When Pop and Classical Collide (with James Bennett II)

Once upon a time, classical music was pop, so today it’s worth stepping back and asking: where does one genre stop and the other begin? Can classical ever be popular again? And why do only some classical tracks makes for good samples? Luckily James Bennett II of classical station WQXR is on hand to break down these and other musical conundrums, including but not limited to: killer opera clowns, Bach hip hop hybrids, and the namesake album of this very podcast. Songs discussed: Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra – Chaconne Enrico Caruso – Vesti la Giubbia Mario Lanza – Because You’re Mine Wendy Carlos – Prelude and Fugue in C Minor Jackie Evancho – Nessun Dorma Jackie Evancho – Burn Lindsay Stirling – Underground Vitamin […]

Unlocking the Rhythms of Rosalía

Back in the fall of 2017, our producer Megan Lubin went for a stroll near her house, popped in earbuds, and heard a song that’s stuck with her ever since: “Si Tú Supieras Compañero” (“If you only knew, my friend”), by the Spanish pop star Rosalía. Since then, Rosalía’s star has continued, especially after the 2018 release of “El Mal Querer,” Rosalía’s genre-blending album of R&B and flamenco. On this episode, we dig into Rosalía’s sound to try and figure out what stopped Megan in her tracks back then, and what keeps us coming back. With the help of New York Times Magazine writer Marcela Valdes, we break down key elements of the flamenco tradition, like the hard-to-define magic of duende, and count out some […]

Rihanna Party! (with Gina Delvac)

Last year, NPR Music ran an audacious headline: “Rihanna Is The 21st Century’s Most Influential Musician.” Millions and millions of fans the world over agree, and while we try to avoid overt expressions of pop favoritism, we think they’ve got a strong case. It’s for that reason and a dozen others that we were thrilled to welcome Gina Delvac of the hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend back to the show to discuss the legendary career of one Ms. Robyn Rihanna Fenty. As we all await her ninth studio album (R9), join us for a virtual* blunt-smoke-laced tour through the hit songs that defined her early sound, and a delectable deep dive into her most recent album, ANTI. *Zero blunts were enjoyed at the time of […]

Why U Love 2 Listen 2 Prince (with Anil Dash)

Anil Dash is obsessed with Prince. Since he’s the host of the tech podcast Function, he has a unique perspective on the Purple One’s complicated relationship with technology. Anil joins the show to break down the many ways that Prince predicted the sound and science of modern pop, from drum machines to online distribution to internet culture. We’ll discuss how Michael Jackson jacked Prince’s electronic experimentation for Thriller, why Prince liked to lurk in fan chat rooms, and how he found ways to change his sound without ever sacrificing his integrity. We’re only beginning to understand Prince’s legacy, but Anil takes us one step closer to fully appreciating the ahead-of-their-time talents of a once-in-a-century artist. Songs featured: Prince – 1999 Kraftwerk – The Robots Talking Heads – […]

A Brief History of Men Singing Really High

Men singing high is so ubiquitous in modern pop that we might take it granted, never pausing to ask: has it always been this way? Estelle Caswell, who makes the Emmy-winning Earworm series for Vox, decided to find out, and she stops by to share results from her painstaking study of male falsetto in pop music from 1958 to today. Some of her findings may surprise, like 1996 was the peak year for falsetto, Justin Timberlake doesn’t sing as you high at might think, and falsetto has been around as long as pop itself.\

Total Request Live! Taylor, Lana, Kim, and More (with Sam Sanders)

NPR’s Sam Sanders stops by to break down the tracks that Switched On listeners have been loving. Swedish dancefloor confessionals, songs that stop time, the specificity of Lana Del Ray, and the awkwardness of descending fourths: it’s all on the table in this freewheeling conversation of deep musical nerdiness. Songs Discussed Tove Lo ft Kylie Minogue – Really don’t like u Camila Cabello – Liar Ace of Base – All That She Wants Tyler the Creator – EARFQUAKE Taylor Swift – Cruel Summer Lana Del Ray, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus – Don’t Call Me Angel Lana Del Ray – Happiness is a butterfly King Princess – Prophet Kim Petras – Hillside Boys IDK – Porno Jai Paul – Str8 Outta Mumbai Jai Paul – Genevieve […]

Mastering Music (with Dallas Taylor of Twenty Thousand Hertz)

Dallas Taylor, host of the stellar sound design series Twenty Thousand Hertz, stops by to fill Nate in on the science and style of mastering: the subtle art that explains why Metallica had to re-release a controversial album, Kanye sounds so crisp, and why the best pop really pops. Songs Discussed Lizzo – Juice Kanye West – Heartless Led Zeppelin – Stairway to heaven Pink Floyd – Money Daft Punk – Get Lucky Metallica – The Day That Never Comes DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds Intrigued by mastering? Get your fix with the Twenty Thousand Hertz episode The [Compressed] History of Mastering. We are conducting an audience […]

Jazz 1959

Charlie’s out on parental leave, which means no one is here to stop Nate from going off the rails. And you know what means… JAZZ! As soon as dad left the room, Nate enlisted his favorite journalist, jazz and sports writer Natalie Weiner, to come on the show and discuss her incredible 1959 Project — a day-by-day chronicle of jazz during one of its most pivotal years. We listen to classic 1959 albums Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and Dave Brubeck’s Take Out, discuss the complex legacy of Billie Holiday, and dig into some of the year’s forgotten gems. Sixty years later, jazz is no longer the cultural juggernaut is once was — but it still has much to teach us about pop culture of […]

BONUS: Charli XCX and the Future of Music (with Dani Deahl)

The pace of new music releases these days is dizzying. Sometimes it’s like watching someone do a magic trick–we *swear* those songs weren’t there a second ago! But then, there they are, popping up in batches right out of thin air. Of course, behind each individual release sits months of decision-making by the artist: who to collaborate with and when, how to structure the musical product of that collaboration, what to call it, how to release it, when, and on what platform. The list is long, and each of those choices has a big impact on how we hear the song. The Verge’s Dani Deahl recently sat down with reigning Princess of Pop, Charli XCX, to discuss how she approaches those decisions, and how that […]