellows of  music techniques like 14th vocal harmonies and African guitar rhythms. But in the backdrop of their obscure orchestrations you will hear the indelible marks of pop music. Longstreth has recently collaborated on songs with Solange, Rihanna, Kanye and Paul McCartney. On his new track "I Feel Energy" we can hear that pop influence shine through. Together we break down his unpredictable 808s to see what gives you energy. We also build connections between Dirty Projectors and other artists in the top 100 including Marshmello, Ella Mai and Khalid.

Songs Featured:Dirty Projectors - I Feel EnergyDirty Projectors - Up In HudsonMarshmello ft. Bastille - HappierElla Mai - TripKhalid - Better

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Stairway To Hell: Greta Van Fleet?s Scorching Album Review That Went Viral

Classic rock climaxed a half century ago, yet it still survives in two places: FM radio & Greta Van Fleet. The later are an upstart of four boys from Michigan who have found stardom by dusting off the mantle of guitar driven rock. Their latest album, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army, bares an uncanny sonic resemblance to Led Zeppelin. Jeremy D. Larson, senior editor of Pitchfork, gave the album a 1.6 out of 10 calling it "stiff, hackneyed, overly precious retro-fetishism." His vicious and hilarious takedown went viral and caused a rift amongst music fans on the internet. We ask Jeremy to join us to reveal what it means to earn such a bad review. After, we do something we've never done before: a track-by-track album breakdown. In a game of musical Pictionary, Charlie challenges Nate to find every Led Zeppelin reference on the album to answer the question: is it a copy or an homage? We have a feeling this will be a divisive episode...

Songs Discussed:
Greta Van Fleet - Age of Man
Led Zeppelin - Rain Song
Led Zeppelin - In The Light
Led Zeppelin - What Is And What Should Never Be
Led Zeppelin - Your Time Is Gonna Come
Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song
Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
Greta Van Fleet - The Cold Wind
Led Zeppelin - Custard Pie
Greta Van Fleet - When the Curtain Falls
Led Zeppelin - Wanton Song
Greta Van Fleet - Watching Over
Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You
Greta Van Fleet - Lover, Leaver
Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love
Spirit - Taurus
Muddy Waters - You Need Love
Small Faces - You Need Love
Willie Dixon - I Can't Quit You Babe
Greta Van Fleet - You're the One
Led Zeppelin - What Is And What Should Never Be
Greta Van Fleet - The New Day
Led Zeppelin - Over The Hills And Far Away
Greta Van Fleet - Mountain of the Sun
Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day
Greta Van Fleet - Brave New World
Led Zeppelin - Achilles Last Stand
Greta Van Fleet - Anthem
Led Zeppelin - Tangerine
Lover Leaver (Taker, Believer)

Read the Pitchfork review of Greta Van Fleet's Anthem Of A Peaceful Army

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Charli XCX and Troye Sivan Love the 90s

Charli XCX and Troye Sivan conjure late 90s nostalgia in their latest banger. "1999" drips with lyrical nostalgia for the last decade of the millennium ? but does the music follow suit? We think the pair are missing prime opportunities to bring back some neglected musical tricks from the early oeuvre of Britney Spears.

The 90s bug goes beyond Charli and Troye. Anne-Marie and Lauren Alaina also pine for the Clinton era in their millennial bops. Which makes one ask: is the present so bad that we miss the paranoia of Y2K? As usual, Prince has the answer.


Charli XCX ft Troye Sivan - 1999
DJ Bobo - Somebody Dance with Me
Real McCoy - Another Night
Paradisio - Bailando
Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time
Britney Spears - Oops! I Did it Again
Anne-Marie - 2002
Lauren Alaina - Ladies in the 90s
Prince - 1999

Check out Megan Lavengood's examples of the complementary chorus.

Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body" from 1986 might be the ur-source of the ubiquitous 90s house piano. Jefferson recorded the original in his Chicago prophet on a Prophet 2000, but never got the rights to the song and saw little proceeds from its success. 

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Sicko Rap and Drunk Country

Four songs on the Hot 100 pop chart reveal the new directions in which music is headed. Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode" boasts an unprecedented formal structure that points to the future of hip hop. Meanwhile, in the world of country, Jason Aldean, Mitchell Tenpenny, and Dan + Shay are putting a modern spin on one of the style's oldest tropes: drinking bourbon. Together these tracks make up the vanguard of their respective genres, but are fans willing to take the plunge?

