Update: Switched on Pop ★★★★★
I have to update my Switched on Pop review because this show is deserving of some extra attention. Since I wrote my original review back in July 2016, there have been several terrific episodes that have aired, and I’ll highlight a few of them here. In short, Switched on Pop is a whip-smart show about why pop music is popular. What I didn’t mention in the original review was the terrific episode titles the guys come up with – case in point, Pop Drops and Chipmunk Soul. Tell me you don’t want to just take a little listen and see what that’s all about! That episode is about vocal manipulation, super fascinating. I also enjoyed Episode 50 where Nate and Charlie went through a rubric of how to listen to music – or at least how they listen to music – to hear more about what is embedded in it. They used the classic song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen to demonstrate their method, and I still remember sitting in the car not wanting to get out because I had to finish listening to that episode.
But what really made me want to shout from the rooftops about Switched on Pop again was the episode from today, Episode 52: Seduced by the Sound: The Weeknd + Daft Punk. I had never heard this song before, but I have to say I don’t think it would have lit such a fire in me if I hadn’t heard Charlie and Nate’s explanation of why this song is just … so … sexy. Sure, you can listen to the lyrics yourself (“I can feel that body shake/And the heat between your legs” – ok, that’s hot) but when you hear the guys’ appreciation for The Weeknd’s similarities to Michael Jackson and Ike and Tina Turner, it just takes it to an intellectually hot level for me. And as the guys say, you can’t seduce someone using someone else’s dance moves, so they highlight just what The Weeknd and Daft Punk do to make this their own and create anticipation musically:
Uhhhh. Slay me.
I’m not going to update my ratings because I already gave Switched on Pop a fantastic 5/5 rating. Just go listen to the show if you have any appreciation for music!
***** Original Review 7/27/16 *****
I’ve been on a music kick recently and I can’t talk about music podcasts without recommending one of the best music-related shows in the world, hosted by two music nerds (who own it) with great personalities. Unlike other music shows, hosts Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding get a starring role in the production, and for this we should be thankful, because they take us on an educational and convivial journey through the world of pop songs. What makes them “pop songs?” Why are they popular, what makes them so catchy, and what is their cultural significance?
Sloan is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology, and Harding is a songwriter. The pair met in college and remarkably produce Switched on Pop while living on opposite coasts. I would have never guessed that listening to the show-it’s very well produced and mixed. There is a perfect balance of the piece or artist who is the subject of the episode, the hosts’ commentary, and music clips. Episodes typically clock in between 30-40 minutes, and occasionally Sloan will go down a technical rabbit hole for a few minutes, but I admire his zeal for musicology. Nothing wrong with being passionate about what you do!
Switched on Pop wants to give the listener “a-ha” moments about pop songs, and I can testify that I totally listen to the songs I’ve heard on the show differently now. I have developed a love for Justin Bieber… I distinctly remember the guys saying something like, “He’s actually really good – hate to break it to you!” – which, of course, I have repeated to my husband on multiple occasions and thankfully he is now a 38 year-old Belieber too. And Drake … not just for the young kids y’all! Moms can love Drake too thanks to Switched on Pop explaining his use of Caribbean and African influence in his music, and the sidebar discussion on a 3-2 clave beat in so many music styles! Love it.
The show is independently produced, which I am sure helps Sloan and Harding keep it unique, which it has to remain. It’s really unlike any other show I’ve heard, and it’s just delicious to listen to. I love the guys’ honesty and relationship with each other – their banter is very authentic – and they sprinkle just the right amount of humor into their episodes to lighten the mood when sometimes the content is technical or serious.
If you like Song Exploder or All Songs Considered, you’ll probably love Switched on Pop. I would recommend the following episodes to start: 40 – Around the World with Drake, 23 – Hotline Hello: Drake and Adele, 21 – Justin Bieber’s Existential Suite, and 36 – Jonas vs. Jonas: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Boy Band. Give it a listen today!
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Also subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (5 / 5)
This show is truly educational about music. It would be great for high school and college music classes to study and discuss.
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (4 / 5)
Sometimes Harding and Sloan get a bit technical for the average listener, and this can be a great way to learn about music theory but sometimes the excitement they convey doesn’t hit home for me because I don’t know what they’re talking about. But in general, you can tell these guys have a rapport that extends beyond the podcast and their genuineness comes through.
Flow & Production Value (5 / 5)
Humor (4 / 5)
Investigation (5 / 5)
Storytelling (5 / 5)
I love the story that is told about these pop songs. It’s not a simple “this is what the writer was thinking when they wrote it” or “this is the cultural significance that’s really obvious from the lyrics.” (How many times can you even understand all the lyrics anyway?) Sloan and Harding go way beneath the surface and often reference music history – 18th century or 1980s music history – in their song deconstruction. And their most recent episode on Drake even delved into the African music influence in “One Dance.” This type of storytelling adds so much more dimension to the song listening experience for me.
Makes Me a Better Person (4 / 5)
Bonus Stars: (1 / 5)
These guys don’t need a bonus star, but I’m awarding one because they have Spotify playlists related to some of their episodes! Are you kidding me? Genius idea.
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (5 / 5)
You May Also Like …
Song Exploder, All Songs Considered, Soul Music, Microphone Check
Switched on Pop website
Medium Post from Charlie Harding about the Switched on Pop Logo