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Life is a complex proposition, asking of us and taking from us, showing plainly and obscuring mostly, leading us and leaving us to our own devices to figure out our way and to make sense of our life. In the maze of experiences that we have through the passage of time, we can be left to wonder and question whether life can yield more positive outcomes for the efforts we expend, to ask if life can lift us to higher levels of joy, to puzzle over whether we can truly realize the most meaningful ...
 
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Cory Henry is a remarkably gifted multi-instrumentalist. Growing up in the church, he started playing the Hammond B3 organ at age 2 and played his first gig at Apollo theater in NYC at age 6. As a professional musician he’s played along side Bruce Springsteen, Boyz II Men, The Roots, Kirk Franklin and many others including the acclaimed group Snark…
 
Shawn Mendes, BTS, Alicia Keys, 24kGoldn, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber & Chance The Rapper are all in the Hot 100 with songs that attempt to cope with the state of the world. What do they tell us about the sound of popular music and our collective psyche? Charlie is joined by writer, critic and friend of the podcast, Lauren Michele Jackson to offer a me…
 
There is a type of country song that loves flawed characters lost on a winding journey ... likely down a dit road. One of the best songwriters in this style is acclaimed artist Brandy Clark. Her credits include a whose-who of country music—Kacey Musgraves, Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Lean Rimes—and her albums have received overwhelming critical a…
 
Keith Urban is a legend of country. He’s been releasing hit records for two decades now. Each album he describes as a portrait of his life in that moment. On his latest work, The Speed Of Now Part 1, has Urban disregarding country convention (as he’s known to do), and collaborating with a diverse roster of musicians who contribute an eclectic array…
 
Mickey Guyton spent a decade of fits and starts trying to make a career in country music. But now in recent months she’s having a country music moment releasing vulnerable songs that use her experiences of rejection, exclusion and racism as inspiration. Charlie speaks with Guyton about her breakout songs “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and “Black Li…
 
When we listen closely to the Fifth, we hear a testament to self-expression and determination. Which means that we get to decide how to honor this symphony today, whether that means taking a break from Beethoven to commission new works from underrepresented composers, bringing new audiences into the fold by staging concerts in communities outside o…
 
Before Beethoven’s time, classical music culture looked and sounded quite different. When Mozart premiered his Symphony 31 in the late 1700s, it was standard for audiences to clap, cheer, and yell “da capo!” (Italian for “from the beginning!”) in the middle of a performance. After Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony debuted in the early 1800s, these norms c…
 
In the first movement of his famous symphony, Beethoven sets up a battle between hope and despair. The dark side of that spectrum is represented by the anguished opening notes of the first movement: DUN DUN DUNNN. Over the course of the next three movements, Beethoven keeps trying to overcome his dark fate with bright major melodies, and keeps gett…
 
You know Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. You’ve heard it in films, advertisements, parodied in Saturday morning cartoons and disco-ized in Saturday Night Fever. The Fifth Symphony is a given, so much so that it blends into the background. You know this piece, but how well? Of all the symphonies of the bewigged classical "greats," why is this one still …
 
Our Switched on Summer Throwback Series continues with “Dancing in the Street,” the 1964 Motown hit by Martha and the Vandellas that was co-written by none other than Marvin Gaye. Over 50 years and countless covers later, we explore how this song still manages to get people off their feet and onto the streets—not just to dance, but also to raise th…
 
How does it feel to become a global pop star under lockdown? Benee’s “Supalonely” had been out for over 5 months when in March of 2020, it quickly became the second most popular song on TikTok. The song’s hook “I’ve been lonely… Supalonely” clearly reflected a global collective malaise about the pandemic—and people wanted to dance to it. She wrote …
 
Bruno Major blends old song structures from The Great American Songbook with contemporary production on his new album “To Let A Good Thing Die.” The result is a nostalgic, yet contemporary collection of love songs for the Netflix and chill generation. We speak with Bruno Major about how he draws inspiration from the past to craft something new. He …
 
Beyoncé' has released "Black Is King," a visual album based off of music that she released last year. We're rerunning that piece so that you can place the visual component of "Black Is King" in context to the music. For the live action remake of the Lion King, Beyoncé, (who voices Nala in the film), recorded and curated a companion soundtrack calle…
 
Taylor Swift has released folklore, her unexpected eighth studio album. It is an understated work that firmly puts celebrity gossip behind her (there are no who's-dating-who easter eggs to be found). Instead we're gifted Swift's greatest strength: songwriting. The lyrics blur "fantasy and reality." There are imagined teenage love trysts, recreated …
 
Nu-Metal, the mid 90s creation that blended metal, rap and pop, is one of the most critically derided pop genres. So it is strange that this genre is having a comeback. But whereas its first incarnation was dominated by men, now women are leading the way. Artists like Poppy, Grimes and Rina Sawayama have recast the heavy guitars, sung-rap lyrics an…
 