Travis Scott - Sicko Mode
Skrillex - Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
John Zorn - Cat o Nine Tails
Jason Aldean ft Miranda Lambert - Drowns the Whiskey
Mitchell Tenpenny - Drunk Me
Adele - Hello
Justin Bieber - Sorry
Dan + Shay - Tequila

Recommend Reading: Kathryn Schulz on Chris Janson's "Drunk Girl"
Recommended Viewing: Rich Redmond's studio drumming

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The Side Effects of Pop Music with Emily Warren

Emily Warren is one of the great rising stars of contemporary songwriting. Her song "Side Effects" with The Chainsmokers is currently rising up the charts. You?ve also heard her writing on Dua Lipa?s "New Rules." She?s collaborated with many of the best performers in music earning her a Grammy and multi-platinum success with ?Don?t Let Me Down.? She's also recently released her single "Paranoid." Emily is a real songwriters songwriter. Her process is as much therapy as art. Together we break down her latest work and uncover her creative process. Her album "Quiet Your Mind" is out on October 5th.

Songs discussedThe Chainsmokers - Side EffectsBach - Prelude in F# Minor from the Well Tempered ClavierEmily Warren - Paranoidbülow - You & JenniferTeyana Taylor - Gonna Love MeNick Jonas - Touch

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Drake vs Drake

Drake, per usual, has been inescapable this summer. "In My Feelings" and "Nice For What" top the charts, but there's depth to these bangers. We argue for hearing one as a meditation on fragile masculinity, the other as a paean to NOLA Bounce.

Continue the conversation with us on Instagram and Twitter: @SwitchedOnPop

Songs discussed:Drake - In My FeelingsDrake - Nice For WhatLauryn Hill - Ex FactorThe Showboys - Drag Rap (Triggaman)Cameron Paul - Brown BeatCheeky Blakk - Let Me Get That OutchaBeyonce ft. Big Freedia - FormationBig Freedia - Karaoke ft Lizzo

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Summer Heat of the 2000s: Beyoncé and Black Eyed Peas (Pt. II)

The final episode of our Switched on Summer throwback series finds us deconstructing more early aughts bangers.

Under consideration: two of the biggest hits since Y2K, Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" and the Black Eyed Peas' "I Got a Feeling." Tune in to dig how these tracks keeps the temperature rising through harmonic suspension, and to ask if cribbed "Chopsticks."

Switched On Summer Winner: Slow Dance
Congrats to Slow Dance for winning our Switched On Summer contest with their song "I'm Your Guy Tonight." Listen to the whole track here:

You can get all of our song of summer chord loops, song packs and listen to the awesome entires to our Splice Firestarter competition on <a href="">Splice</a> here:

Songs Discussed:
? Beyoncé - Crazy in Love
? The Chi-lites - Are You My Woman
? Jay Z - 99 Problems 
? Black Eyed Peas - I Got a Feeling

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Summer Heat of the 2000s: Nelly + Katy Perry (Pt. 1)

What made summer jams of the aughties like Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" so hot? The answer: big, sweaty, doses of harmonic tension. Specifically, each track relies on the Baroque technique of the ground bass. Wait, we mean: the Baroque technique of PEDAL POINT!  When the chords in these songs don't match up with their bass notes, the ratcheting tension adds heat?fueling both dance moves, and controversy.

Nelly - Hot in Herre
Katy Perry - I Kissed a Girl
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream

All summer Switched On Pop & Splice have been diving into the DNA of summer hits, and now we want you to show us what you?ve learned. Get inspired by sound packs and chord progressions created by Switched on Pop and share your best song of summer with us and the world. Hosts Nate & Charlie will be listening and will choose their favorite submission to win a year of Splice Sounds and have their track played on the podcast.

Check out all the details at
And, read Owen Pallett's excellent article on the use of harmonic tension in Teenage Dream.

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Why is 90s Pop so Bizarre?

The Switched on Pop Summer Throwback Series continues! This time, with a deep dive into the musical detritus of the 1990s.

In true 90s fashion, our episode is inspired by a pair of classic VH1 shows; "Behind the Music" and "Where Are They Now?"

