Switched on Pop


The making and the meaning of pop music

  • 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
  • 46 minutes 19 seconds
    Taylor Swift's Literary Era

    The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, finds the songwriter in the world of literature. She interweaves personal romance with mythical creation and quotations from high and low culture: Genesis, Peter Pan and even Playstation. Despite calling herself a "modern idiot," less-than-subtle nods to Sylvia Plath, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dylan Thomas, and Patti Smith reveal the artist’s literary aspirations and “legendary” status. The full length Anthology version contains a bookshelf of many genres: pulp fiction, diary entries, period pieces, epic poems, and her very own genre, Taylor Swift.

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    23 April 2024, 9:00 am
  • 32 minutes 10 seconds
    Lost Notes: How Fela Kuti Found Afrobeat in LA

    Lost Notes by KCRW explores how Fela Kuti’s time in LA in 1969 was instrumental in the creation of his legendary Afrobeat sound. Hosted by Michael Barnes and Novena Carmel. Find a full transcript of Lost Notes at KCRW. And subscribe to the show.

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    20 April 2024, 2:23 pm
  • 44 minutes 49 seconds
    Berlin's Hottest Club is Rico Nasty & Boys Noize

    There are few artists pushing the boundaries of their respective genres like Maryland rapper Rico Nasty and German-Iraqi electronic producer Boys Noize. The two have run in the same circles for over half a decade, but their joint collaboration has reached an apex with their three song EP, HARDC0RE DR3AMZ, a dance-floor ready project that owes as much to Berlin techno as it does to Dutch gabber music. Rico and Boys Noize – a.k.a. Alexander Ridha – are also incredible friends with a lot of love for one another, and for producer Reanna Cruz, all of these reasons make the duo’s EP one of the best projects of the year.

    On the heels of Berlin techno being added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage for Germany, Reanna sat down with Rico and Alex for this episode of Switched on Pop.

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    16 April 2024, 9:00 am
  • 39 minutes 11 seconds
    Chasing old sounds: Djo's "End of Beginning" with Joe Keery

    Joe Keery is best known for his acting roles, such as the reformed jock Steve Harrington in "Stranger Things" and his chilling performance in season 5 of "Fargo." But he's also a spectacular musician. Rising through the Chicago music scene in college, he has self-released two albums under the moniker 'Djo.' His latest work, "Decide" from 2022, serves as a coming-of-age story and a meditation on navigating modern life. Despite strong initial reviews, the album only gained widespread attention two years later when its breakout hit "End of Beginning" became a soundtrack for youthful nostalgia on TikTok, casting Keery as an accidental pop star. Joe Keery joined "Switched On Pop" to discuss the creation and significance of "Decide."

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    9 April 2024, 9:00 am
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