Pop music has never sounded so good. Spearheaded by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, “Switched On Pop” is all about the making and meaning of pop music. Unique, insightful, and deeply fascinating, this podcast always finds the freshest take on pop music.
Whether it’s extracting the deep bonds between religious and secular music from Justin Bieber’s performance of Peaches at the 2022 Grammys, or digging into why there are no new Christmas songs breaking the Top 10 since Mariah Carey, “Switched On Pop” is all about the most interesting stories behind the music.
This Vulture and Vox Media podcast has been pumping out episodes since 2014. And while it’s an extremely timely podcast, there’s no wrong way to listen to “Switched On Pop.” Start from their most recent episodes, or skim through their catalogue to find an episode that piques your interest. Episodes typically hover around the 30-minute mark, and you can hear new episodes of the show every single week.
We’re consistently turning to “Switched On Pop” to hear the most relevant and fascinating analysis of new music. Hosts Nate and Charlie both bring a wealth of musical knowledge to the show, and we can’t get enough of what they have to say.
Mainly, “Switched On Pop” is dedicated to explaining what makes a song or artist a smash hit. They explain why music sounds the way it does and how it can capture a global audience in its sound waves. Take for instance Encanto‘s hit song, We Don’t Talk About Bruno: Nate and Charlie find influence from Cardi B, Camila Cabello, and even Britney Spears that combine with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit-making isms that created Disney’s biggest song in a decade.
In their ABBA episode, titled “Why ABBA songs just hit different,” they investigate just what it is about ABBA’s music that makes it so beloved. Nate and Charlie literally dissect their biggest hits like Mamma Mia, Super Trouper, and Dancing Queens, examining their unique high-low duo vocals, their lyrical mastery, and the “studio wizardry” that makes ABBA, ABBA.
When isolating the drum and bass tracks of Mamma Mia, they find a funky, almost gritty sound that could easily fit into the ’90s hip-hop scene. It’s all about the detail on “Switched On Pop” — it’s truly incredible what they find within the music.
They dedicated all of March to Britney Spears and the way she changed pop music. By analyzing four of some of her most iconic songs, …Baby One More Time, I’m a Slave 4 U, Toxic, and Gimme More, Nate and Charlie look at the driving forces behind pop music’s evolution into the 2000s. They examine incredible control she has over her voice, the blending of R&B into her tracks, and ground-breaking production techniques used that have solidified Britney as one of the greats.
Their Christmas song episode also cannot be missed, because who isn’t wondering why new Christmas songs can’t seem to make it into the annual canon? Despite countless holiday-themed releases every single year, very few become popular enough to listen to in the years after.
They look at recent holiday hits that have stuck around for a few years from Kelly Clarkson, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and the Jonas Brothers, and ask if they have all the ingredients (and the proper amount of said ingredients) to become part of the Christmas music canon.
On “Switched On Pop,” Nate and Charlie are also speaking with pop musicians about their new music, their inspirations, and what went into the makings of their greatest hits. They’ve had on people like Elvis Costello, Eric Nam, Leon Bridges and Khruangbin, Robert Plant, and more to chat about the state of pop music today.
“Switched On Pop” is an absolute classic that we look forward to every week. Whether it’s Insane Clown Posse or Taylor Swift, they cover every facet of pop music and its outer-genre influences. Be sure to check out all of their amazing episodes to hear the magic.