Switched On Pop

Switched On Pop


The podcast that explores the making and meaning of popular music hosted by Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan


66. The Many Worlds of "Despacito"  

What has catapulted Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" to the top spot on the Billboard charts? Sorry, typo—to its status as the biggest song in the world? Your hosts explore the many worlds of "Despacito" in search of an answer.


Lusi Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee - Despacito
Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee y Justin Bieber - Despacito (Remix)
Luis Fonsi y Juan Luis Guerra - Llegaste Tú
Major Lazer ft Justin Bieber - Cold Water
Los Del Rio - Macarena
Daddy Yankee - Gasolina
Avril Lavigne - Complicated
Toto - Africa

Further reading:

Petra River-Rideau Interview in The Atlantic
Remezcla  Roundtable on Despacito w Isabel Herrera and Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

65. Selena Gomez: Bad Liar, Psycho Songwriter  

Selena Gomez's "Bad Liar" stands out on the charts by doing things a little differently: it's a subtle, at times even awkward, summer surprise. Breaking down this pop morsel reveals it has teeth, though—and not just because it borrows a bass line from the Talking Heads' macabre "Psycho Killer." This is a fun one. Come along for the ride. 


• Selena Gomez - Bad Liar
• Julia Michaels - Issues
• Selena Gomez - Same Old Love
• Talking Heads - Psycho Killer

64. Breaking Down Alanis Morissette (and our own Preconceptions) with guest Andrea Warner  

Author, critic and podcaster Andrea Warner joins for a throwback episode exploring politics in Lilith Fair, harmonic anger in Alanis Morissette's iconic "You Oughta Know," and the blind spots in your host's assessment of women in rock. 

•Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know

Artists mentioned by Andrea Warner:
The Overcoats

63. Morgan Page Reveals the Rule of 3 in Julia Michaels and Maroon 5  

Your brain can only hear three things at the same time. What you may not know is that musicians use this cognitive limitation to guide your listening all the time. Charlie and Nate are joined by Grammy Nominee music producer Morgan Page to reveal the secrets of this ubiquitous technique. Listening to Julia Michaels' hit "Issues," we unveil how the rule of three is used to draw our attention and keep us free from sonic distraction. And we look at how Maroon 5's "Cold" uses the same technique but creates an exceptionally different sound. Of course, it wouldn't be Switched On Pop if we didn't dig into the classical past to find out if this rule really holds up in the history of music. 

Featuring: Morgan Page - Fight My WayJulia Michaels - Issues Julia Michaels - Issues (Acoustic)Maroon 5 - Cold ft. FutureSkrillex - First Of The Year (Equinox)Ed Sheeran - Shape Of YouDJ Khaled - I'm The OneSelena Gomez - Bad LiarThe Beatles - When I'm Sixty FourArnold Schoenberg - Pierrot Lunaire - III - Der MondfleckDead & Company - Live at the Hollywood Bowl 6-1-17The Beatles - A Day In The LifeIke & Tina Turner: Deep River Mountain HighSwedish House Mafia - One

62. DJ Khaled - I'm The One... six... four... five  

DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo from Migos and Lil Wayne have allied for a new smash hit: "I'm The One." Despite the star power present, the resulting track is less than the sum of its parts—repetitive, derivative, uninventive. And yet, the lackluster "I'm The One" sits comfortably at the top of the charts, which raises the question: why?? Our answer: because Khaled and company understand the bewitching power of tonal harmony, and they've utilized the most surefire chord progression in pop history to ensure their success, a simple sequence of chords that has captivated listeners for almost a century: I - vi - IV - V.

Check out our playlist of songs using this progression — and please send us any others that you identify!

• DJ Khaled - I'm The One
• Dean Martin - Blue Moon
• Ben E. King - Stand By Me
• Hoagy Carmichael - Heart & Soul
• The Police - Every Breath You Take 
• Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
• fun. -  We Are Young
• Justin Bieber - Baby
• Jean-Philippe Rameau - Les Sauvages

61. Musical Architecture in Charlie Puth + HAIM  

Two new songs have captured the attention of your hosts—Charlie Puth's "Attention" and HAIM's "Want You Back." On the surface, these two songs appear to have little in common. A closer look, though, reveals the subtle musical architecture undergirding each track, a perfect balance of symmetry and asymmetry that keeps reeling us in for more. 