Listen closely to the start of the 2015 hit "Hey Mama" by David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, Afrojack, and Bebe Rexha and you'll hear voices intoning a chant: "Be my woman, girl, I'll be your man." It's sample from a 1948 recording called "Rosie," and it's the propulsive hook of "Hey Mama," driving the song to over a billion views on YouTube. The voices in…
 
The 2020 song of summer competition is underway. We asked you for your favorite songs and put them in a head-to-head tournament. Find out which is the song for this very unusual summer. ROUND 1 - TikTok Jams SAINt JHN - "Roses" Imanbek Remix Megan Thee Stallion - Savage Remix (Feat. Beyoncé) The Weeknd - Blinding Lights ROUND 2 - Protest Anthems Be…
 
Lady Gaga’s 6th album is a conceptual release about a future that is neither utopian nor dystopian. Despite its sci-fi visuals, the album looks more to the past and present than the future. Chromatica gives us a world that sounds like 90s house music made for this summer’s cancelled Pride parties. It is lyrically somber, but musically upbeat, a pro…
 
Shea Diamond has experienced so many facets of America as a black trans woman, and with songwriter Justin Tranter, she's woven those experiences into "I Am America," a blistering, funky anthem about community and belonging. Her track is also the theme song for the new HBO show "We're Here," which follows a team of a drag queens bringing drag shows …
 
In 1999 filmmaker Baz Luhrmann released the song “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen,” a 7-minute-long graduation speech set to downtempo electronic music. It was a highly unlikely hit that made its way across continents and eventually into the ears of a young Avery Trufelman via the album NOW That’s What I Call Music Volume 2. For over 20 years, T…
 
Quarantined in his family’s music room, musician Jacob Collier has been remarkably productive. Known for his polymathic musical talents, Collier has used this time to reflect on, and release new music. His latest song “All I Need,” was created with new technology that let him record remotely with his collaborators Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign. The son…
 
The pandemic has upended the art and business of making music. Producing, performing and releasing — every aspect is new and uncharted. The need for social distancing means that it’s unsafe to collaborate in small studios or perform for large crowds — not to mention finding the right thing to sing about in such a charged moment. We’re telling three…
 
In a Rolling Stone article titled “He Shook The World: George Floyd’s Legendary Houston Legacy”, writer Charles Holmes reveals the musical past of the man who has become an international symbol for justice since his murder. Known as “Big Floyd” in his Houston community, he was part of the city’s Screwed Up Click, a hip-hop collective centered aroun…
 
They say you should never meet your idols, that you’ll only be disappointed. We had this possibility in mind going into our first interview with Carly Rae Jepsen, the pop star who inspired us to start our podcast Switched on Pop when Nate taught “Call Me Maybe” as a case study in music theory. Six years later and hundreds of pleading emails later, …
 
Lo-Fi hip-hop has emerged as a hugely popular genre and internet subculture. Its millions of loyal fans rely on curated lo-fi playlists and live-streams to write to, study to and even fall asleep to. Heck, we even wrote a good chunk of our book to Spotify’s lo-fi beats playlists. There’s just something about those ambient, spacey, plodding beats th…
 
Like many events, the international song competition Eurovision 2020 has been canceled. Sadly, there will be no champion crowned this year... or will there?! Charlie and Nate comb through the emotional, the catchy, and the downright bizarre entries, then—with some help from our audience and 2018 Eurovision winner Netta—pick the best song in all the…
 
When BBC America reached out to do a piece about the music of Killing Eve, we jumped at the opportunity. The series antagonist, Villanelle, is an unpredictable assassin. On a dime she shifts from cold and calculating to child-like and jocular. Her personality swings are accompanied by a captivating psychedelic pop soundtrack. Whether you are famili…
 
Since 1996, Fiona Apple has only ever had one hit, “Criminal.” Nonetheless, every album she’s released has been nominated for a Grammy. Her newest work, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, has received near universal acclaim. Apple’s songs are simultaneously idiosyncratic and relatable, tackling unusual themes for pop songs: middle school bullies, uncomfortabl…
 
Doja Cat has gatecrashed the Top 40 with her effervescent hit “Say So.” How did this Internet personality best known for a song whose chorus is “B***h, I’m a cow!” join the ranks of Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd? The answer involves a voice that careens from gentle soul to fierce rapping, a catchy chorus that grabs you from the first measure, and…
 
A lot of people miss the old Kanye. The last time we reviewed his music was back in 2016 when he released the work-in-progress album “The Life Of Pablo.” Since then, Kanye has put out four albums: Ye, Kids See Ghost (with Kid Cudi), Jesus Is King, and Jesus Is Born (with the Sunday Service Choir). In the same period he’s also caused a media ruckus …
 
