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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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The Art of Flow

In hip-hop, what draws us to an artist is not just the content of their lyrics but how they deliver them. Along with tapping your foot to the rhythm, understanding something called ?flow? is essential to understanding hip-hop as a whole. In this episode of Switched On Pop, we interview genre icon DJ Jazzy Jeff on the concept of flow: what it is, how it applies to all music ? not just hip-hop ? and how any rapper?s flow can be analyzed under his guidelines. Taking his word for it, we put our magnifying glasses on to look at the bars of our favorite rappers, from Megan thee Stallion to Babytron. Songs Discussed: The Notorious B.I.G. - Big Poppa Mary J. Blige - Family Affair A Tribe Called Quest - The Hop Danger Mouse, Black Thought - Aquamarine BabyTron - Crocs & Wock?  RXKNephew - Take Three JID - Better Days (feat. Johnta Austin) Megan Thee Stallion - Not Nice Megan Thee Stallion - Cocky Af Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Willow Smith rocks harder

Coping Mechanism, Willow's new album, is her heaviest music yet. Charlie and Willow chat about the making of the new record and the many multitudes of rock music. Music Discussed The Anxiety - Meet Me At Our Spot Willow - Maybe It's My Fault, UR Town, Human Leach, PrettyGirlz, Lipstick, Why, Breakout, Hover Like a Goddess, Curious/Furious, Ur A Stranger Yungblood - Memories (with Willow) Deftones - Sextape Radiohead - I Will Straight Line Stitch - What You Do To Me Killswitch Engage - My Curse Lamb of God - Redneck Primus - Lacquer Head Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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The Sound of Sapphism

Tegan & Sara and King Princess have found themselves placed under the banner, "sapphic pop," a term recently coined referring to music by and/or for sapphics (a.k.a. women or femme folks attracted to other femme folks). Journalist Emma Madden defines the folk-inspired sound as having a ?soft tactile approach? that?s ?more sensual than it is sexual.? This umbrella folds in everyone from indie pop veterans Tegan & Sara to nonbinary artists like King Princess; even artists like Hozier and Sufjan Stevens are, improbably, considered sapphic pop, with their music having the same sonic qualities of other songs dedicated to feminine yearning. From articles popping up in multiple news outlets to the majority of Taylor Swift?s openers for this upcoming tour (looking at MUNA, girl in red, and Phoebe Bridgers, specifically), the terminology of ?sapphic pop? has come to define a scene almost out of nowhere. This week on Switched On Pop, we explore exactly what sapphic pop is, where it came from, and how artists feel about it ? even asking Tegan & Sara and King Princess directly. You can listen wherever you get podcasts. Songs discussed Clairo ? Sofia King Princess ? Talia girl in red ? i wanna be your girlfriend Hozier ? Cherry Wine (live) Alex G ? Sarah The Velvet Underground ? I Found A Reason Sufjan Stevens ? To Be Alone With You Cris Williamson ? Shine On Straight Arrow Jaylib, Madlib, J Dilla ? The Red Taylor Swift ? betty Brittany Howard ? Georgia MUNA, Phoebe Bridgers ? Silk Chiffon Tegan & Sara ? Call It Off Tegan & Sara ? Smoking Weed Alone King Princess ? 1950 King Princess ? I Hate Myself, I Want To Party King Princess ? Pussy is God Kate Bush ? Why Should I Love You? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Scary Pockets funkify pop classics (with Lizzy McAlpine)