• Charlie Puth ft. Meghan Trainor - Marvin Gaye
• Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - See You Again
• Charlie Puth ft. Selene Gomez - We Don't Talk Anymore
• Charlie Puth - Attention
• Haim - Want You Back
Dvorak - Carnival Overture (United States Marine Band)

60. The End Of Pop Music As We Know It: Fall Out Boy & Charli XCX  

Is it true that all pop music sounds the same today? For the past year the “pop-drop” has dominated the airwaves. This new form of EDM infused pop came out of DJ culture and has infused its sound with every mainstream act like Lady Gaga and Coldplay. Tiring of this sound, some artists are finding creative ways to parody this pop trope. The rock outfit Fall Out Boy’s “Young And Menace” demonstrates equal parts mastery and mockery of the pop-drop. And PC Music, a rising art-music label out of London, skewers the whole of pop cliché on their mixtape collaboration with Charli XCX. After this episode, we promise you’ll be ready to move on to new sounds. Luckily, listeners have collaborated to create a new favorites playlist to help you cleanse your palette.

Featuring:The Chainsmokers - CloserKygo & Selena Gomez - It Ain’t MeLady Gaga - The CureFall Out Boy - Sugar We’re Going DownFall Out Boy - Young And MenaceJay Z - D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)Ariana Grande - Into YouKaty Perry feat. Skip Marley - Chained To The RhythmDrake - PassionfruitPostmodern Jukebox - Sugar We’re Going Down SwingingBritney Spears - Oops! I Did It AgainSkrillex - BangarangDJ Snake - MiddleBeyoncé - Love On TopIcona Pop - I Love It (feat. Charlie XCX)Iggy Azalea - Fancy ft. Charli XCXSelena Gomez - Same Old LoveCharli XCX - 3AM (Pull Up) (feat. MØ)Hannah Diamond - Every NightBronze - Thy SlaughterDanny L Harle - Super Natural (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen)SOPHIE - JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYEA.G. Cook - SuperstarAriana Grande - Side To SideCoon Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra - I'm Gonna Charleston Back To CharlestonSpotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/switchedonpop/playlist/1LeUhwRJfMGdlPkSMR9Uxu

59. Harry Styles, Eschatology and Teen Girl Fandom  

One Direction wunderkind Harry Styles has just released his first ever single, "Sign of the Times," and it's a doozy. Strap in for a discussion of the apocalypse, late Beatles, teen wisdom, and the amen cadence—among other demons exorcised in this most peculiar pop tune. 

•Beethoven 5th Symphony - Scherzo
•Harry Styles - Sign of the Times
•Prince - Sign o' the Times
•David Bowie - Space Oddity
•Zayn Malik - Pillowtalk
•Steve Aoki + Louis Tomlinson - Just Hold On
•John Lennon - #9 Dream
•George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
•The Beatles - The End
•British Pathe Broadcast
•Meg Says YouTube Channel
•Megan Elizabeth YouTube Channel

58. What's to Love About Ed Sheeran? (guest Ross Golan)  

Songwriter Ross Golan comes over to start up a conversation, encouraging us to follow his lead and give Ed Sheeran's chart-annihilating record "Shape of You" a chance. Ross, a studio vet with multiple #1 hits (including  numbers discussed on this very podcast, such as Ariana Grande's "Dangerous Woman" and Selena Gomez's "Same Old Love") is the ideal guest to convince a skeptical Charlie and Nate that Sheeran might have a song handmade for somebodies like them. Plus, Ross takes us behind the scenes of his own podcast, "And the Writer Is...", in which the industry's best writers break down their trials and triumphs on the way to the top.

• Ed Sheeran - Shape of You
• Justin Bieber - Love Yourself
• Kygo ft. Ella Henderson - Here For You
• Maroon 5 - Don't Wanna Know

Check out And The Writer Is... With Ross Golan: http://www.andthewriteris.com/

57. Stay ft. Grey  

Charlie and Nate sit down with up-and-coming producer duo Grey—fresh off their hit "Starving" with Zedd and Hailee Steinfeld—to uncover the secrets behind Alessia Cara and Zedd's dramatic dance track "Stay" and Grey's own deep cut "I Miss You" (ft Bahar)i. Snare drums as currency, Game of Thrones samples and screaming into the void are all discussed in this deep dive into the world of pop orchestration and 21st century songwriting.   


