Switched on Pop


The making and the meaning of pop music

  • 40 minutes 9 seconds
    Bootsy Collins is gonna funk you up (with Bootsy Collins)

    Bootsy Collins is, perhaps, the funkiest man of all time. Over the course of his nearly six decade career, Collins has given up the funk in the iconic Parliament Funkadelic, helmed Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and lended his slaparific talents to songs from everybody from James Brown to Dee-Lite to Fatboy Slim. His new album, aptly titled Album of the Year #1 Funkateer, is on the way, so in celebration of his illustrious career, we invited Bootsy Collins – aka Casper the Funky Ghost – onto Switched on Pop to reminisce on some of his greatest hits.

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    18 June 2024, 5:42 pm
  • 35 minutes 6 seconds
    Freaking out about songwriting with Nile Rodgers

    There is no contemporary pop music without Nile Rodgers. Born in 1952, Rodgers grew up playing classical music on flute and clarinet before picking up jazz guitar. And at age 20, alongside bass player Bernard Edwards, Rodgers formed the band Chic. They wrote the biggest disco hits of the 70s, like: “Dance Dance Dance,” “Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak," and "Good TImes," which formed the core of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper's Delight”.

    In his music career spanning six decades, Rodgers has produced and played on some of the biggest pop songs in history, for artists like Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk, and Beyoncé. He is also the chair of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, so with the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony taking place this June, we invited him onto Switched on Pop to talk about the making of a great song.

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    11 June 2024, 9:00 am
  • 29 minutes 46 seconds
    Begging songs and basketball's musicality (with Hanif Abdurraqib)

    There's no music writer like the essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib: whether he's narrating the beautiful awkwardness of a Carly Rae Jepsen concert or talking jazz and eastern spirituality with Andre 3000, he manages to coax stories and insights out of songs in a way that never fails to surprise. His latest book, There's Always This Year, is a free flowing meditation on basketball, childhood, his home state of Ohio, and of course, music – so on the precipice of the NBA finals, Hanif returns to Switched On Pop to discuss classic soul, sports, and sound with musicologist Nate Sloan.

    You can buy Hanif's work through his website here.

    Songs discussed:

    • Boyz II Men, "On Bended Knee"
    • Otis Redding, "My Girl"
    • The Temptations, "My Girl"
    • Joy Oladokun, "My Girl"
    • Stevie Wonder, "My Girl"
    • Stevie Wonder, "Knocks Me Off My Feet"
    • Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, "Challengers: Match Point"

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    4 June 2024, 9:00 am
  • 39 minutes 3 seconds
    Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist (with Charlie Puth)

    On her latest album, Taylor Swift “declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist.” No one was more surprised by this than Charlie Puth himself: the singer, pianist, and songwriter whose career has always straddled pop stardom and behind the scenes anonymity. After three albums, billions of streams, and numerous songwriting credits – including one on the award-winning number one track “Stay” from the Kid Laroi – Puth has been busier than ever. His new song “Hero” comes on the heels of the Swift mention, and takes him in a new direction, with acoustic guitars and hushed, contemplative vocals.

    On the heels of this song’s release, Nate sat down with Charlie Puth himself at Conway Studios in Hollywood to discuss the new track, aided by a piano and all of “Hero”’s isolated stems.

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    28 May 2024, 9:00 am
  • 43 minutes 7 seconds
    Billie Eilish hits both hard and soft

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

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    21 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 44 minutes 3 seconds
    Gastropod: Why are restaurants so loud? Plus the science behind the perfect playlist

    When you go out for a meal, it’s not just what's on your plate that matters, it's what's in your eardrums, too. From dining rooms so loud you have to shout to be heard, to playlists that sound like a generic Millennial Spotify account, it's not surprising that sound is the single most complained about aspect of restaurants.

    A few years ago, Charlie and Nate explored this in an episode on restaurant playlists. This week, they joined Cynthia and Nicky on their show Gastropod to help them explore the science behind the sonic experience of eating.

    Are restaurants really getting louder, and, if so, why? What does it take to create the perfect acoustic environment for dining? Can restaurateurs design their playlists to make customers order more or eat faster? Listen in now for the secrets to culinary acoustic bliss – and check out Cynthia and Nicky's guest spot on our episode of Switched On Pop.

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    17 May 2024, 9:00 am
  • 39 minutes 24 seconds
    Is pop music just fast food? (with Gastropod)

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

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

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


    Check out more episodes of Gastropod

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    14 May 2024, 9:00 am
  • 23 minutes 41 seconds
    Rosie Tucker's unending bliss

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

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

    Songs Discussed:

    Rosie Tucker - All My Exes Live In Vortexes, Lightbulb, Paperclip Maximizer, Unending Bliss

    Erik Satie - Gymnopedie No 1

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    10 May 2024, 9:00 am
  • 33 minutes 22 seconds
    Eurovision 2024: from Baby Lasagna to Windows95Man

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

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

    Songs discussed:

    • Joost – Europapa
    • Angelina Mango – La noia
    • alyona alyona, Jerry Heil – Teresa & Maria
    • Nemo – The Code
    • Baby Lasagna – Rim Tim Tagi Dim
    • Windows95Man – No Rules!
    • Kaleen – We Will Rave
    • Olly Alexander – Dizzy
    • Bambie Thug – Doomsday Blue
    • Ladaniva – Jako

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    7 May 2024, 1:13 pm
  • 41 minutes 34 seconds
    Justice is never-ending

    Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of the French electronic duo Justice speak with cohost Charlie Harding about their new album Hyperdrama.

    Song Discussed

    • Justice - Phantom Pt II, D.A.N.C.E., Neveender, New Jack, Genesis, Horsepower, Civilization, One Night-All Night, Dear Alan, Incognito, Moonlight Rendez-vous, Audio Video Disco, Afterimage, The End, Generator, Pleasure
    • The Who - My Generation
    • The White Stripes - Black Math
    • The Human League - Human
    • John Carpenter - Night
    • Serge Gainsourg & Jane Birkin - Je T’aime… moi non plus
    • Michel Berger - Le Paradis Blanc
    • Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You
    • Chaka Khan - Fate

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    4 May 2024, 3:50 am
  • 53 minutes 38 seconds
    Best of 2024 so far: hip hop feuds, Hozier’s pop surprise and espresso shots

    The beginning of 2024 has brought new music aplenty. Some big releases are in the form of big-ticket albums by the world’s biggest superstars (shoutout Taylor and Beyoncé); some are in the form of soon-to-be radio-friendly staples (we love you, "Espresso"); and some are in the form of personal earworms (Justice! Rosie Tucker! Dua!).

    This episode of Switched on Pop, we take a look at the records that we can’t stop listening to from the past few months, from Metro Boomin to Kacey Musgraves to Willow Smith. 

    Songs discussed: 

    • Metro Boomin, Future, Kendrick Lamar – Like That
    • J Cole – 7 Minute Drill
    • Drake – Push Ups
    • Rick Ross – Champagne Moments
    • WILLOW – Big Feelings
    • Hozier – Too Sweet
    • Sabrina Carpenter – Espresso
    • Justice, Tame Impala – One Night/All Night
    • Justice – Generator
    • Rosie Tucker – All My Exes Live In Vortexes
    • Lizzy McAlpine – I Guess
    • Kacey Musgraves – Too Good To Be True
    • Maggie Rogers – The Kill
    • Dua Lipa – Illusion
    • Kacey Musgraves – Deeper Well

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    30 April 2024, 9:00 am
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