Scary Pockets is the musical collective that has been transforming pop classics into funk anthems for over half a decade. Each week they release a new cover on YouTube featuring razor-sharp instrumentalists and a rotating cast of virtuosic lead singers. Amazingly, each of their 200-plus covers is arranged on the fly, in a span of about 90 minutes?capturing the talent and spontaneity of a group of musicians at the top of their game. We here at Switched on Pop were struck by the band's ability to infuse familiar songs with syncopation and backbeat, and rack up millions of views in the process, so we reached out to Scary Pockets's leaders?guitarist Ryan Lerman and keyboardist Jack Conte?to arrange for Nate and Reanna to be flies on the wall during their creative process. After documenting the behind-the-scenes dialogue that led to a slow-burning interpretation of the Bee Gees's 1977 classic "Staying Alive," we called up Ryan, Jack, and the song's lead vocalist, Lizzy McAlpine, to hear their insights on making a song that everyone knows sound fresh and unfamiliar  Songs Discussed Bee Gees - Staying Alive (Scary Pockets Cover) Paul McCartney and Wings - Arrow Through Me (Scary Pockets Cover) Beatles - Maxwell's Silver Hammer Coldplay - Fix You (Scary Pockets Cover) Parcels - Tieduprightnow Bill Withers - Just the Two of Us (Scary Pockets Cover) Justin Bieber - Peaches (Lizzy McAlpine Cover) More on Scary Pockets Watch the video of Scary Pockets and Lizzy McAlpine covering "Staying Alive" See them LIVE with David Ryan Harris & John Scofield, November 16 at Echoplex in Los Angeles! Tickets Subscribe to their YouTube Channel: Merch Store: Patreon: Listen on Spotify: Scary Pockets Instagram: @scarypockets  Musician Credits: Vocals: Lizzy McAlpine BGVs: Sophia James, Arielle Kasnetz Guitar: Ryan Lerman, Will Graefe Wurlitzer & Synth: Jack Conte Bass: Travis Carlton Drums: RJ Kelly Audio: Engineered & mixed by Caleb Parker Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Up late with Taylor Swift?s ?Midnights?

 A Taylor Swift album is just not a collection of new music, it?s an exploration of a theme. For the last eight years, each release has embodied a single idea. Reputation marked a turn to the dark side, Lover a return to the light, and her pair of albums Folklore and Evermore painted acoustic, fictional landscapes. Each album propels fans to find covert lyrical connections to her personal life, and easter eggs to past compositions. Whereas Swift's pop star contemporaries have focused their energies on becoming business moguls, Swift has gone deeper into songwriting and receiving accolades in the process. In September 2022, the Nashville Songwriting Association International awarded Swift the Songwriter of the Decade award. In her acceptance speech she says, ?writing songs is my life?s work and my hobby and my never-ending thrill.? Now she continues that thrill collaborating with her frequent producing partner and friend of the show, Jack Antonoff, on Midnights, her 10th studio album (not counting her recent ?Taylor?s version? re-recordings of past releases). On Midnights Swift builds a lyrical and sonic world that takes place across ?13 sleepless nights.? Nate and Charlie listen closely to hear how she constructs this late night feeling.   More Nate?s article on ?Taylor Swift and the Work of Songwriting? for the Contemporary Music Review Journal John Hull's Soundfly course on Advanced Synths and Patch Design for Producers Music Discussed: Taylor Swift - Anti-Hero, Lavender Haze, Maroon, Question, Snow On the Beach, Mastermind, Bejeweled, Vigilante Shit, Labyrinth, Midnight Rain, You?re On Your Own Kid, You Belong With Me, Stay Kevin ?Reese? Saunderson - Just Want Another Chance Ray ?Renegade? Keith - Terrorist P.A. Mix Burial - Archangel  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Steve Lacy brings bedroom pop to the Billboard top