Our subjects are two songs representing the lunatic fringe of 90s culture, "Cotton Eyed Joe" and "How Bizarre."

In the course of our musicological investigation, we uncover dark truths about these seemingly anodyne hits that will make you question everything you know about pop music.

And in the end, we reach a definitive answer to a perennially vexing question: "WTF was 90s music so weird?"

Songs Discussed

Cotton Eye Joe
Pop in an Oak
The Way I Mate

Cotton Eyed Joe:
Fiddlin John Carson
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys
Karen Dalton
Nina Simone 

How Bizarre
Right ON

Start making your summer hit track on Splice and check out our chord pack at

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The Resistance is Dancing in the Streets

Our Switched on Summer Throwback Series continues with "Dancing in the Street," the 1964 Motown hit by Martha and the Vandellas that was co-written by none other than Marvin Gaye.

Over 50 years and countless covers later, we explore how this song still manages to get people off their feet and onto the streets?not just to dance, but also to raise their voices in joy, catharsis, and protest.

Also, start making your own summer hits with our Switched On Summer repack on Splice at and use promo code ONPOP for a 1 month free trial.

Featuring:Martha and the Vandellas - Dancing in the StreetMarvin Gaye - Stubborn Kind of FellowThe Mamas and the Papas - Dancing in the StreetThe Grateful Dead - Dancing in the StreetVan Halen - Dancing in the StreetMick Jagger and David Bowie - Dancing in the StreetKendrick Lamar - AlrightPharrell Williams - Happy

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Switched on Summer: Getting Around with the Beach Boys

Our Switched on Summer throwback mini-series begins in the heart of the 1960s, with the Beach Boys' perennial school's-out jam "I Get Around."

We explore how every aspect of Brian Wilson's two-minute-long masterpiece is perfectly calculated to literally "get around"?harmonically, melodically, and lyrically?creating that unbeatable feeling of cruising all over town with the top down on a hot summer's night. 

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The Pure Pop of Charlie Puth + Carly Rae (ft Hanif Abdurraqib)

Part I: The Doctors Are In! We diagnose a listener's musical malady, namely: "why does Charlie Puth's new jam 'BOY' make us feel so weird?!"

Part II: Guest Hanif Adburraqib, author of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, helps break down Carly Rae Jepsen's epic "Cut to the Feeling" to understand why CRJ is a different kind of pop star.


?Charlie Puth - BOY
?Ismael Miranda - Recordando
?Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Nobody's Baby
?The Beatles - She's a Woman
?The Cars - Since You're Gone
?Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No 5 in C Minor, I
?Carly Rae Jepsen - Cut to the Feeling

Check out more of Hanif's work at his website.

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Afrofuturism in Kali Uchis & Clipping (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes)

Parliament Funkadelic has had waves of influence on popular music. Their Afrofuturist message and infectious grooves built the backbone of 70s funk, was revived in the 90s with Dr. Dre's G-Funk, and is once again in vogue with in the music of Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Kali Uchis. Bootsy Collins, bass player of Parliament Funkadelic, collaborated with Kali Uchis and Tyler the Creator on the track "After The Storm," which draws on the P-Funk sound. Similarly, Clipping pay homage to the P-Funk lineage through their Hugo nominated song "The Deep," which was produced in collaboration with This American Life. The story explores a mythology created by the band Drexciya. In the story, an underwater civilization birthed from African slaves crossing the Atlantic battles their makers to save their habitat. Listen to hear what makes both infectious tracks so effective.  

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Finding Equanimity In 'No Tears Left To Cry'

Ariana Grande has returned with a track that is jarring yet simultaneously catchy. She uses sophisticated musical techniques to tell a story of healing, resiliency, and hope after the attack at her concert in Manchester. Listeners will learn techniques like tempo rubato, modal interchange and amen breaks, which weave together this equanimous narrative.

Songs featured:Ariana Grande - No Tears Left To CryAriana Grande - Into YouAriana Grande - Break Free ft. ZeddThe Winstons - Amen BrotherThe Prodigy - MinefieldN.W.A. - Straight Outta ComptonOasis - Do You Know What I meanFuturama Theme Song 

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Can AI 'Algorhythms' Write Pop Songs? (With Taryn Southern)

There is a lot of scare about the impending future of artificial intelligence making humans irrelevant. Musician Taryn Southern examines this narrative through her song ?Life Support,? written with the aid of AI composition tools. We dispel current myths about AI music and discuss its future opportunities. In the second half of the show we run a musical 'Turing test' to see if you can identify music made by a bot from that composed by the hand of a human. 