Zedd + Alessia Cara - Stay
Hailee Steinfeld + Grey ft. Zedd - Starving
Grey ft. Bahari - I Miss You
Earth, Wind and Fire - Kalimba Story
Maroon 5 - Don't Wanna Know
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition
Ravel - Pictures at an Exhibition
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Pictures at an Exhibition
Grey - Do You Remember (Remix)
Grey - You're Not There (Remix)

56. Chained to the Green Light: Katy Perry + Lorde  

Two artists who haven't released new music since 2013 recently remerged into the limelight: Katy Perry, with her dystopian disco banger "Chained to the Rhythm" and Lorde, with the melodramatic-yet-uplifting anthem "Green Light." 

Listening carefully, a fact becomes apparent, despite Lorde's insistence that she "hears new sounds" in her mind: there's something familiar lurking beneath both these tracks. And indeed, both were co-written and produced by key figures of the modern pop music firmament. Who are they, and how do we detect their fingerprints on the latest from these two low-voiced chanteuses? Tune in and test your acumen in a high-stakes game of musical forensics. 

Katy Perry - Chained to the Rhythm
Lorde - Green Light
...and some secret songs

55. Oscar Week!: La La Land ft. Genevieve Koski  

With the Academy Awards around the corner, Charlie and Nate try something new: a break down of the movie musical La La Land through two of its key songs, "City of Stars" and "Start a Fire." These numbers, one by composer Justin Hurwitz, the other by Hurwitz and John Legend, might represent the two poles of the film's dramatic structure. But a deep dive into their musical construction reveals leitmotifs and left turns that leave us staggered at the different levels to La La Land's score. Special guest Genevieve Koski, deputy culture editor for Vox and co-host of the film podcast The Next Picture Show, joins to help our hosts journey through the uncharted terrain of cinema.


• Start a Fire - John Legend
• City of Stars - Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
• John Legend - Ordinary People
• Backstreet Boys - Everybody
• Ariana Grande - Side To Side
• Die Walkure, The Ring Cycle - Richard Wagner
• Engagement, Planetarium, Epilogue, Mia + Sebastian's Theme - Justin Hurwitz
• Générique, Dans le magasin de parapluies, Final  - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
• Tie Fighter Theme - John Williams

Check out Genevieve Koski's writing on Vox and her great podcast on La La Land here.

54. Zayn, Taylor Swift & The Grammys  

"I Don't Wanna Live Forever," the new track from Zayn and Taylor Swift, finds two members of the pop pantheon joining forces with producer Jack Antonoff to craft an inexorable hit song. But this duet—between a former One Direction heartthrob aiming to avert the sophomore slump and a megastar returning to the limelight—is far from triumphant. Instead, "Forever" delves into themes of loss and separation—emotions in turn embedded in the very structure and melody of this most unusual duet. Also, Charlie and Nate discuss what upcoming Grammy nominations have them most excited, From Chance the Rapper to Radiohead, Bowie to Solange, there's much to celebrate from 2016. Musically speaking, that is. 

•Zayn & Taylor Swift - I Don't Wanna Live Forever
•Giovanni Gabrieli - Symphoniae Sacrae II
•Solange - Cranes in the Sky
•Chance the Rapper - All We Got
•David Bowie - Lazarus
•Radiohead - Burn the Witch

53. The Puzzle of Ariana Grande's "Into You" (with K. Flay)  

"Into You" was one of the biggest hits of 2016, the stellar production of reclusive legend Max Martin combining with the acrobatic vocals of Ariana Grande to create an undeniable, ubiquitous earworm. With "Into You" still burning up the charts, we dive deep to uncover the insane puzzles, Trompe-l'oiel tricks and Baroque games that lie under the surface of this morsel of pop perfection.

PLUS, brilliant rocker and rapper K. Flay joins to discuss the mysteries of Ariana Grande and takes us through the composition of her own, bass-heavy anthem of catharsis, "Blood in the Cut."

• Ariana Grande - Into You 
• K Flay - Blood in the Cut
• Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive
• J.S. Bach - A little hocket example
• Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman
• The Chainsmokers - Closer
• The Rolling Stones - Can't Get No Satisfaction
• The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black

52. Seduced by the Sound: The Weeknd + Daft Punk  

"I Feel it Coming" might be the slowest burning jam to hit the charts in ages, in which the Weeknd enlists the robotic hum of Daft Punk to help craft a perfectly calibrated climate of desire. Brilliant, sexy songs don't just appear out of thin air, though, so we reveal how this song's perpetual excitement is hard-won through references to past stars of sultriness like Michael and Marvin while employing its own bag of tricks to turn up the heat. 