The band 5 Seconds Of Summer have just released their fourth studio album, Calm. Lead vocalist Luke Hemmings and bassist Calum Hood join us to talk about some of Australia’s biggest hits. In the first half of our conversation we discuss the catchy rhythms and vocals in Tame Impala’s song “Borderline,” a song driven more by vibe than conventional st…
 
Scandal and intrigue surround Joe Exotic, the central character of the new Netflix documentary Tiger King. Among the many bizarre traits of this zoo keeper, Exotic tries his hand at country music. Interspersed throughout the series, Joe sings about his love of big cats as well as his hatred for his nemesis in a gruesome murder ballad. But it turns …
 
In the year 2000, D'Angelo released Voodoo—with some help from Questlove, Angie Stone, Raphael Saadiq, and a band of jazz veterans—an album that has cast a long shadow with its unique sound of stripped-down soul, Faith Pennick, who literally wrote the book on the record, joins to break how D'Angelo broke the "shiny suit" regime of R&B, explore how …
 
With Nate’s birthday around the corner, it’s time to admit that our go-to birthday song is actually the worst to sing to someone. There are reasons both musicological and cultural why this wooden celebratory number needs to go, ranging from funereal rhythms to Wagnerian opera to the Wizard of Oz. Tune in to uncover the horror of “Happy Birthday” an…
 
Latin Trap megastar Bad Bunny may be best known to American audiences for his feature on Cardi B’s #1 “I Like It’, but the Puerto Rican native is known to music-lovers worldwide for more than just those few bars. Bunny started off as a student in Universidad de Puerto Rico studying audio visual communications. He was bagging groceries at a supermar…
 
Gone are the days of a clear dividing line between “mainstream pop” and “conscious” music. Many of the world’s highest-grossing pop stars are climbing the charts with lyrics that seem to get right at the very weight of human existence. They’re tackling climate change, and drug addiction, crippling anxiety, inequality, sexism and racism. It’s a fasc…
 
This week, Charlie talks to Lauv, the singer, songwriter and producer behind unfailingly catchy tracks such as “Mean It” and “I Like Me Better.” Lauv’s a master at making the sad feel fun—masking themes of anxiety and betrayal with upbeat, percussive production. He even does a bit of the opposite, too, by infusing his joyful songs with vulnerabilit…
 
When Bristol-based producer Laxcity logged onto Twitter to find out that Justin Bieber sampled his music, he was at first unphased. The sampled material came from a royalty-free sample pack on Splice.com, free for Splice users to add to their track. Then accusations of theft started rolling in. Another artist, Asher Monroe, had used the same sample…
 
In 2019 guitar made a comeback in the top 10. According to analysis from Hit Songs Deconstructed, about a third of all songs featured the electric guitar, a nearly 10% jump from the year before. In 2020 this trend isn’t stopping. Recent releases by Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer and Joji all prominently feature electric guitars tones. They reference 9…
 
Selena Gomez has her first #1 song on the Hot 100. “Lose You To Love Me” is a confessional look at her past five years of heartbreak and health challenges. By contrast, her single “Look At Her Now” is a testament to moving on and moving up. Each of these songs inhabits a different musical and lyrical world and we were lucky to get to speak with her…
 
The boy band One Direction has been on hiatus for nearly five years, yet only now have all of the members of the group released a solo album. But how do these efforts from Niall, Liam, Harry, Louis and Zayn stack up? Vox Writer (and One Direction fan) Alexa Lee compares albums as a challenge for each member to rise to their greatest artistic potent…
 
Post Malone has confounded your hosts since he emerged on the scene, so this week we sit down to try and get to the bottom of our cycles of attraction and repulsion through deep analysis of his current hit, "Circles." Along the way, we discuss trenchant questions such as: How is the minor IV always the saddest of all chords? Why does Posty tend to …
 
Mac Miller, Future and Billie Eilish all have good and bad news to share. On Miller’s posthumous album, Circles, he exposes personal struggles with fame, addiction, and mental illness — sobering topics given his unintentional drug overdose last year. Yet at the same time we hear him searching for “good news,” practicing self care and accepting that…
 
The sound of R&B is difficult to pin down. Since the 1950s, the label has been used both as a genre and as a catch-all for the entirety of black popular music. Soul, funk, disco and even hip-hop have at times been covered by this "R&B" umbrella. On Chance The Rapper's new album, The Big Day, all of these influences come through—and he's not alone. …
 
On a trajectory to be one of the biggest pop stars for this generation, seventeen year old Billie Eilish is not, however, your typical pop star. Her music speaks to the real anxieties of young people without any veneer. She sings from the perspective of monsters and villains. Her hushed voice, baggy style, and direct demeanor subvert the norms of t…
 
There are icons, and then there’s Dolly Parton. The country singer-turned-actress-turned-cultural phenomenon has produced a nearly unparalleled body of work, in both quantity (Parton is the sole or co-author of more than three thousand songs) and in legacy. Despite releasing her first album over 60 years ago, Parton’s songs are still covered and pe…
 
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