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Listening Differently to Lorde | with MARIAN HILL

Samantha Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd are songwriting duo Marian Hill and they are here to share their annoyingly sharp insights on music. They come bearing the wistful pop of Lorde's "Ribs," and we deconstruct its primordial roots in classical composers like Scelsi, Beethoven and Haydn. Then, we turn to Marian Hill's new single "Differently" to uncover the subtle musical shifts that outline a complex dialogue lurking among the track's sparse, funky textures.

Songs Discussed:
Lorde - Ribs
Broken Social Scene - Lover's Spit
Giacinto Scelsi - Memories
Ludwig van Beethoven - 9th Symphony
Franz Josef Haydn - Creation
Kid Rock - All Summer Long
Miley Cyrus - Party in the USA
Marian Hill - Mistaken
Marian Hill - Differently

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Kacey Musgraves Gives Us Butterflies

On her single 'Butterflies,' Kacey Musgraves demonstrates a tour de force of songwriting. This song is a wild success because it incessantly reinforces one core emotional concept: that queasy anxious feeling in your stomach. No we're not talking about your leftover lunch, we're talking about love. But this is not just a simple little love song. It is a masterclass of creativity. Musgraves uses every element of music to reinforce her core idea. The lyrics fold back onto themselves with dual meanings as the harmony, melody, orchestration and rhythm all interweave to literally give the listener butterflies. Caution: this song may induce feeling of tender sorrow and longing for mutual crushes and anxious kisses.

Songs Discussed:Kacey Musgraves - Merry Go RoundKacey Musgraves - Butterflies

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Gucci Gang and the Neural Substrate of Subjective Time Dilation

In which Nate tries to convince Charlie that Lil Pump's SoundCloud Rap hit "Gucci Gang" warps the perceptual present.

Lil Pump - Gucci Gang
Gustav Mahler - Der Abschied / Das Lied von der Erde
Franz Schubert - String Quintet / Adagio
Conlon Nancarrow - Study for Prepared Piano 21

Check out Jonathan Berger's article on musical time in Nautilus.

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How to 'Make Me Feel' with Lizzo

"Make Me Feel," is the first hit from Janelle Monáe's upcoming album Dirty Computer. It is a sensual song about the fluidity of desire. In the pre-chorus, the singer proudly expresses that she is a "sexual bender." Fans have embraced the song for breaking free of normative sexual expectations. But these non-binary statements aren't limited to the lyrics. The message is reinforced with musical concepts drawn from the blues, Prince and Michael Jackson. To help break down this track, Nate and Charlie are joined by singer/rapper Lizzo. She and Monáe both collaborated with Prince, making Lizzo uniquely qualified to unwind his influence on the song (Prince was recently named as a collaborator on the track). We also discuss Lizzo's song "Truth Hurts" and her podcast "Good As Hell" where she talks to the queens of hip hop. Hands down, Lizzo is one of the most talented, knowledgable and fun guests. You don't want to miss this episode.
Songs DiscussedJanelle Monáe - Make Me FeelMichael Jackson - The Way You Make Me FeelMichael Jackson - Beat ItFats Domino - Blueberry HillPrince - KissYing Yang Twins - Wait (The Whisper Song)Lizzo - Truth HurtsSister Nancy - BamBonus MaterialGet tickets for Lizzo's Sister Sister Sister tour with Haim: www.lizzomusic.comDon't miss Lizzo's podcast "Good As Hell" on SpotifyAlso if you haven't read it, Quincy Jones Vulture interview is utterly mad

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808s & Havana Heartbreak

In Camila Cabello's "Havana" we hear both her Cuban roots and the modern sounds of Atlanta. Though the singer and featured guest Young Thug reference these two geographic identities, the song says so much more through its core musical elements. A Roland TR-808 kick drum evokes an entire repertoire of Atlanta Hip Hop, while the track's supporting piano montuno descends from a Cuban style lamenting the loss of one's traditional home. 

Also in this episode, we discuss Camila's unlikely path to number one with writer Hannah Steinkopf-Frank ? and the musical glass ceiling that holds so many young women artists back.