It?s the song that launched a thousand TikTok videos ? or over 500,000 to be exact: Steve Lacy?s ?Bad Habit.?  The track is a smooth, psychedelia tinged ode to yearning, currently spending its third week on the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Lacy is an artist dedicated to shifting form and convention, from his records with alternative R&B band The Internet to his productions for artists like Mac Miller and Vampire Weekend. Even in his solo work, his songs are unpredictable, deftly moving through genre in the vein of artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder.  ?Bad Habit? specifically, though, is rooted in the genre of bedroom pop, a scene slowly gaining mainstream traction. With this track, Lacy is taking the sound that?s seeped through TikTok and Spotify to the top of the charts. On this episode of Switched On Pop, we dig deep into Lacy's career and his ability to craft immaculate melodies. Songs Discussed: Steve Lacy, ?Bad Habit? Sam Smith, Kim Petras, ?Unholy? The Internet, ?Dontcha? The Internet, ?Special Affair? The Internet, ?Palace/Curse (feat. Tyler, The Creator & Steve Lacy) Steve Lacy, ?C U Girl? Steve Lacy, ?Dark Red? Steve Lacy, ?Only If? Steve Lacy, ?Like Me? Steve Lacy, ?Playground? Steve Lacy, ?Static? Stevie Wonder, ?Signed, Sealed, Delivered? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Why it hurts to release a record (with Sylvan Esso)

Earlier this year, the members of Sylvan Esso took a gamble, making their "most free and wild and strange" album yet: No Rules Sandy. And to add to the overall theme of lawlessness, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn decided to do something equally as free and radical: they decided to forgo the typical multi-year album cycle as well as a standard promo campaign. While wrapped in what Amelia calls a ?PR cocoon,? she began to think about the less tangible aspects of the album rollout process, and wanted to enlist other musicians (as well as Switched On Pop) in exploring certain aspects of what it means to be an artist to answer the question: why does it hurt to release records? Songs Discussed Sylvan Esso - Your Reality Sylvan Esso - Cloud Walker Sylvan Esso - Didn?t Care Sylvan Esso - Look At Me Sylvan Esso - How Did You Know Sylvan Esso - Sunburn MUNA - Number One Fan MUNA - Silk Chiffon MUNA - What I Want Bartees Strange - Heavy Heart Bartees Strange - Co Signs Bartees Strange - Hennessy Wilco - Cruel Country Maggie Rogers - Alaska Maggie Rogers - That?s Where I Am Maggie Rogers - Anywhere with You Maggie Rogers - Want Want Maggie Rogers - Begging for Rain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Santigold sings Spirituals

After a four-year hiatus ? and a name drop on a Beyoncé remix ? musical polymath Santigold is back with a brand new album. Known for her signature blend of genre-defying songcraft, the artist?s fourth studio album Spirituals is one of her most artistically challenging projects yet. It?s another venture into what she does best: addressing heavy themes through toe-tapping melodies. From Nate?s personal favorite, 2016?s ?Can?t Get Enough of Myself,? to ?My Horror,? a pan-genre sonic vision has always been present in her career. On this episode of Switched On Pop, Santigold speaks about her new record, being a mother, and the emotions that went into making Spirituals.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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The future of music pt I

In part 1 of our Vergecast: Future of Music series, Alex Cranz talks with Switched on Pop's Charlie Harding about the trends in music today that make new songs out of old material, and whether it's foreshadowing the future of pop. Further reading: Selena Quintanilla Will Sound Older on Her New Posthumous Album Michael Jackson songs removed from streaming services to 'move beyond' fake vocals controversy Shred with Green Day, with some help from AudioShake Invasion of the Vibe Snatchers Music discussed: Como Te Quiero Yo A Ti - Selena My Way - Frank Sinatra I'll Be Seeing You - Billie Holiday We Can't Stop - Miley Cyrus bad guy - Billie Eilish Through The Wire - Kanye West Breaking News - Michael Jackson Real Love - The Beatles Free As A Bird - The Beatles 2000 Light Years Away - Green Day Betty (Get Money) - Yung Gravy Genius of Love - Tom Tom Club Fantasy - Mariah Carey Big Energy - Latto I'm Good (Blue) - David Guetta, Bebe Rexha Bang Bang - Rita Ora, Imanbek Higher Love - Kygo, Whitney Houston Don't Start Now - Dua Lipa Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Lady Gaga & The Pequeños Monstruos

