Switched on Pop

Switched on Pop

Vox Media Podcast Network
132 episodes


What makes pop songs so catchy? Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work their magic on our ears & our culture. You’ll fall in love with music you didn’t even know you liked.



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06 August 2019

Beyoncé's Gift To Africa (with Ivie Ani)

For the live action remake of the Lion King, Beyoncé, (who voices Nala in the film), recorded and curated a companion soundtrack called The Gift. She worked with leading Afropop stars to expose the music of the continent to a global audience. In her piece, “Diversity Is in the Details: What Beyoncé’s 'The Lion King: The Gift' Gets Right and Wrong,” Okayplayer music editor Ivie Ani argues that the album highlights music while unintentionally treating the continent as a monolith. Ani joins Switched On Pop to break down this album and what it means for Afropop.

Songs Discussed
  • Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Oumou Sangaré – MOOD 4 EVA
  • Oumou Sangaré – Diaraby Nen
  • Burna Boy – JA ARA
  • Fela Kuti – Water No Get Enemy
  • Fena, MDQ, Mayonde, Kagwe, Blinky Bill – PARTY NATIONListen to Blinky and Ivie’s East African 
playlist recommendations

Leave us a voicemail about your favorite songs of summer: 385-626-6179

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30 July 2019

LCD Soundsystem and the Unbearable Sameness of Restaurant Playlists

Why is it that every hip restaurant plays the same music? When Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan kept hearing similar songs while dining for work assignments, she compiled a playlist of what she heard. It included songs by LCD Soundsystem, M83, Grimes, Biggie, Beck and the like. Her subsequent article about this music, “This Is Every Generically Cool Restaurant’s Playlist,” went viral.

She’d captured the elusive sound of small plate dining. But what left her guessing was why this sound? And how did it reach so many restaurants in cities across the U.S.? She brought this question to Switched On Pop to understand why this 00s mostly indie sound was the ideal background for post-industrial chic establishments.

Investigating the issue, she discovered a small bubble of music selectors who curate these lists for businesses. She spoke with Yvette Bailhache, a D.C. based music selector for restaurants and bars about how these lists are made. And she asked Jonathan Shecter, founder of the Las Vegas based background music service Playback Prodigy, about what makes an ideal background sound. What she discovered is surprising. The sounds in the background may dictate more of our foreground than you’d expect.

Music Discussed
  • LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
  • M83 - Midnight City 
  • Grimes - Genesis
  • Ice Cube - It Was A Good Day
  • Wu-Tang Clean - CREAM
  • This Will Destroy You - Kitchen
Listen to Hillary’s Every Restaurant Playlist and for more stories and news on food, subscribe to Eater's podcast Upsell

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23 July 2019

The $50M Beat Marketplace That Broke the Billboard

Lil Nas X licensed the beat for “Old Town Road” from an e-commerce platform. He originally bought a non-exclusive copy of the backing track for just $29.99 from a 19 year old Dutch record producer called YoungKio. And he’s not the first hitmaker to do so. Desiigner, Bryson Tiller and Queen Naija have all made hit songs from internet beats. These beats are big business. The arguable market leader, BeatStars, has paid its producers over $50M since its inception in 2008. The platform allows producers to market their beats to MCs and singers, boasting 340,000 active sellers and 1.5M tracks. BeatStars CEO Abe Batshon originally created the company to connect artists who may not live in the music industry hubs in L.A., N.Y., Nashville and Atlanta. His global ambitions were realized—producers on the platform come from all over the world. They release a steady stream of new music, marketing their original and sound-a-like beats to aspiring and emerging artists everywhere turning into ad music, Instagram stories and even Billboard Hot 100 hits. While BeatStars increases access to music, could this commoditization of music devalue the creative process? We speak with Abe as well as producers on the platform—songwriter Breana Marin and producer Dansonn—to understand how online beat selling is effecting the sound of pop music.

Music Discussed:
Bouncing On The Band Stand” by Marian Hill’s Jeremy Loyd (Clear Eyes) and Charlie (Charlatan). You can even license it for $29.99 for your own production.

Vote for Switched On Pop in this year's People's Choice Podcast Awards!

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16 July 2019

Shawn Mendes and the Rhythm of Rhyme

09 July 2019

Space, The Final Frontier: Madonna, Stephen Puth and Street Studios

02 July 2019

What BTS's "Boy With Love" ft. Halsey Can Teach Us About K-pop

25 June 2019

"Prince Ali" and Why We're All Music Theorists

23 June 2019

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

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

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18 June 2019

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

11 June 2019

The Man Behind the Rocketman with Giles Martin