•The Weeknd + Daft Punk - I Feel it Coming
•Marvin Gaye - Let's Get it On
•Michael Jackson - Rock With You
•Chic - Good Times
•Ike and Tina Turner - Doin' It

For an excellent playlist of listener-submitted sexy songs, direct your dirty self here:

51. Dreaming Of A White Christmas  

White Christmas holds the Guinness World Record for most singles sold and has been covered over 500 times. Pop stars from Elvis to Ella have recorded it, with interpretations from doo-wop to country to punk rock. With new covers each year, it seems listeners have not grown tired of this Tin Pan Alley chestnut. We use our scientific formula for holiday hit success to break down what makes this song so timeless.

FeaturingBing Crosby - White ChristmasThe Beatles - Christmas Time Is HereWhitney Houston - Have Yourself a Merry Little ChristmasJackson 5 - Santa Clause Is Coming to TownThe Beatles - In My LifeFrank Sinatra - White ChristmasKenny G - White ChristmasNashville Cast - White ChristmasLady Gaga - White ChristmasThe Drifters - White ChristmasElvis - White ChristmasElla Fitzgerald - White ChristmasBeach Boys - White ChristmasDean Martin - White ChristmasKaty Perry - White ChristmasKelly Clarkson - White ChristmasRascal Flatts - White ChristmasMichael Bolton - White ChristmasMichael Bublé and Shania Twain - White ChristmasCarol Of The Bells by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)Artist: http://audionautix.com/

Deck the Hall, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Angels We Have Heard by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?collection=004&page=1Artist: http://incompetech.com/

50. How to Listen to Music in 4 Easy Steps  

50 episodes in, hosts Charlie and Nate take a step back to think about how they listen to music and try to define what might be called The Switched on Method™. "Hallelujah," by the late, great Leonard Cohen, acts as a perfect test case for breaking down listening into four key layers: 1) The Liner Notes, 2) The Needle Drop, 3) The Scratch, and 4) The Remix. Through this patented process, artistic revelations are all but guaranteed, with Cohen's opus no exception — his modern classic is not all it appears to be. 

•Leonard Cohen - "Hallelujah"

49. Tove Lo - Cool Girl  

On the surface, Tove Lo's new hit "Cool Girl" boasts a snappy, earworm chorus and an empowering message of self-reliance. Beneath its chill exterior, though, Lo's song burns with a passion bordering on rage, and sinister sonic undertones suggest an unreliable narrator who doesn't always mean what she says. The more layers one pulls back from this song, the more Lo's source material—the novel and film "Gone Girl"—comes to the fore, turning "Cool Girl" into the kind of pop smash that sticks in your head in more ways than one. 

Tove Lo - Cool Girl
Daft Punk - Harder, Better, Faster
Alessia Cara - Scars To Your Beautiful

48. Made In America: Toby Keith & Jay-Z  

Back in 2011, two pop songs dropped with the same patriotic title: "Made in America." But the similarities pretty much end there. Toby Keith's country smash and Jay Z, Kanye West and Frank Ocean's soulful hip hop anthem have little in common except a firm conviction that each song knows what it really means to be American. Five years later, these tracks have a lot to tell us about the role music plays in shaping our national identity, and begs the question: does music truly bring us together?

FeaturingToby Keith - Made In AmericaJay Z and Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean - Made in AmericaSisqo - Thong SongUsher - Yeah!Beyoncé - Daddy LessonsJimmie Rodgers - Blue Yodel No. 9Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys - Ida Red Likes to Boogie

47. Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal - The Chainsmokers, 'Closer'  

Host Charlie spent the last two weeks listening to every song on the Billboard Hot 100. What did he discover? That the sonic similarities of most chart-toppers sound closer than ever. Except for the #1 song in America, as of this episode's release - "Closer" by The Chainsmokers, ft. Halsey. This one is different than the rest...or is it? We dive into the styles of the moment to re-learn the old maxim that "great artists steal" - whether that artist is a 2016 DJ duo or an 18th century Classical master. 


•Tory Lanez - LUV
•Shawn Mendes - Treat You Better
•Frenship - Capsize
•Maroon 5 - Don't Wanna Know
•Cheat Codes - Sex
•The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey - Closer
•Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez - We Don't Talk Anymore
•Jack U ft. Justin Bieber - Where Are U Now
•Drake - Know Yourself
•Amine - Caroline
•MO - Final Song
•Mike Posner - I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb remix)
•The Weeknd - I Can't Feel My Face
•The Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan - All We Know
•Antonio Vivaldi - "La Primavera" Concerto
•Vivaldi - Giustino
•Vivaldi - Dorilla in Tempe
•Vivaldi - Orlando Furioso

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