After an enlightening experience at Lady Gaga's Chromatica Ball, producer Reanna Cruz takes a look at the connection between Gaga's music and the Latin sounds she's engaged with over the years, from traditional rancheras to the rhythm of reggaeton. Songs discussed: Lady Gaga, ?Alejandro? Ace of Base, ?Don?t Turn Around? ABBA, ?Chiquitita ? Spanish Version? Madonna, ?La Isla Bonita? Rihanna, ?Te Amo? Vittorio Monti, Sarah Nemtanu, Chilly Gonzales, ?Csárdás? Lady Gaga, ?Americano? Rosemary Clooney, The Mellomen, ?Mambo Italiano (with the Mellomen)? Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, ?Despacito? La Flavour, ?Mandolay? Lady Gaga, ?Dancin? In Circles? Alejandro Fernández, ?Como Quien Pierde una Estrella? Pedro Fernández, ?Yo?El Aventurero? Lola Beltran, ?Cucurrucucu Paloma? War, ?Cinco de Mayo? Santana, The Product G&B, ?Maria Maria (feat. The Product G&B)? Lady Gaga, ?Dancin? In Circles? Justin Bieber, ?Sorry? French Montana, Swae Lee, ?Unforgettable? Tego Calderon, ?Pa? Que Retozen? Rosalia, J Balvin, ?Con Altura? Juan Gabriel, ?Abrázame Muy Fuerte? Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, ?Rain On Me? Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Arca, ?Rain On Me ? Arca Remix? Lady Gaga, ?Fun Tonight? Lady Gaga, Pabllo Vittar, ?Fun Tonight ? Pabllo Vittar Remix? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Invasion of the Vibe Snatchers

Why do so many songs sound familiar? Because the number of chart topping interpolations ? songs built off of old hits ? has roughly doubled in the five years. It?s everywhere, you can?t escape because many people are embracing it. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Into It: Song of Summer 2022

Who had the song of the summer? Sam Sanders chats with Switched on Pop's Charlie Harding and Reanna Cruz about whose song (and album) is in the running: Beyoncé, Bad Bunny, Lizzo, or Kate Bush?  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Learning to love the Killers (maybe)

Are you like Nate? Is there one artist that, every time you hear them, you can't help it?you start to grimace, sweat, seethe. You can't explain it, but there's something about them that you just. can't. stand. For Nate, that band is the Killers. Lots of people love this band, they've been around for almost two decades, they're practically an institution! So why can't he get past his hang up? Charlie and Reanna step in to help break down what it is about the Killers that rankles their normally open-eared colleague so, and then step back to consider what it is that makes us think we hate the bands we do?and whether we can change those opinions. Songs Discussed The Killers - Human, All These Things That I've Done, When You Were Young, Mr. Brightside, Deadlines and Commitments, Where the White Boys Dance, boy, Shot at the Night, The Man, Tranquilize Ariana Grande and Zedd - Break Free Erasure - A Little Respect Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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K-Pop Chartbreakers: BLACKPINK, Girls? Generation, NewJeans, IVE

A lot has happened in the world of Kpop this summer, from Girls? Generation sugar coated banger ?Forever 1? marking a triumphant return from a five year hiatus, to the ascendance of newcomers NewJeans, whose R&B infused sounds have quickly taken over the charts. But it's the return of BLACKPINK that has lit up the world literally in pink. Get a full deep dive on the songs at the top of the Kpop charts on the latest episode of Switched On Pop, where hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan speak with journalist Kristine Kwak. Songs Discussed Psy, SUGA - That That J-hope - MORE BLACKPINK - Pink Venom Girls? Generation IVE - LOVE DIVE NewJeans - Attention SWV - I?m So Into You Rihanna - Pon De Replay Missy Elliot - Work It 50 Cent - Just A Lil Bit Taylor Swift ?Look What You Made Me Do? Panjabi MC, JAY-Z - Mundian to Bach Ke Britney Spears, Madonna - Me Against the Music Justin Timberlake - What Goes Around Comes Around Snoop Dogg - Drop It Like It?s Hot Snoop Dogg - I Wanna Rock The Notorious B.I.G. - Kick in the Door Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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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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