RecommendationsSwitched On Pop recommends the podcast about sound: Twenty Thousand Hertz Hannah recommends the book: Girl Groups Girl Culture by Jacqueline WarwickCheck out more music and writing from Kwami Coleman at his websiteYou can listen to you playlist of 808s and Montunos on Spotify
Featured SongsCamila Cabello - HavanaTI - Whatever You Like2NE1 - I Am The BestMarvin Gaye - Sexual HealingMariah Carey, Jermaine Dupri - Always Be My BabyOutkast - So Fresh, So CleanLil Jon - Get LowGucci Mane ft. Migos - I Get The BagCompay Segundo - Guajira GuantanameraCuarteto Caney - Guajira GuantanameraBig Mama Thorton - Hound DogElvis - Hound DogLittle Mix & Missy Elliott- How Ya Doin?The Shangri Las - Leader Of The PackSleater-Kinney - I Wanna Be Your Joey RamoneSpice Girls - WannabeSpice Girls - Spice Up Your LifeThe Ronettes - Be My BabyThe Shirelles - Will You Love Me TomorrowTLC - No Scrubs

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My My My! Troye Sivan + Queer Pop (w Gina Delvac, Darryl Bullock)

Gina Delvac of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and Darryl W Bullock, author of David Bowie Made Me Gay, join Nate and Charlie to dig into the poetry of Troye Sivan's "My My My!", the history of LGBT pop music, and the songs we love to hate.

And also be sure to check out:
Darryl Bullock's playlist of LGBT pop, from his book David Bowie Made Me Gay
and the brilliant Call Your Girlfriend podcast, produced by Gina. 

?Troye Sivan - My My My!
?Taylor Swift - Style
?West Side Story - Cool
?Billy Murray - Pretty Baby
?Ma Rainey - Prove it on Me
?Irving Kaufman - Masculine Women, Feminine Men
?Lesley Gore - You Don't Own Me
?Jackie Shane - Any Other Way
?Lavender Country - Back in the Closet Again
?John Grant - Glacier
?Alex Clare - Too Close

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90s Nostalgia in Bruno Mars and Charlie Puth

The 90s are back. It is as if pop music entered a black hole and came out 25 years in the past. Today's artists are reviving the new jack swing and vocal R&B, creating a wave of 90s nostalgia. Uncover how they trick us into somehow loving those days when we got beat up in the middle school parking lot.

Spotify 90s Nostalgia playlist:

Featuring:Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B - FinesseCharlie Puth ft. Boyz II Men - If You Leave me NowGuy - Groove MeEternal - StayBell Biv Devoe - PoisonCardi B - Bodack YellowChristopher Williams - I'm DreaminBoyz II Men - MotownphillyBoyz II Men - On Bended KneeHamilton - The Room Where It Happened

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Justin Timberlake's Identity Crisis

What's up with Justin Timberlake? Two years ago he gifted us the ebullient family-friendly jam "Can't Stop the Feeling," now he's on the cusp of a deeply serious new record called "Man of the Woods," whose first single, strangely, is a bit of electro-funk snarl expertly produced by long-time collaborators Timbaland and Danja. What's going on here?who is JT trying to be? We listen deep to his latest, "Filthy," to try and understand its creator's conflicting musical worlds. 


Justin Timberlake - Filthy
Justin Timberlake - Cry Me A River
Bernard Hermann - Psycho
Ken Nordine - My Baby

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Dua Lipa's Minor Mantra (w Emily Bootle)

Charlie talks laments, Baroque opera, and gender politics in Dua Lipa's sleeper hit "New Rules" with writer Emily Bootle.

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All I Want for Xmas is a Year in Review Episode

Charlie and Nate breakdown Mariah Carey's classic "All I Want for Christmas is You" and revisit their favorite tracks of 2017. Sleigh bells abound.


? Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas
? Laura Marling - Semper Femina
? Lorde - Melodrama
? Khalid - Location
? Dua Lipa - New Rules
? Logic - Everybody / 1-800-273-8255
? Childish Gambino - Redbone
? Sampha - (No One Knows Me) Like the piano in my mothers house
? Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
? Jay-Z: 4:44
? Perfume Genius - No Shape
? Aimee Mann - Mental Illness

And more...

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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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